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The future of … the conflicted traveller

In this new post-pandemic world, it’s no surprise that Gen Z is eager to get back to travelling and having in-person experiences. As the problem of climate change heating up as a political issue, Gen Z is facing a dilemma between their love for travel versus their environmental ethics.

Abby Tucker Senior Executive 4 August 2023

Whilst travel bans and facemasks became a thing of the past, young people are eager to begin ticking off travel experiences from their bucket lists. But with climate change heating up as a political issue, Gen Z is becoming conflicted by their desire to travel versus their environmental ethics. They seem to be at an impasse. Results from the Savanta Consumer Omnibus reveal that sustainable travel is important to over half of Gen Z (52%), with only 15% deeming it as unimportant.

Experiences are the new status symbol

Physical gifts are out, and experiences are in for Gen Z as 66% would prefer to secure an experience for the next gift they receive. Moreover, when asked what is at the top of their bucket list, travel is the clear winner. Whilst this generation frequently uses social media to show off particularly visually rich experiences, they have been unable to do so for the past couple of years.

In this new post-pandemic world, it’s no surprise that Gen Z is eager to get back to travelling and having in-person experiences. A study by Expedia Group revealed that nearly two-thirds of Gen Z are planning ‘revenge travel’. This is the idea that consumers want to travel as much as possible after being stuck at home for so long.

However, Gen Z struggles with their desire to travel and the impact it has on the environment. As one of the more socially conscious generations, a third (34%) view climate change as the most important political issue now. This raises the question, is Gen Z willing to compromise their dreams to travel for the sake of the planet?

Gen Z worry about their environmental impact

Data taken from Savanta’s Next Gen tracker – A State of the Youth Nation – reveals that 43% of Gen Z tend to worry about the environmental impact of travelling. As a result, they’re prone to be more mindful and receptive to ways of mitigating their carbon footprint when they do travel. They indicate that they would change their behaviours to offset the environmental damage their travels cause, with only 4% saying they wouldn’t. While Gen Z would adopt eco-friendly actions, they would not necessarily forego travel altogether.

Gen Z would consider eco-friendly travel behaviour changes  


In order to balance their desire to travel and cut down their environmental impact, Gen Z is likely to consider eco-friendly actions that seem familiar and easy to undertake, such as taking a train over a plane (62%) or booking an eco-friendly hotel (43%).

Whilst embarking on longer journeys might not be everyone’s first option, Gen Z tends to prefer non-conventional and unique experiences. Train companies might market this as ‘part of the journey/ experience’ or highlight the environmental benefits of opting for the train in communications to attract Gen Z.

With the rise of Airbnb and Gen Z’s love for unique off the beaten path experiences, a new type of hotel experience is necessary to remain relevant to this group. Z’ers often aspire to find ‘local gems’ and stay in places that can provide visually rich content for their socials.

Gen Z is influential.  If they visit somewhere, they will likely post about it – good or bad. Use this to your advantage by leveraging how your experience is unique, sustainable, or socially aware – because if it isn’t, it might just become the next viral post.

Additionally, a good user experience is imperative. Therefore, customer touchpoints need to be effective. Gen Z has grown up knowing technology, so a strong online presence is a must, along with a reliable website/ app. Booking trains, accommodation and experiences should be seamless and straightforward.

What does this mean for your brand?

  • Understand. As a brand, you must understand the cognitive dissonance Gen Z is facing and ensure you aren’t adding to it. Pinpoint your customer touchpoints to ensure they are having a positive experience and are provided with enough information to make an ethically smart decision.
  • Balance. Brands need to ensure they balance Gen Z’s desire to travel with eco-friendly options that help offset the environmental impact their actions have.
  • Opportunity. Gen Z prefers experiences over physical gifts. Brands might consider incorporating low-impact meaningful experiences into their offerings. Use social media to your advantage by highlighting unique experiences and accommodation alternatives or even showcasing how your company is socially and ethically conscious.

About State of the Youth Nation

State of the Youth Nation is a subscription that supports leading brands in making more informed youth marketing decisions. If you’re looking for the tools to engage with young people, you need to know the drivers that shape their worlds. Put our Gen Z market research insights at the heart of your youth marketing decisions. We’ve been tracking the 16- to 24-year-old age group since 2015, regularly asking them over 700 burning questions, with 1000+ interviews conducted every 60 days.

For more information, please contact us at: [email protected].

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