Travel & hospitality brands have a Gen Z problem: 62% of U.S. adults said they trust the industry, compared with only 50% of Gen Z adults. Travel & hospitality is the fourth most trusted industry among U.S. adults but is tied for sixth among Gen Z.
Gen Zers face myriad barriers when it comes to building trust with travel brands. A lack of engagement due to the COVID-19 pandemic means members of this cohort have spent several years of their early adulthood without being able to travel easily. This should be seen as a major roadblock, given that some of the most impactful travel experiences happen early in life. The pandemic has also hampered Gen Z’s ability to establish financial stability, with travel being at times a significant discretionary expense that many can’t afford.
Airbnb sheds light on how to win over Gen Z travelers
Despite its growing market share, Airbnb remains squarely outside Morning Consult’s list of the most trusted travel & hospitality brands. But the vacation rental platform is actually the most trusted travel brand among Gen Z adults.
U.S. adults on average have higher trust in the top 5 hotels and the top 5 airlines than they do in Airbnb — but with Gen Z, we see the opposite response.
Airbnb’s high net trust with the youngest adult generation can be understood in several ways. Gen Z grew up seeing companies like Airbnb as a normal feature of the sharing economy, and the platform succeeds at being a digitally native brand that offers diverse accommodation options at prices Gen Zers can afford. Moreover, its well-integrated Airbnb Experiences offers Gen Zers the kind of unique, local and less commercialized activities that this cohort seeks when they travel, as the company mentions in its own research.
Major competitors are already positioning sub-brands that appeal to younger generations, like Moxy by Marriott, Tru by Hilton and Hyatt Centric, all of which aim to win over millennial and Gen Z travelers. Other players hoping to build trust with younger travelers, and Gen Z in particular, should offer a tech-first approach and think of brand engagement as experiential, similar to the way Airbnb has found its success.