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Capturing Current Travelers: Demographic Data and Trends

Jan 18, 2023   |   Industry News, Research
Capturing Current Travelers: Demographic Data and Trends

The pandemic caused considerable disruption to the travel industry. For over a year, restrictions kept people home. Now, these regulations have begun to loosen, but new trends have emerged across nearly every sector of travel. Understanding the impact of these changes in consumer behavior can help businesses like yours shift their marketing efforts to better meet customer needs.  

GWI recently published research on travel habits based on different age demographics that can provide valuable insight on consumer interests. Let’s explore what this research has indicated.  

Overview of the shifts in consumer behaviors 

Overview of the shifts in consumer behaviors

Prior to the pandemic, Gen Z comprised a small percentage of those making purchases towards flights and vacations. Now, however, that number has grown considerably, and businesses need to pay attention to this growing demographic of travelers.  

Interestingly, alongside the growth in younger travelers, there has also been a shift in behavior for older travelers. Older generations are more likely to stay closer to home because of their concerns about health and safety as well as the impact of inflation.  

The generations also have different priorities and emphasis that they want to see as they plan their trips.  

  • Those in Generation Z are drawn to fun and excitement, including novelty and nightlife. 
  • Millennials prioritize trips that can accommodate their pets or establishments with family-friendly options. They also appreciate fine dining and to a lesser extent than gen z, they look for nightlife. 
  • Generation X, meanwhile, looks quiet and the ease of the trip. They want to know what sights and local cuisine they can experience as they venture out. 
  • Finally, Baby Boomers value the ease of traveling, the cost and value of their trip, opportunities to relax and enjoy the sights. 

Understanding these differences between the generations can help businesses prepare the best way to target their customers. 

What impacts travelers’ decisions 

What impacts travelers’ decisions

It is important to notice the significance of influencers when it comes to attracting the attention of travelers. This is particularly true for members of the younger generations. Members of Gen Z, for example, say that social posts from influencers impact their decisions about where they travel and what they do. Building relationships with influencers and learning how to engage with them on social media, therefore, can have a big impact on the success of businesses in bringing in attention and visitors. 

In addition to influencers, GWI research has indicated some important trends in what draws customers across several travel sectors.  

The value of food and drink 

Let’s begin with the value of food and drink. Travelers across the generations report that they would rather spend their money on food and drink over pampering while on vacation or paying for additional excursions. This presents considerable opportunity for those working in areas related to dining, including breweries, wineries, and bakeries.  

Note that almost a third of Gen Z TikTok users report following accounts related to food, such as restaurants and chefs. The data coming from Google also indicates that this generation likes to go directly to social media when they look for good places to eat. Therefore, the presence these businesses have on visual social platforms, their ability to engage food-related influencers, and even their ability to create visually-appealing staging that encourages people to take and post pictures will all impact their overall success.  

Traveling experiences 

The second area where the generational data can shed some light is on tourist preferences for traveling experiences. The different generations indicate varying preferences when it comes to the type of excursions and experiences they want to have on their trips. 

Older generations tend to place a greater emphasis on sightseeing. This is one of the top-rated activities for Gen X and Baby Boomers. These generations also are more inclined to booking their preferred activities on a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ timetable. They may even book tours or events after they have already arrived in their preferred destination. 

For younger generations, activities seem to revolve more around the outdoors and activity-based trips, such as surfing or climbing. This is particularly true among members of Gen Z. Since these activities often require more advanced planning, the younger generations of tourists are more likely to book their events ahead of time. 

Where to stay 

Finally, we also want to look at what the research indicates about accommodations. The different generations indicate shifts in their priorities as they select their hotels or rentals for their trip.  

GWI specifically broke down priorities into two categories. The first was basics, meaning factors like cleanliness and comfort offered, the price for the space, and the precise location. The second was classified as non-basics, and looked at factors such as breakfast options, the quiet environment offered, the leisure facilities included, the reviews of the location, and other extras that can make the location stand out. 

For Boomers, the basics were rated as holding more weight than the non-basics. For the other three generational groupings, however, the opposite was true. It is important to note, however, that although non-basics held greater sway for the other three generations, at least 75 percent of those polled in all those generations still rated basics as important in their choice of accommodations. In other words, businesses offering accommodations should not lose focus on the importance of these characteristics.  

What this research indicates for marketing teams 

What this research indicates for marketing teams

As we look at the insight this research provides, it becomes clear how these generational divides will impact marketing teams moving forward. Here are key areas to pay attention to. 

Prioritize audience segmentation 

The clear differences between the different generations highlight the importance of understanding your target customers. Knowing the common generations you want to target will impact marketing strategies, like your use of social media and the platforms where you are the most active. 

Consider how influencers might play into your marketing strategy 

With influencers having a significant impact on vacationers, particularly younger customers, investigating how you can incorporate influencers into your marketing strategy can be a good use of resources. People appreciate the suggestions, reviews, and experiences of those they follow online, so you want to cultivate these in your favor. 

Industry-specific recommendations 

Based on the industry sector where your business focuses, here are some central ideas to incorporate. 

Food and dining 

We now see that travelers are willing to spend more on food than other parts of the vacation, so creating dining experiences that focus on creating a unique and enjoyable experience will bring in your desired visitors.  

With customers often depending on visual social media platforms when looking for food options, adjusting your social media strategy to target areas such as Instagram and TikTok will be important. Engaging with influencers to encourage positive reviews for your business across social media will also play an important role. 


Know how you can reach the target generations and demographics most likely to be interested in the type of experiences you offer. The differences between older generations and their preferences for sightseeing and similar activities, and younger generations and their leanings towards activity and outdoor locations means that you will likely see differences in the age demographics of your common customers. 

Align the information about your target customer with the platforms and channels that engage this demographic most often. Take into account the differences regarding bookings and scheduling among these different groupings as well. For example, if you offer sightseeing tours for demographics more likely to book their events the day-of, you might put out geo-fencing ad campaigns for people visiting from out of state and staying at popular hotels. If you offer a whitewater rafting tour that people book months in advance, you might focus on social media campaigns that center around targeted customers who express interest in your location or whitewater rafting. 


Remember that even though non-basics are top priority for younger generations, across all generations at least 3/4 indicated that the basics mattered to them. Therefore, building up a strong brand base around these features should be a central priority. 

Then, focus on building marketing messaging to make it clear how your business sits apart from the competition. Unique opportunities, experiences, or even adventures you can offer guests can help you frame your messaging for those interested in non-basics and bring in more visitors. 

Incorporate travel and demographic trends into marketing 

As you look to engage customers moving forward, acknowledging the insight provided by this research and the latest trends that have emerged regarding generations and travel can help you create more targeted campaigns.

If you are ready to take your marketing and digital presence to the next level, reach out to us at [email protected] or call us at 408-200-2211. Learn more about how we can help you build your customer base. We can help you put this research and insight to work for you. 

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