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From Gen Z to Boomers: Reasons for Travel More Similar Than You May Think

Posted May 7, 2018


“Travel, Experience: These are an education in themselves.” Euripides said those words, more than 2,000 years ago. So, the concept that travel expands our minds and provides valuable personal and global insights isn’t a new one—even if it sometimes feels that way. Travel has always been about experiences, and that desire continues to have a strong influence on travel planning.

In Deloitte’s 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook, it is noted that consumers spending continues to “shift from products to experiences, and travel is outpacing demand for goods.”

What type of experiences are travelers looking for? WEX and Mastercard took a look at what motivates Americans to travel in a recent survey of 1,500 US travelers. The findings were interesting, particularly when comparing travelers of different ages (from Gen Z to Boomers). Some travel attitudes span generations, while others differ only slightly by age and a few are significantly more important to one age group or another.

The WEX and Mastercard 2018 Travel Trends report identified respondents’ key travel attitudes, and the top 5 are:

  • Vacation is a time to be active (69%)
  • When traveling I want to see the most well-known and popular sites (67%)
  • Vacation is a time for me to meet new people and have new experiences (66%)
  • Vacation is a time for me to reconnect with family and friends (65%)
  • When traveling I prefer to be spontaneous and let each day unfold (60%)

Last year Expedia had similar results when surveying 1,001 travelers who’d booked online in the past year. In American Multi-generational Travel Trends, the analysts report that while “deals/value for money” was the leading factor driving travel considerations across all age groups, the second was “I’ll go anywhere that allows me to explore the outdoors and be active.” They found “’You only live once’ opportunities also rank high” for all age groups.

Going to see friends or family is high on the list across all travelers, according to the WEX and Mastercard survey. Sixty-eight percent of consumers expect to travel to reconnect with friends or family in 2018. Other cross-generation travel motivators included visiting a new city in the US (54%) and taking a beach vacation at a resort or hotel (40%).

Sometimes age does matter & sometimes it doesn’t

When asked about the type of trip they planned to take in 2018, the WEX and Mastercard respondents’ plans differed by age in some categories:

  • “Explore a foreign country not been to before” had the biggest response from Millennials (40%), while Gen Z (30%), Gen X (26%) and Boomers (30%) ranked it lower
  • Gen Z (31%) is most likely to “travel to pursue an activity or hobby interested in,” with Millennials close behind (28%), followed by Gen X (21%) and Boomers (17%)
  • “Camping” ranged from 35% of Gen Z down to only 11% of Boomers who planned to stay in the big outdoors in 2018
  • Heading to “a destination known for culinary scene/foodie reputation” is on the list for 26% of Millennials, 19% of Gen X, and only 16% for both Gen Z and Boomers
  • 20% of Millennials and 19% of Gen X will “travel to achieve balance/wellness,” while just 13% of Gen Z and 10% of Boomers will do so

AARP’s Travel Research: 2017 Travel Trends, which was conducted in late 2016, included 1,721 travelers classified as Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. This survey asked about a different set of trip types than the WEX and Mastercard survey, and also found some interesting variations between age groups. For international travel, “bucket list” trips scored highest with Boomers (34%), while “summer vacation” was their top domestic trip (29%).  In the Gen X group, “summer vacation” was the biggest draw both internationally (31%) and domestically (33%).  “Romantic getaway” was Millennials’ top international pick (31%) and, domestically “weekend getaway” won, coming in at 35%.

While there are some types of activities or attractions that appeal to one age group more than another, identifying the common travel attitudes and interests across generations is imperative to launching a broad outreach strategy, targeting a wide range of consumers.

In the WEX and Mastercard report, it is suggested: “While the focus is on nurturing future travelers, like Millennials and Gen Z, more and more travel companies are looking for inter-generational commonalities to multiply the impact of offers and advertising. Travel companies should maximize existing relationships with suppliers to cultivate discounts and one-stop booking, suiting both generations at once.”

Download the full 2018 Travel Trends Report.