Activating Gen Z: Generation Z & the Future of Travel

In its new report, Hopper unveils the top trends shaping next-gen travelers.

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Hayley Berg - Wed May 01 2024

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The Power of Gen Z

Though young now, Gen Z will be the next largest generation of travelers and is primed to be one of the most valuable for the industry.

This demographic has already signaled that they intend to prioritize spending on travel experiences more than any previous generation.

Brands that can capture the attention and discretionary spending of this generation now will be set to grow in leaps and bounds for decades to come. 

As a mobile-first travel platform, Hopper has deep experience building travel marketplaces designed for young consumers beginning their lifelong travel purchasing journey. Through HTS, Hopper's B2B initiative, the company is also helping other travel providers cater to this valuable demo with next-gen technology solutions.

In this report, we will dive deep into who Generation Z is, what their unique traveler profile looks like and how to unlock their business and loyalty now, as they build wealth and define lifelong preferences. 

Gen Z Snapshot

An overview of Gen Z in today's world

The Gen Z Demographic

Gen Z are children and young adults born between 1997 and 2012, with a current age span of ~12 to ~27 years old. Gen Z currently accounts for 21% of the US population, the second largest segment of the population behind millennials.

These young adults are entering the workforce and beginning to grow wealth as they build their careers and take on increasing leadership roles. As they delay financial milestones like buying homes or having children, Gen Zers are consistently prioritizing expenditure on travel and experiences over more traditional consumer goods and services. 

Gen Z consumers are defining preferences now, which will carry through adulthood and into their highest income and expenditure years. Understanding the preferences of Gen Z travelers and engaging their interests will be critical to capturing spend and building long-term loyalty among the next generation of travelers. 

The Gen Z Traveler Profile

Gen Z jetsetters & capturing their travel share

Spending Trends

Gen Zers are delaying milestones like marriage and children and purchasing homes, freeing up more discretionary spending that they are redistributing towards travel and experiences. Even as economic headwinds like higher interest rates and slowing wage growth have led many adults to tighten their belts, younger generations continue to protect and expand their travel expenditures. 

Over 60% of Gen Z and millennials in the US have purchased travel in the last 12 months, and 25% of Gen Zers have made travel purchases in the last three months alone.

Gen Z travelers claim they spend $3,432 on leisure travel on average per year, though higher income Gen Zers claim to spend upwards of $4,500 per year. 

The prioritization of travel expenditure among Gen Zers is even clearer when looking at lower income households. Gen Zers making less than $50K per year are spending as much as 49% more on travel than older generations making the same amount.

Value for Money

88% of Gen Z say price is the most important factor when choosing a flight to book. 

Gen Zers saw their families struggle financially during the 2008 recession, experienced disrupted education during the pandemic years and are coming of age at a time where interest rates have ballooned to levels seen 25 years ago. It’s no surprise that affordability is the number one concern among Gen Z travelers when they are booking flights, hotels, rental cars and more

Many Gen Zers work side hustles or freelance to supplement their income as this generation’s dollar doesn’t go as far as in decades past. As a result, these consumers are willing to spend but are exceptionally value-focused. They are looking for the right balance of price and quality. 88% of Gen Zers say price is the most important factor when choosing a flight to book and 68% say it’s most important when booking a hotel. Price influences younger travelers’ choices over all other factors like brand loyalty; in fact, 55% of Gen Z travelers say they decide which travel brand to book with based on who has the lowest prices. 

"Price is as important as convenience & quality"

The Digital Natives 

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the internet and technology as a part of their daily lives. The rapid development of technology in their lifetimes means that younger adults are more connected than any previous generation. 62% of adults under 29 years old claim they are on the internet almost constantly, compared to just 32% of Gen Xers and just 15% of boomers.

9 hrs 36 min is the average amount of time Gen Z spends online per day.

Wi-Fi is the #1 ranked hotel amenity by Gen Z

When it comes to onsite amenities when staying away from home, what’s most important to Gen Z guests? Whether they can connect to the internet. This hyper connected generation values reliable, fast internet access over all other amenities, even those like free breakfast or beach access. 57% of Gen Z hotel bookers value Wi-Fi access over all other amenities, compared to 46% of millennials, 42% of Gen X and just 38% of boomers.

‘TikTok made me book it’

Social media is not just for connecting and curating an online image; Gen Zers are finding new products, exploring new interests, and experiencing brands on an extremely personal level. Video social media, in particular, has been growing at an incredible pace, with Cisco reporting that video internet traffic has increased 15x in the last five years to represent 82% of all internet traffic.

#traveltiktok has 659M views on TikTok in the last 30 days

Roughly ~25% of Gen Zers and millennials who booked travel in the last year say they used social media to research their trip, compared to just 17% of Gen Xers and 4% of boomers. This means travelers are leveraging Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and more during the travel process at a rate nearly 7x higher than boomers.

Young travelers are leveraging social media during travel planning nearly 7x more than boomers and 53% more than Gen Xers.


Gen Zers have grown up in a culture where individuals and brands have curated their online presence so comprehensively that the phrase “Instagram vs Reality” was born to highlight the gap often seen between what’s online and what is genuine. In response, Gen Zers seek out brands and products that connect with them on an authentic and personal level. This happens through micro-influencers recommending products they wear or use, or through ad campaigns highlighting key themes like diversity, inclusion, “realness” and wellness.

Gen Zer’s desire for more unique and authentic experiences is reflected in the destinations trending among Gen Z travelers today.

These destinations are a mix of ‘off the beaten path’ destinations and “destination dupes,” destinations offering similar experiences to mainstream destinations for a fraction of the cost or crowd. 

Social Responsibility 

Sustainable Travel

Gen Zers are politically and socially active and concerned with real issues like social justice and sustainability. A Pew Research Center study revealed Gen Z are among the most concerned about climate change and among the most engaged with both climate content and making actual personal change among adults of all ages. With the rise of video social media like TikTok, young adults are increasingly empowered to find their voice in conversations around social responsibility. 

Young travelers are the most engaged with climate action on social media

Eco-tourism is a growing trend among younger travelers who are seeking to explore new destinations with social and environmental responsibility in mind. Demand for trips to National Parks in the US and abroad has skyrocketed in recent years, with travelers looking to explore the great outdoors, support local communities and identify to minimize their impact while traveling. 

Since 2020 Hopper has funded the planting of trees for every booking made on the app in an effort to offset some of the environmental impact of travel booked on our platform. Since launching the Hopper Trees program, we have funded the planting of more than 35 million mangroves in areas of the world facing rapid deforestation. Our reforestation projects directly impact some of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world, and support the economic and social development of communities around the planting sites.  The program remains incredibly popular among Hopper users, who often mention our tree planting as a reason they choose to use the Hopper app to book travel! 

The Gen Z Loyalty Gap

Brand Neutrality

Gen Z travelers are predominantly brand-neutral, allowing price to influence travel decisions over loyalty to a particular brand or site. This is clear in the behavior we see from Gen Z and millennials using the Hopper app, 90% of whom will book multiple, unique hotel properties with Hopper over the course of planning many trips instead of booking the same brand repeatedly. Looking a level deeper, more than half of all Gen Z travelers are not currently participating in any brand's loyalty program, nor do they own a travel credit card. For those Gen Zers who do participate in loyalty programs, the benefits they value most remain those that help to lower the cost of traveling.

59% of Gen Z travelers aren’t currently participating in any travel brand or credit card loyalty program

With spending power predicted to increase +48% by the end of this decade, according to Afterpay, and with their consistent prioritization of travel spending, it’s clear that Gen Z will be the most valuable generation of travelers ever. There is a clear loyalty gap among Gen Z travelers, where travelers are spending more each year but brands have not yet tapped into the opportunity to build loyalty with this critical demographic. Now is the time to capture the business of Gen Z travelers and to begin cultivating their brand loyalty while they are young, price sensitive, building wealth and developing their travel preferences. 

How to activate Gen Z travelers?

Merchandise for Mobile Platforms 

Hopper began its journey as a mobile-first travel app and has consistently attracted younger travelers with our mobile-first design, best in class assortment of prices, and money-saving guidance. As a result of Hopper’s approach to product development and merchandising, Gen Z and millennial customers remain loyal to the platform. In fact, 50% of bookings made on the Hopper app come from customers who have purchased before. 

Gen Zers over-index the average American adult when it comes to smartphone based purchases, with 87% of Gen Zers making purchases from their phones compared to a national adult average of 76%. 

This remains true for travel purchases, where Gen Z and millennials are using smartphones to make bookings over all other device types. 55% of Gen Zers used smartphones to book their most recent travel experience, compared to 44% of Gen Xers and 28% of boomers. While millennials and Gen Zers are using their phones, older generations are booking on laptops or desktop computers.

To convert younger travelers, it’s key to offer the best range of price and selection, merchandised for mobile platforms.

Drive Conversion with Frictionless Checkout Experiences

Gen Zers have the lowest credit card utilization rate for travel purchases among all generations, with just 28% of recent travel purchases made using a credit card. Most Gen Z travelers are using debit cards (42%) or choosing alternative payment methods (30%) like Apple Pay, PayPal and Buy Now Pay Later offerings. As debit card users build savings they are signaling a clear preference for eschewing traditional credit cards and choosing alternative payment options. 

Delivering a seamless checkout experience doesn’t just make the process easier for younger generations booking on smartphones, it makes them book more. Adding expanded payment options on the Hopper app resulted in substantial conversion increases with each incremental payment option launch. As younger generations shift their travel planning and booking onto smartphones it becomes critical to offer best-in-class payment options as these travelers build purchasing power. 

Alleviate Core Anxieties 

Gen Z and millennials show the highest level of anxiety around travel disruptions, with half to two thirds of these younger travelers taking a trip in the next 6 months rating themselves as highly concerned about disruption. Compare this to just 46% and 45% of Gen X and baby boomers respectively. 

For more on disruptions, check out our State of Disruptions Report.

With the busiest seasons for travel still ahead in this year and 80% of Americans concerned about disruptions, younger travelers will be shopping with this anxiety top of mind. Offering customers a range of solutions to alleviate concerns around canceled and delayed flights and missed connections will be key to addressing a new and significant need among younger travelers in particular. 

Offer the range of price and benefits they desire 

With travelers planning trips more last minute than ever before, the demand for a range of flexibility options when booking travel has never been higher. This demand is particularly high among younger travelers, many of whom are planning larger, international trips for the first time. 

Over 66% of American travelers claim they changed or canceled travel plans in the last year and flexibility and refundability are increasingly important differentiators when travelers are in the booking process.

41% of Gen Z travelers say they look for flights that offer a full refund if you cancel and offer the flexibility to make changes without incremental costs. 

Not only do travelers anticipate the need to potentially change plans, they have negative attitudes toward travel companies they perceive as making the process difficult and expensive.

Today’s travelers are seeking flexible options that give them control over their trips and protect their financial investment. Offering an expanded range of products with flexibility and refundability included will resonate especially well with younger travelers. 

Reimagine the travel booking experience

Gen Zers value unique and tailored shopping experiences. As digital natives, this generation has high expectations for smart, seamless, mobile-first experiences that are easy to navigate and tailored to their interests. In order to be competitive in today’s market, it is critical that brands deeply understand these customers preferences and are able to deliver highly personalized offers and recommendations. Nailing the shopping and booking experience is key to winning over this generation.

Now is the time to capture this brand-agnostic demographic to build lifelong, loyal customers and lock in future spending. Gen Z is not a consumer segment to be overlooked. Gen Z are a powerful and influential demographic with immense purchasing power and are reshaping travel as we know it.

To access these findings, download the full report here.


Hopper commissioned omnibus surveys of Americans who had purchased travel in the preceding 6-12 months in partnership with Teneo and Opinium. All Hopper user survey data was gathered through notification based surveys sent to recent app users. Quotes from Gen Zers are from an audio based survey of Gen Zers who had traveled in the preceding 6-12 months. Research from the Pew Research Center was used where noted. 

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