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Hey, travel industry: Why not turn student IDs into travel rewards cards?

by John Wheeler
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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    In case you missed it, the cat is out of the in-flight container: Gen Zers love to travel locally, nationally and globally. A recent global survey of students by UNiDAYS and Ad Age Studio 30 bears this out: an overwhelming 99 percent of Gen Zers have the travel bug in their veins. And with approximately $143 billion in personal income at their disposal, they’re already in a position to circumnavigate the globe millions of times over.

    Just as important, they enjoy traveling frequently. Indeed, according to recent data from Skift, the average Gen Zer spends — on average — 29 days of their year in flight or on the road.

    Them’s a whole lotta travel miles and hotel visits. But as with all things Gen Z, there’s a newfound catch.

    Gen Z wants value for their travel spend

    Yes, value matters above any other consideration. Recent findings from travel-industry heavyweight Skift show 81 percent of Gen Z travellers claim “budget [as being] a factor” when they make their vacation plans. So it’s not all that surprising that the UNiDAYS and Ad Age Studio 30 study points towards the same conclusion: 76 percent of Zers say price is key when choosing an airline. What’s more, 59 percent of students in the same survey report searching for travel incentives and special offers.

    The global travel industry needs to provide them with more incentives to travel. Students may like to spend more on vacation (69 percent of students in the UNiDAYS and Ad Age Studio 30 study responded they liked their vacations “affordable with the occasional splurge.”) But that doesn’t mean they have the budget to match their bucket lists.

    Since most Gen Zers aren’t in the corporate workforce yet, nor do they have access to travel incentive programs similar to other affinity groups (seniors, for example), there’s an opportunity here for travel companies to help students: Give them special incentives that encourage them to travel more frequently.

    Why do Gen Zers like to travel so much?

    One of the main motivations for Gen Z travel appears to be social-media related: 90 percent of Gen Zers admit social media posts from friends and families have immense sway over their travel choices, according to Expedia.

    When Gen Zers see other Gen Zers lounging in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, or standing at the base of the Pyramids of Giza, or trekking the Great Wall of China or simply rolling along the fabled asphalt of U.S. Route 66, they get a real sense — a “fear” if you want to call it that — of missing out. This FOMO fear-factor isn’t something to discount.

    So, how can the travel industry get today’s students to the Pyramids of Giza without breaking open (and ransacking) their bank accounts like they were so many long-forgotten tombs and temples?

    Incentivize them, and they will come

    The answer’s simple: Give Gen Z students the same kinds of travel incentives that companies and affinity groups already give to their customers and constituents.

    If a specific credit card or union or veterans’ association can offer travel incentives to its members... why can’t the same be done for college and university students?

    They’re certainly members of a global affinity network of no small consequence. So why not take a page from the advantage programs already out there, and embed that strategic, long-picture thinking into a Gen Z marketing strategy?

    If hotels, airlines and tourism companies could take it upon themselves to festoon Gen Z travellers with much-wanted deals, perks and incentives; if they could tailor their offerings to Z-specific interests and hankerings (including dining, museums, beaches, backpacking, cosmopolitan shopping, all-American road trips, or all of the above)... then what degree of long-term loyalty couldn’t global travel players earn from the world’s first truly global generation of consumers?

    Creating a student rewards card for travel. Cool idea. But, how?

    It’s easier than you might think. Why not reinvent the lowly student ID card, imbuing it with some of the same digital powers as credit cards and AARP memberships? At the very least, it might give them a reason not to lose their ID in the student cafeteria line or the dorm-room laundry.

    But seriously… Why not motivate and incentivize students to travel and see the world on their own terms by mere virtue of their attending college? Not only would you be helping students get to Iceland and Egypt, you’d also be giving them more reasons to spend their money in those places. Maybe even splurge a little. Because as has been proven time and again, the more incentives a customer has, the likelier they’ll be to use ‘em.

    You'll be making travel for Zers a whole lot simpler, easier, fun and more rewarding. All it would take is swiping their student ID.

      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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