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Gen Z’s 2022 travel plans explained

Gen Z travellers enjoying a kayak ride

It’s the industry that arguably took the biggest hit as a result of COVID-19. Two years on, Gen Z students are finally able to act on their wanderlust. Here’s the lowdown on what they’ve got planned. 

When do Gen Zs make travel bookings? 

At Student Beans, we’ve been following the pent-up demand among Gen Zs since May 2020 – and there’s no doubt that it’s particularly strong in the travel sector. So much so, in fact, that it likely had a strong impact on whether Gen Zs got the vaccine or not. Our brand partner Contiki surveyed young travellers in early 2021 – and a huge 71% said that they would take the vaccine if it enabled them to travel. 

Gen Zs aren’t super spontaneous when it comes to travel – 27% book holidays between six months to a year in advance, and 20% book between three to six months in advance. By comparison, just 12% book a week to a month in advance, and just 3% are spontaneous enough to book one week or less ahead of departure. 

a girl plans a trip

However, once young travellers commit to their plans, they do expect some flexibility from providers – particularly with COVID-19 still causing localised issues across the world. According to Contiki’s research, 86% of Gen Z travellers want free cancellation on their holiday bookings, and 74% look for flexible booking in general.

Gen Z travel priorities 

We’ve covered how Gen Zs book their holidays – but what do they expect once they get there? Overwhelmingly, low cost is a high priority for young holidaymakers. Gen Zs are right at the start of their period of financial independence – budgeting is still very important, and it will be a while before this cohort can blow the budget and splash out on a high-value trip. 92% consider cost to be the most important factor when looking for a travel destination. 

That said, there’s one area of travel that Gen Zs are less likely to scrimp on: accommodation. According to a report by the European Travel Commission (ETC), one in three Gen Zs prefer to book a four or five-star hotel. So while they might prefer to keep the overall trip costs down, Gen Zs are still concerned about getting a high-quality place to stay. 

some Gen Zs at the top of a cliff

Cost is closely followed by safety – 74% of Gen Z holidaymakers consider this when booking travel. This of course refers to any crime or turbulence within a possible destination – but it’s also likely that young people will look into the COVID risk within a destination before deciding to book. 

On balance, Gen Zs are less bothered about the distance they would have to travel to reach a destination (34% consider this), which is a strong sign that long-haul travel could make a triumphant return in 2022. 

Ethical travel: an emerging factor 

Gen Zs are governed by a strong set of values – and as consumers, they often demonstrate this in their purchasing patterns. Travel is no exception. 93% of Gen Zs say that it’s important that a brand cares about sustainability and protecting the environment, which may impact everything from airline choice to destination.

a group enjoys a meal on holiday

This also means that Gen Z adventurers will show greater consideration for their destination than (perhaps) we might expect of their older contemporaries. Contiki data shows that 74% of Gen Z travellers would look to source from local markets while travelling, and 66% want to avoid single-use plastics. In addition, 60% want to offset their carbon footprint when travelling. 

Short getaways

When Gen Zs are at university, they have more opportunities than ever to book short, cheap getaways – with long university breaks and limited contact hours, this is a unique window of opportunity for budding travellers. 

some people run into the sea

Europe remains a popular destination for Gen Z – 41% of respondents to Contiki’s survey said European countries were on their bucket list. ETC data shows that trying locally sourced food and drinks is a top priority for holidaymakers in Europe (75% of Gen Zs are interested in this), closely followed by discovering urban culture (67%) and visiting museums and concerts (62%). 

Longer trips

Will Gen Z students be embracing the well-established tradition of backpacking in their late teens and early twenties? In short – yes. 75% of UK Gen Zs intend to go travelling or backpacking in the near future. 

A couple enjoys a summer break

Most Student Beans users intending to travel told us they plan to save between £2,000 and £3,000 to fund their trip. And while most students haven’t planned how long they intend to travel for, 44% of students intend to keep their trip length to six months or less. 

Summer 2022 is here. Find out how students spend across the travel vertical and more with our latest summer spending infographic. 

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