Industry Toolkit

Youth Travel Toolkit Section 2: Who is the Youth Traveller?


  1. Generation Which?
  2. Millennials
  3. Generation Z

Youth Travellers Across the Generations

This section attemps to present clear definitions of youth travellers in terms of ages and demographics.

Recent research* has highlighted that perceptions of youth travel and who youth travellers actually were, varied extensively between businesses in and around the Loch Lomond area. Businesses had dramatically different perceptions of youth travellers in terms of age, travel needs and motivations. 

For this reason, it's worth taking a look at the segments and categories which make up today's youth travellers.

*Research carried out on behalf of Love Loch Lomond by Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde.(2018)

Header image: Canva. 

1. Generation Which?

Definitions of youth travel and tourism can be confusing for businesses, probably because it is still a relatively new and rapidly evolving segment, however common industry definitions appear to fall into three main categories:

  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1979
  • Generation Y: more commonly known as Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000
  • Generation Z: or Digital Natives, having grown up with the Internet and mobile, born from 2000 to present

Youth tourism is defined as all independent trips for periods of less than one year by people aged 16-29 which are motivated, in part or in full, by a desire to experience other cultures, build life experience and/or benefit from formal and informal learning opportunities outside one’s usual environment (UNWTO and WYSE Travel Confederation, 2008). 

In its definition of youth travellers, WYSETC claims that "most of the young travellers (15 to 29) of today come from two generational cohorts: generation Y, born between the early 1980s and 2000 and better known as “millennials,” and generation Z, born after 2000. Roughly 50% of millennial and gen Z travellers are travelling for the purpose of holidays, but the other 50% are undertaking experiential travel such as work abroad, language study, higher education,  au pairing, and volunteering. These experiential youth travellers generally stay longer and spend more."

For the purposes of this toolkit, we'll remain with the definition used by our student researchers from Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde, focusing on people between the ages of 18-35 years.

2. Millennials

Millennials, or Generation Y, are usually defined as 18-35 years old (or slightly older) and are a significant youth travel segment.

According to VisitScotland, the Millennial generation is one of the largest generations in history – even surpassing Baby Boomers. The Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) also defines Millennials as being 18-34 years of age. 

Businesses should be wary of treating this generation as a single entity. As the VisitScotland (2017) report on Millennials observes, they "are not a uniform and homogenous group with a common set of values and behaviours. Within the generation itself lies an enormous range in their life stage, career and disposable income and therefore there might be a difference in how younger (16- 24) and older (25-36) cohorts of this generation behave. But perhaps the one thing that binds them all is a strong desire to enrich their lives through travel.”

Millennials - Key Facts

  • Aged 18 – 35 years, born between 1980 and 1999
  • Grew up with technology, internet, devices
  • Seeking (experiences, authenticity, to make a lasting impact via activities)
  • Hard-wired for tech
  • Socially conscious
  • The Instant Generation
  • Highly Visual Consumers
  • Social Animals
  • Spontaneous (trip planning)
  • Information Hunters - via the Internet and Social Media
  • Higher value consumers
  • Contributors to other industries
  • Resilient travellers
  • Stay longer and spend more
  • They are more concerned with the impact of their visit, not just socially and culturally but also environmentally
  • They are drawn to eco-tourism products and authentic experiences

Top Tip

Millennials love discovering great content on social media, blogs and websites that they can share, like, tweet, pin or comment on. Ensure your content inspires sharing and engagement - look at other businesses around you who are doing it well.

Further information and resources

Check out some of Scotland's Wild's blogs, tweets and Instagram posts for inspiration on engaging with youth travellers.

3. Generation Z

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation and World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation observe that Generation Z comprises about 30 per cent of the world population and counts 29 million international travellers around the world.

It also regards Generation Z as millennials on steroids and refers to them as “the-internet-in-its-pocket-generation”, a feature that set them apart from previous generations such as the Baby Boomers and even the a bit older Generation Y which was born and grew up before the internet was widely available (WYSE, 2016).

More recent tourism insights into Generation Z show that they are budget-savvy and heavily influenced by social media.

While Millennials may be more inclined to spend time on Facebook or Twitter, this generation shows preferences for Snapchat and Instagram to get inspiration for trips and validation from family members and friends who also use those sites. When they see posts from others getting out and being active outdoors, they are more likely to jump on to their favorite search engine and seek information about potential new travel experiences.

According to research by Expedia, promo codes, packages which may include valuable extras and daily deals are likely going to help motivate a Generation Z traveller to book tour and activity products.

Top Tip

Build a profile of all your customer demographics using website and social media analytics to ensure you're targeting them correctly.

Further information and resources

Read the blog article on Generation Z- An In-Depth look into the Travel Segment - by Rezdy.

Footer image reproduced from Rezy/Expedia Media Solutions

More Inspiration

Related Resources

Youth Travel Toolkit Section 1: Facts & Figures

Youth Travel Toolkit Section 3: Activities