Elena Mirkovic spent hours searching for the best airfares and accommodations for a trip to Miami, where she and a group of friends will attend the Ultra Music Festival this week.
“If you really want a good value, it could take days of extensive searches,” said Mirkovic, 23, a software engineer from Bethesda, Md.
Her round trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Miami cost $280. The Airbnb condo she and her friends are renting in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood comes to $100 per person per night—all a pretty good deal, she says.
The condo is one mile from the festival, eliminating the need for costly transportation.
“Ubers cost a fortune at these events. We can walk a mile,” she said.
Mirkovic and others her age, the first fully digital generation, micromanage details of a trip to an extent not seen among their elders.
Her parents, who are in their early 60s, might look at online reviews or book a hotel on a travel website. But she says their travel ideas and decisions are made by word of mouth—certainly not from scanning social media influencers, as she and her peers do.
Different ideas of fun
Mirkovic’s idea of a good time may not resemble that of her parents.
She’s dazzled by Miami’s sleek architecture and all-white home interiors—a contrast to the homey wood-paneled rental homes at the Jersey Shore and Delaware beaches, where her family often spent vacations.
“I’m not necessarily looking to relax on a vacation. My parents do not understand that at all,” Mirkovic said.
She and several friends have attended four other electronic dance music festivals and want to attend the Tommorowland Festival in Belgium, the world’s largest such event.
Gen Z—usually defined as anyone born after 1995—is the first generation with no memory of pre-internet life. And the way they plan their trips is now heavily influenced by digital interaction.
According to a poll conducted by Morning Consult last year, more than half of Gen Z respondents said they would likely use social media to help plan their upcoming trips, about the same those who planned to use travel websites like Expedia or Booking.com.
Half of the Gen Z respondents in that poll said they follow at least one travel influencer on social media, and of that group, 84 percent have said they’ve looked to those personalities for recommendations.
“Travelling is an unspoken language,” said travel influencer Katarina Zarutskie, who has more than 450,000 followers on Instagram, in an interview with marketing website Influencer Intelligence.
“No matter what language you speak, everyone can appreciate and dream about new places with new people and different cultures. There is also the fantasy of being able to drop everything. People live vicariously through travel influencers and their content.”
Travel agents’ future?
In contrast, only 25 percent of Gen Z respondents in the Morning Consult poll said they would likely use a travel agent to plan a trip.
But agents are still a critical part of planning for many travelers, says Bob Thompson of Ambassador Travel near Pittsburgh.
“There are still people who just want to pick the cities and expect you to make the dream come true,” said Thompson.
With decades in the business, Thompson has expertise that internet influencers and algorithms probably can’t rival. His clients range from the picky to those who want him to decide everything.
“I’ve got one client now who wants ceilings of a certain height in his hotel room. He wants a balcony so he can smoke,” Thompson said. “Another couple is planning a trip to Spain and Italy and has given me no more than dates and cities.”