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    Gen Z’s new faces of travel
    Meet five emerging types of traveller, whose habits are shaped by their different worldviews
    New faces of travel
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    As years of distance learning and zero travel fade into memory, a new generation of travellers has emerged ready to make up for lost time. Those born in the first half of the 2000s came of age when hopping on a plane was off-limits – but the world is now open again, and they’re taking nothing for granted.

    This new age group epitomises slow travel, flexibility, and a respect for their destination’s people and environment: changing the tourism industry for good. They’ve watched how their older siblings, parents and even grandparents have done it, and now they’re forging their own path: meet the world’s newest travellers, whom we’ve identified by five of their top travel trends.

    New faces of travel illustration

    Credit: Comet Wong

    The total travellers

    A paint-by-numbers sightseeing package tour is an affront to these intrepid explorers, who prioritise immersion and want to feel part of wherever they’re visiting. Gen Z (identified as the group born between the late-1990s and the mid-2010s) is twice as likely to make interacting with the local community a priority. They’re also more likely to stay longer so as to feel truly integrated.

    When 22-year-old Yoyo Ho travels, she tries to stay in a destination for a month at a time so she can explore different neighbourhoods. “That’s how you really get to know the city and the people,” she says. “I like to immerse myself in the culture and learn what elements define the country I am in.”

    The itinerary: Get your fill of Shanghai soup dumplings while learning a new language with a month-long Putonghua immersion course in Shanghai, where you’ll be able to take your time absorbing everything the metropolis has to offer. Most expats cluster around the Xuhui and Jing’an districts, but stay in a neighbourhood less popular with English speakers to really get stuck in.

    Ready, aim, fire!

    Gen Z may be known for longer stays, but younger travellers aren’t letting long weekends slip between their fingers either. A Chinese travel trend known as “special forces style travel” is picking up speed, referring to those who prefer to cannonball through hotspots as quickly and as cheaply as possible. 

    Lester, a 21-year-old geography student at Chinese University Hong Kong, says it’s partly due to frugality. “I went to Japan for 11 days with a friend. We lived in capsule hotels and packed in four to five spots each day,” he says. “I like to experience as much as I can with the smallest amount of money, so I can go to other places and experience even more.”

    New faces of travel illustration

    Credit: Comet Wong

    The worldly workers

    Five days a week in an office is so boomer; the world is now your hot desk. For younger generations, remote working dominated their early careers, so this has become an expectation instead of a perk. So rises the “workation”, where all you need is a laptop, decent Wi-Fi and a plentiful supply of coffee. From Melbourne to Chiang Mai, Asia-Pacific has become a hotspot for these agile digital nomads.

    Yoyo Ho’s job as an account executive allows her to work remotely. However, she advises that it takes practice to succeed in this lifestyle: “You have to move quite frequently and manage things diligently.”

    The itinerary: Take advantage of Bali’s 60-day digital nomad visa and head to one of the Indonesian island’s many hubs. Canggu is known for its nightlife but has a growing entrepreneurial economy and a large community of remote workers. 

    Park yourself in one of the many cafés and coworking spaces on Batu Bolong street, then catch some waves in the afternoon at Echo Beach before retreating to your boutique hotel off the beaten path.

    New faces of travel illustration

    Credit: Comet Wong

    Green beans

    In recognition of their place in the world, younger travellers are united by their adoption of sustainable travel practices to minimise their impact on the place they’re visiting, whether that’s taking public transport or choosing activities and experiences that contribute towards the environmental upkeep of their destination.

    “I try to limit my waste as well as my carbon footprint, because I don’t want it to negatively impact the environment of the country I’m in,” says Jade Wild, a 24-year-old merchandiser.

    The itinerary: Chug past rice paddies, fishing villages and bewitching jungles aboard Vietnam’s Reunification Express , which links Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City. The total journey is 30 hours, but buy separate tickets and hop off in Da Nang to join a cycling tour of the city. 

    Want to get further off the beaten track? Alight in Quang Ngai, which combines intriguing cultural sites such as the ancient citadel with the coconut tree-lined white sand beach at My Khe.

    Grill up

    The industrial eastern Chinese city of Zibo went viral on social media this year for its thriving barbecue scene. Travel agency Ctrip reported a subsequent 441 per cent spike in tourism to Zibo in 2023, compared to 2019.

    New faces of travel illustration

    Credit: Comet Wong

    The social butterflies

    Gen Z has more ways to stay connected and seek inspiration than older generations. Social media is by far the largest source of travel inspiration: 96 per cent of Chinese Gen Zers told the European Travel Commission that they used social media to decide where to go next.

    Yoyo Ho turns to social media to help her find spots that suit her tastes. She scrolls through feeds, finds locations, stars them in Google Maps, then builds her itinerary. “Seeing someone promote a destination and watching them have a good experience piques my interest,” she says.

    The itinerary: Photogenic Tokyo is a dream for any Instagrammer. Make a beeline for TeamLab’s original immersive exhibition and visit the gallery’s location tag on Instagram to plan your next photo opportunity, then scour social media for nearby cafés and restaurants.

    New faces of travel illustration

    Credit: Comet Wong

    The main characters

    Gen Z is emerging with an insatiable hunger for adventure and a desire to embrace the world and be forever changed. They want to see and experience everything, prefer new experiences to revisits compared to previous generations, and like to impress friends back home with their tales of adventure.

    Yoyo Ho says, “I don’t look for relaxation when I am abroad: that’s for family vacations. I look for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

    The itinerary: There are few better locations to emulate a main character lifestyle than Dubai, the place to be seen for influencers and celebrities from all over the world. Extravagance and jaw-dropping sights reign in the Gulf city, known for its love of bling as well as its record-breaking attractions: try indoor skydiving, go diving in the world’s deepest swimming pool or ride to the top of the world’s tallest building.

    Hero image: Comet Wong

     

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