There is a lot of emphasis on young people taking "gap yahs" after college and before university, but there's not a lot out there specifically saying where these students should be going. Instead, most articles typically focus on where millennials want to go travelling each and every year, but seeing as the youngest age of a millennial is now roughly 21/22, it's time to focus on the new generation of students: Generation Z.
This is the generation that has grown up on the internet, with the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and the rest all being a normal part of their life – not something new and revolutionary. So, it's unsurprising that these students are going to be looking for something completely different from their holidays than the baby boomers – they want internet connectivity, adventure, uninhabited spaces, not relaxing all-inclusive poolside retreats.
So, we put together our Generation Z Travel Index, GZTI, by analysing various different factors that students and those under 20 decided were important to them while travelling. We thoroughly researched surveys, blog posts, social media, polls and more in order to come up with a truly exhaustive list of important factors that Generation Z considers when travelling.
This included things like budget, off the beaten track, how eco-friendly the destination is – pretty much everything that makes the trip affordable, sustainable, and envy-inducing. We then ranked countries around the world who offered the best of the best for these categories. These included internet connection, Instagrammability, budget, and how socially conscious and eco-friendly the country was.
The number one destination for Gen Z travellers is Italy, with USA and Japan following in second and third. We were thrilled to see Mexico rank in the top 10, largely due to the sheer number of adventure opportunities: travellers have their pick of Caribbean coastlines, deserts, rock climbing, deep sea fishing and diving – there's even pyramids at Teotihuacan. Thailand also ranked highly at number 12; it is one of the most beautiful destinations in Southeast Asia, complete with a blend of culture, religion, lifestyle philosophy, delicious food, and enough jaw-dropping backgrounds to fill up your Instagram for weeks.
Read on below to find out the full results of our Generation Z Travel Index.
Italy ranked as highly as it did thanks to its fantastic Instagram score – there are 89,456,465 hashtags for the country alone – as well as its great adventure and "off the beaten track" scores. This is unsurprising, considering the country is home to Mount Etna – Europe's tallest and most active volcano. It's also home to 13th century towns in the hills of Tuscany or Le Marche, the deserted town of Civita di Bagnoregio – home to only 10 residents – and the fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera coastline.
Italy also scored considerably well for being socially conscious and eco-friendly, which are two crucial elements of life for the younger generations. Studies were taken to determine the environmental sustainability of tourist attractions, and environmental protection initiatives towards categories such as species extinction and forest cover change, for which Italy came in the top half of all our data.
Following Italy, the top 10 countries are:
The USA ranked highly for almost all of the categories: budget, Instagrammability, how socially conscious and eco-friendly the country is, and adventure. It also ranks highly for being socially conscious as well as for its "outdoors" score, which was based on the number of World Heritage Natural Sites. Indeed, the USA has 13 natural heritage sites, including the Mammoth Cave in the Everglades, the iconic Statue of Liberty, and Yellowstone National Park, which is home to the Yellowstone Caldera – the largest volcanic system in North America.
We were thrilled to see our destinations of Thailand, Singapore, and India all rank highly, all of which scored so well for a myriad of reasons. Both Thailand and India ranked among the top spots for budget; the average day in Thailand will cost a traveller approximately £23, which includes alcohol, public transport, meals, and accommodation, while the average day in India will cost approximately £31. Singapore, on the other hand, ranked highly for its internet connectivity – the most important factor when all the amazing pictures need to be uploaded to the 'gram ASAP.
The results by continent are as below:
Best country for travel for Generation Z in Africa: South Africa
Best country for travel for Generation Z in Europe: Italy
Best country for travel for Generation Z in Asia: Japan
Best country for travel for Generation Z in North America: USA
Best country for travel for Generation Z in South America: Chile
Best country for travel for Generation Z in Oceania: New Zealand
To compile the Generation Z Travel Index, we used the following methodology. We analysed a variety of studies and surveys of travellers under the age of 20, typically considered to be "Generation Z", in order to find out what they looked for from a travel destination. The elements we found to be important were:
Off the Beaten Track
In order to identify exactly what each destination had to offer, we searched through a variety of different sources. One source we looked at that is considered one of the most important factors for younger travellers when choosing their holiday destination was the number of hashtags each destination had on Instagram, alongside how many UNESCO sites the destination offered, how well known the majority of the tourist destinations were for each country, and how cheap a holiday there would be. We also added in the average internet connectivity in terms of download speed, in order to assess how likely it was that the travellers could access the internet and keep their social media following up to date on their travels.
For each of the above categories, we scored each country from 1-5, with 5 being the highest, and added these scores together in order to get our final GZTI score, with a total of 40 being the highest available. We then ranked the countries based on their scores.
- Worldwide broadband speed league 2018
- World Economic Forum - Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017
- U.S. News & World Report - Citizenship Rankings
- World Economic Forum - Environmental sustainability
- U.S. News & World Report - Adventure Rankings
- World Economic Forum - Effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists
- World Economic Forum - Number of World Heritage natural sites
- What's on the Horizon? Generation Z Travel Trends
- TravelAge West - An In-Depth Guide to Generation Z Travelers
- Travel Weekly - They're not millennials: Targeting Generation Z
The full dataset is available upon request.