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Word Of Mouth (And Instagram!) Influence Gen Z and Millennial Travelers

Posted February 25, 2019


The 2019 U.S. Travel Trends Report developed by WEX and Mastercard observes Millennials may be the next wave of travelers, but Gen Z will impact the longer-term future of the travel industry, noting that even though younger generations are newer to travel, they aren’t driven by old habits. “The 18- to 20-year-olds (Gen Z) whom we surveyed are not yet loyal to one type of travel—they’re still figuring it out.”

The survey’s results suggest OTAs and other travel companies need nimble and innovative business processes so younger travelers get what they want and older customers remain loyal. This may mean an entirely new user experience and the need for new offerings.

For this next post in our series on the 2019 U.S. Travel Trends Report, we look at factors that influence travelers’ destination and activities decisions.

Personal Connections – Real & Digital – Are #1
“A single person with a rather ordinary camera can sometimes spread the word about a product or a place way faster than a thoroughly prepared marketing team with a solid budget,” writes Peter Lozanov for “In a sense, people are going back to their roots — confiding only in the individuals, who are closest to them and who have less motivation to lie to them.” And that can include people they don’t know personally, like bloggers and influencers, who’ve gained their trust.

The WEX and Mastercard survey results support this. When picking a destination or activity, word-of-mouth was the top response for all groups—with a higher percentage for both Gen Z and Millennials, who also report being more easily swayed by Facebook and Instagram than their elders.

Late last year, hotel furniture maker Knightsbridge released the findings of a survey of 1,000 18- to 34-year-olds who had booked hotels over the past two years. The survey’s findings point to social media’s power of persuasion: 83% are “more likely to book a hotel after seeing images from someone they follow on social media.”’s Lozanov notes travel blogs “have an impact on 92% of the social media users, while 72% of them have expressed a willingness to alter their destination choice if their friends convey a negative opinion about it.”

A survey by home rental insurer Scholfelds found that more than 40% of Millennial travelers put the “Instagramability” of a location above cost, cuisine, and even low-cost alcohol. “Others likely see Instagram travel suggestions as being simply more genuine than commercial travel packets or guides.

Travel Brands Look Outside For Authentic Content
In a article about the “human influence” in travel, Amy Sherman, Senior Director of Digital & Social Marketing, Lifestyle Brands for Marriott, shares how they are bringing their guests into the brand’s social media. “Our guests add to the narrative and provide real examples of life in our hotels. We find the more real a photo is, the better… Millennial consumers especially want to see real life, real people, real experiences—things they can see themselves doing and a lifestyle they want to emulate.”

Another travel company, TripAdvisor, made news when they announced last year that they would be adding reviews written by influencers with large followings to their site.

Long-Term Relationships Start Now
In her blog post about the late 2018 Phocuswright Conference in Los Angeles, Lisa Lindberg states “two-thirds of Gen Z travelers are undecided on a destination when they decide to take a trip.” She notes that 84% look to social media for inspiration, “particularly deals or promotions and travel pictures or videos from friends or experts,” and the fact that 60% of them agree “advertising can be influential,” suggests travel companies have opportunities to explore.

Online travel companies can gain the next generation’s attention as they are potentially experiencing the world of travel for the first time. Acting accordingly, companies can start fostering a sense of brand loyalty in this group at the very start of their customer journey. At WEX, we collaborate and create tailored payment solutions for our customers, helping them appeal to both today’s travelers and tomorrow’s.

For more insights from our report see Key Travel Trends For 2019 And Beyond, Experiential Travel To Grow In 2019: Americans Seek Adventure and Travelers Prefer Hotels, But The Door Is Open To Other Options.


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