Africa Travel Week

Can Gen Z save the travel industry?

Gen Z, also called Generation C, is the world’s youngest generation, living through a time of pandemic and a time when, hopefully, the world hopes to welcome some significant positive changes. 

Can Gen Z save the travel industry was the topic of a webinar hosted by Africa Travel Week, ahead of the bumper conference programme planned for the virtual event running from April 7 – 9, 2021.

Speakers included:

  • Meg Ten Eyck – award-winning LGBT travel content creator and editor of Everyqueer magazine
  • Lance Nkwe – Corporate Marketing Manager, Flight Centre Travel Group South Africa
  • Phakamile Hlazo – Founder and Managing Director, Zulu Nomad

The webinar was moderated by
Peter Jordan – Founder, Gen C Travel

In the webinar, the panel unpacked who the Gen Z traveller is, their needs, and how the travel industry can meet this generation’s demands, specifically on the African continent.

Who is the Gen Z traveller?

The Gen Z generation was born between 1996-2012 and is currently aged 9 to 25. 

Gen Z grew up in an era of unprecedented awareness about human behaviour, personal health, technology and humankind’s impact on the environment.

Source: European Travel Commission 2020

The generation is perhaps best symbolised by Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish activist. 

Gen Z has embraced activism and progressive ideals, such as diversity, sustainability and personal empowerment, much more than previous generations.

“Gen Z is acutely aware that only together can they address these issues. They have to be tackled on a collective level,” says Jordan.

Gen Z is set to exert a more significant influence on current affairs than previous generations.

It’s no exaggeration to say that they will be Africa’s future. Gen Z will take the world forward post COVID-19. They have lived with disrupted education, work, family and travel plans; life has shifted online. They are conscious of the impact of mental health and are fearing for the future.

Can the travel industry save Gen Z?

Rather than asking if Gen Z can save the travel industry, Jordan flips the angle on its head, asking instead: “Can the travel industry save Gen Z?”

“This generation is used to easy access and instant gratification. Important things for Gen Z are issues of diversity, equality. COVID highlighted just how unequal and how tolerant our world has been designed to be. These are going to be big areas of consideration for them,” says Hlazo.

Ten Eyck: “Both Gen Z and millennials are used to high touch curation of their experiences – such as their Netflix queue – tailored to their interests,” adding that they will expect this same experience on their travels. 

“Flexibility. Role players in the industry have to be flexible in their approach and agile to meet these customer needs,” says Nkwe.

What about the Gen Z African traveller?

Hlazo: Millennials and Gen Z travellers are the first generations that have travelled as extensively as they have in the past 5 to 10 years. There is a push towards innovation in the African tourist industry. This was a market segment that was not considered before.

The future is African: Gen Z’ers. It’s an exciting time for travellers themselves and destinations globally.

Nkwe: The marketing approach has to be different for Gen Z travellers. Key in the market is hard and tangible facts. Many travellers and Gen Z travellers are dependent on truth, hard facts. Building traveller confidence is key.

Ten Eyck: Millennials ask politely, but Gen Z demands. We’re seeing these things come to a head in travel. Ethical tourism is not only around sustainability and our environment but if I go to this country, does this country’s politics support my views? Ethical animal tourism, sustainable plastic, can I travel safely as an LGBT traveller, etc.

Hlazo: This is a hyper-connected generation. They live in a global village. 

Nkwe: Equality and ethics and how people are conducting business are key from both a business-to-business perspective and a consumer to business perspective.

Top tips for businesses to attract Gen Z travellers

  • Find young, diverse people to bring into your team to handle marketing.
  • If you’re not online, you’re irrelevant.
  • Tiktok is an amazing example of how the internet is impacting people around the world.
  • Use the internet as a tool to understand globalisation and different values, cultures around the world.
  • It’s about experiences – what did I take away from this trip, and what did I leave behind?
  • Companies need to evolve to adapt to ever-changing needs.

What can the travel industry do to help Gen Z?

Hlazo: Gen Z travellers are very aware of physical and mental health. For the African traveller market, in times of COVID, develop a product that speaks to this need. Travelling the African continent is an incredibly restorative and transformative experience. How do I reposition my lodge to attract a younger market that needs some quiet, some space for restorative travel? Investing a bit in understanding the product for the traveller and then getting it online.

Ten Eyck: Move towards authenticity. They want real experiences; they don’t want curation of experiences. Gen Z is open to real. They don’t need all of the polish, but it needs to be online. Have training opportunities for staff.

Nkew: Rebuild traveller confidence. Think of it as growing back greener and growing back smarter. It’s also down to ethnic nuances in travel – are we catering for a real, authentic travel experience?

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.