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From hashtags to holidays: How Gen Z is using social media to drive sustainable travel

Kelsie Schroeder Senior Research Analyst 13/04/2023
72% of Americans believe social media plays a role in the influence of Gen-Z travelers

As people become more conscious about their carbon footprint and the impact of their actions on the planet, sustainable travel has emerged as a crucial topic in the industry, with many believing their respective generations are leading the charge to a more sustainable travel market landscape. Nearly half of Americans view Gen-Z as an eco-friendly generation when it comes to traveling. Two-thirds of Gen Z respondents (66%) believe that Gen Z individuals (18-25) travel the most.

Sustainable travel, referring to the concept of traveling in a way that minimizes the negative impact on the environment, supports local communities, and promotes cultural awareness, has evolved in recent years. Cars (45%) and airplanes (42%) are the top modes of transportation among Gen-Z travelers. Over half of Americans (52%) agree that Gen-Z finds other sustainable forms of transportation when traveling, with 58% believing Gen-Z is more likely to use EV over gas cars, particularly males (64%).

Travelers are increasingly choosing sustainable options, and the tourism industry has been quick to respond. Many hotels, airlines, and tour operators have started to implement eco-friendly initiatives, such as using renewable energy, reducing plastic waste, and supporting local conservation efforts.

Social media has played a significant role in shaping the way people travel and make sustainable travel plans. Travelers often turn to social media platforms for inspiration, seeking out destinations that offer unique experiences. 81% of Americans believe anyone under the age of 40 uses technology the most when traveling and over half of Americans view Gen-Z as traveling different due to technology (52%), particularly in males (54%). 67% agree that social media is a top contributing factor when it comes to Gen-Z’s travel plans, with 71% of individuals believing social media encourages Gen Z to form environmentally friendly travel habits

Sustainable travel influencers have also emerged, using their platforms to promote responsible tourism and showcase eco-friendly travel options. Social media has also made it easier for travelers to research and book sustainable travel options, such as eco-lodges and responsible tour operators.

However, it is important to note that social media can also contribute to over-tourism and unsustainable travel behavior, highlighting the need for travelers to be conscious and responsible in their use of social media when planning their travels. Three in four Americans (72%) believe social media plays a role in the influence of Gen-Z travelers, especially the Boomer generation (77%).  Furthermore, despite belief that Gen Z are incredibly conscious travelers when it comes to sustainability, only one-third of Americans (36%) view Gen-Z as a money conscious generation.

From reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving natural resources to supporting local economies and cultural heritage, the effects of sustainable travel are significant and far reaching. By embracing sustainable travel practices and through collective efforts, we have the potential to move toward and contribute to a more environmentally conscious future.

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