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How Can Tour Operators Engage with Generation Z?

As tour operators seek new opportunities, they seek new generations and an emerging market: Generation Z.

Who Exactly Is Generation Z?

  • Born between 1995 and 2010.
  • Digital natives who still want face-to-face communication.
  • Lower disposable income, but more time to spend it.
  • Fluid personal identities who want to mix with people from all backgrounds.
  • Seeking authenticity and local experiences.
  • New concerns about the world, from the environment to tech.

The Disconnect with Gen Z

Digital natives likely never set foot inside a travel agency. As a result, operators are failing to connect with this hugely lucrative market.

According to Lewis Ellis, who founded young group travel start-up Hiddn Travel, traditional travel agents need a drastic change in approach. "They're not engaging people anymore. Young people's needs are changing all the time. They don't want to lounge on a beach—they want to get involved in real-world experiences, right from the point of booking."

Switching Up the Approach

Tour operators should adapt their marketing to meet Gen Zs' demands. According to Tourism Tiger, Gen Zs have a relatively low budget compared to baby boomers and millennials, yet what they lack in funds they make up for in time. This calls for a two-pronged approach.

First: Operators should drip-feed marketing material through various mediums over many months. Gen Zs aren't booking an impulsive vacation on their break. They're reviewing, comparing and deliberating over many issues.

Second: Focus on product. Tourism Tiger conducted research into the perfect product for different generations. Looking at experience, digital, package tours and traditional travel, they discovered Gen Zs looked for experience-based trips with a digital focus.

What Are They Worried About?

Young travelers increasingly worry about security—regarding destinations, privacy and technology. As only 6% of Gen Zs trust corporations, tour operators must earn their trust. One way is through authenticity; another is through crystal-clear privacy policies and clear links to reputable associations. Traveler safety is critical, from working with reputable contacts to expert knowledge of destinations.

Gen Zs also want a sustainable experience, with additional learning opportunities.

Keeping It Real

"It's not just about the travel itself," adds Ellis. "Young people are looking at the impact they're having on the local economy. They want experiences where they can get involved with the real life, from working on farms to having dinner at locals' houses."

We've seen this trend at The Group Company. In late 2019, a tour design team member sent to Lapland engaged in a traditional Husky dog-sledding adventure, led by a local, family-run business.

While the product needs to be authentic, so does the marketing. Though young people are still influenced by social media, they no longer buy into the picture-perfect, filtered images. "Lack of genuine content is an issue," Ellis notes.

"The world is beautiful—you just need to capture it."

Katie Thompson is Marketing Manager at The Group Company, an award-winning wholesale hotel and tour operator with offices in Boston, Massachusetts; York, United Kingdom; and Maastricht, Netherlands.

This article originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2020 issue of Groups Today.


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