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Generation Y
Generation X

Forget Getting Away From It All: X And Y Introduce New Travel Trends

Ah, summer. Here in Minnesota, summer is a highly anticipated event for the fun in the sun, barbeques, and the vacation time it brings.While most Xers remember camping during their youth or cross-country road trips with their relatives a la The Griswold’s in the movie Vacation, they don’t necessarily pine for the past.We have established new trends in travel, such as these:

Ah, summer. Here in Minnesota, summer is a highly anticipated event for the fun in the sun, barbeques, and the vacation time it brings.While most Xers remember camping during their youth or cross-country road trips with their relatives a la The Griswold’s in the movie Vacation, they don’t necessarily pine for the past.We have established new trends in travel, such as these:

  • Turndown service is nice, but wireless is even nicer. These 24/7 travelers travel with technology and stay plugged in at airports, hotel rooms and, alas, beaches. Some hotels are now trumpeting free high-speed Net access that lets you log in without worrying about wiring.
  • Young, single, and employed Gen Ys are skipping the sighseeing for adventure travel. Most popular excursions include whitewater rafting, scuba diving and mountain biking.
  • "Staycations," where travelers stay closer to home and take long weekends instead of weeks away, are more popular than ever, especially with younger generations. Almost 30 percent of Americans have taken five or more weekend trips in the past year and 35 percent say they've taken their children with them on at least one weekend trip.
  • Xers and Ys are taking their families on business trips, and they are also the proud parents of babymoons (where couples take a vacation before their first baby arrives).

Xer and Y travelers are far more adventurous, far more curious and far more tech-focused than our parents. Although we earn on average $6,000 per capita less than Boomers, Xers travel more and spend more per capita on travel. And Gen Y may represent only 9% of business travelers at the moment, but it is 75 million strong.The hospitality industry is changing. Fast. Here are three hotels on top of the trend:

  • Starwood has introduced Aloft, a new line of lifestyle hotels that are chic, sociable, affordable, and tailored to the under-35 crowd. Aloft has an average rate of $150 per night featuring plasma televisions, computerized check-in kiosks, pool tables and a gourmet snack bar. Founders of Aloft say they are targeting a generation that has grown up appreciating the customization of Starbucks, the good prices of Target and Ikea, and like to maintain their hip, urban lifestyle wherever they go.
  • NYLO opened its first hotel in a suburb of Dallas, and expects 50 more to open by 2010. NYLO has a multi-use lobby designed to encourage guests to socialize with features like wi-fi, chairs that hang from the ceiling, and a Nintendo Wii. NYLO has design features that play up the locality, like cowhide rugs and glass chandeliers in the shape of antlers in Texas, and will offer local entertainment such as bands, art shows and movie nights. Rooms cost an average of $120 to $200 per night.
  • InterContinental's Hotel Indigo is so locality-focused that each city's hotel has an entirely different décor and sponsors local art auctions and singer-songwriters in the lobby. There are guitars for guests to play hung on the wall in Nashville and a dog named Indie residing in the Atlanta hotel who is hosting canine cocktail parties this summer.

While the Bomers expected a hotel that was nicer than their home, Xers and Ys are more interested in casual food being available anytime, free Internet, great views, and self-service check-in/checkout.We have redefined the meaning of a vacation, which has become more of a lifestyle than a luxury.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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