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Do not count out Gen Z: They’re still the Experience Generation

Let’s explore some of what makes Gen Zers special, and how we as marketers can craft experiences designed to entice and inspire.

It’s no secret the travel and experience industry has been hit hard by this pandemic. Many have gone from calling Gen Z the experience-driven generation to writing them off as homebodies, who are now more concerned with staying on their phones than trying new experiences. However, that’s too narrow of a perspective to put on Gen Zers that are simply adapting to what’s in front of them. They are still the experience generation and marketers must find ways to relate to that, whether it’s online or in person. Let’s explore some of what makes Gen Zers special, and how we as marketers can craft experiences designed to entice and inspire.

  • Genuine – The word authenticity has become such a buzz word within hospitality that in many ways, we’ve lost the notion of what it truly means. The word “Authentic” can have broad interpretations and can be very opinion based and as marketers, we should turn our focus to the idea of being “genuine”, or true to ourselves. Brands must be true to their core values because if they don’t, Gen Z will hold them accountable and/or disengage. In many ways, this should make marketing more simplistic as the task is to no longer try to manipulate based upon what you think someone wants, but rather, let the messaging and experiences flow from within your brand.

How to market: Create experiences that are true to your brand, and don’t be afraid to lean into it. Too often we see the industry try to tell people what is authentic rather than showing them. The easiest way to do this is to really live your brand – go all in on who you are, and don’t hold back. Case in point, The Garland in Los Angeles. With a storied history from a bygone era, we worked with the hotel to take their branding to the next level. Their new website displays this in such a unique way, it’s almost
impossible not to want to experience it. And once you arrive? The promise is fully met.

  • Purpose Driven – Gen Z is a generation that truly cares about the impact they have on the world which presents a tremendous opportunity for brands to connect. Creating experiences that provide an opportunity to blend travel with giving back. This could take the form of partnership opportunities, donations to charitable organizations, or even ensuring that sustainable travel stays at the forefront. We are seeing this really evolve and grow with the advent of organizations such as Beyond Green, who are leading the way in the sustainable travel space and creating a roadmap for travel brands that are truly committed to acting.

How to market: Don’t market, act. Every brand can say they are dedicated to a cause, but unless you are showing it through your actions, this generation will see right through it and go elsewhere. Think about your partnerships, your operations, your
activities. How can your property work to make the world a better place? Once you are, share the impact you’ve had – but never use it to sell. The Ranch Laguna Beach does a great job of this with their water reclamation project (saving over 20 million gallons of water per year!) and by donating excess food + toiletries to local non-profits.

  • Nomadic – Gen Z is emerging from college with immense amount of school debt, into a housing market that has seen growth unlike any generation before. As such, this is a generation who are not necessarily tied to a single location – they want to live + work where they want, and when they want.

How to market: This presents a tremendous opportunity within the hospitality space to blend authenticity with purpose and tap into this remote workforce. With the advent of COVID we saw the introduction of hotel/resort packages and offerings that were specifically driven toward remote workers. Properties like Half Moon Bay Jamaica offered extended stay options, while more urban locations like Hotel Maya offered their spaces up for day use. The moral here? This generation requires flexibility in their experience. The brands that play to this will win their loyalty – and share of wallet.

Regardless of the property brand, size, or location, one thing is certain – Gen Z is coming with more buying power than the predecessors, and they are much more selective in how they use it. The hotels that adapt and provide the experiences they expect will find long-term loyalty with this up-and-coming segment.

Executive Vice President - Hooray Agency

Randy Stuck is Executive Vice President, Hooray Agency, a full-service creative agency that provides digital integration strategies and brand conceptualization to the luxury market.