Generation Z, Revolutionizing Hawaii Travel, Like It Or Not

How Generation Z Is Revolutionizing Hawaii Travel, Like It Or Not

Generation Z, born from 1997-2010, is fast reshaping the Hawaiian tourism landscape. Together with unique values, a deep-rooted social and digital prowess, and a desire for authenticity, this demographic is transforming the traditional vacation playbook in the islands. Here’s how:

Millennials, the generation that came before (1981-1996), were introduced to technology. Gen Z, however, has never known life before the Internet. They were born into a world of screens and smartphones.

Gen Z uses technology for everything from problem-solving to communicating. Since they are digital natives, they can spot marketing ploys and inauthenticity across multiple formats.

Gen Z makes up 21% of the U.S. population and spends more on travel than any other generation. Their spending power could increase by 48% by the end of the decade. Maybe you know some of them?

Role of Hawaii tourism in relation to Generation Z marketing.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has faced nearly universal disapproval regarding virtually all aspects of its performance. Despite these challenges, the HTA is beginning to align more closely with emerging travel behaviors and preferences, for example, those of Generation Z.

Whether by design or by chance, HTA’s recent initiatives seem to resonate well with this younger generation. Their focus on promoting authentic Hawaiian cultural experiences, supporting environmental preservation, and encouraging participation in local agriculture and conservation, seems to mirror the conscientious and immersive approach sought by young Gen Z. This alignment, perhaps serendipitously, offers an interesting perspective on how Hawaii may navigate its tourism future, ensuring that it not only meets the expectations of young travelers but also addresses the broader challenges facing the islands today.

1. Craving authentic Hawaiian experiences

Gen Z in Hawaii seeks to immerse themselves in genuine cultural experiences more than any other generation. This means moving away from typical tourist traps towards more meaningful engagements like small-group luaus with local families, overnight stays in traditional Hawaiian hale (houses), or hands-on preservation efforts with native flora and fauna. Their quest for authenticity is reshaping what it means to experience Hawaii.

2. Social media is their new Hawaii travel guide.

Gen Z spends almost 9.5 hours daily online, including on social media. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are frequently mentioned in Hawaii travel, and they appear to be at the very heart of Gen Z’s travel planning. Their “grammable” moments are more about showcasing hidden gems like the backroads of Maui or a less renowned hiking trail on Kauai.

This generation’s reliance on social media has the side effect of turning once obscure Hawaii gems into must-visit destinations, impacting both the environment and communities.

3. Pioneers of eco-conscious travel?

Sustainability isn’t more than a buzzword to those in Gen Z—it’s a way of traveling. They drive demand for eco-friendly Hawaii accommodations and tours that respect the islands’ delicate ecosystem. So, while the ubiquitous broadcasting of their finds may have a harmful impact on Hawaii, at the same time, they’re the ones who are choosing to support local businesses and farmers’ markets, joining beach clean-ups, and in some ways, setting new standards for responsible tourism in Hawaii.

4. Technology at their fingertips.

Gen Z visitors to the islands expect seamless tech integration into their Hawaii travel experiences. From AR tours of historic sites like Iolani Palace to VR surfing, hiking, and other experiences that they can engage with before hitting the actual locations, technology is making Hawaii accessible in very new and innovative ways. This expectation pushes local businesses to adapt swiftly to remain relevant to Gen Z.

5. The rise of flexible, spontaneous travel.

Thanks to an ethos of working and studying entirely remotely with great flexibility, Gen Z is likely to book a last-minute flight to Hawaii or head out for a spontaneous weekend on Maui. This spontaneity is a boon for businesses that, via apps and services offering last-minute deals, are becoming adept at facilitating this king of reshaping Hawaii travel.

6. Changing social dynamics.

Another prominent feature among Gen Z Hawaii travelers is going solo or with friends instead of family. In the islands, this shift aligns with accommodations like boutiques, hostels, or group-friendly rentals, as well as activities that cater to meeting new people, like hikes and other community-based events and workshops.

7. Value and experience in harmony.

While budget-conscious, Gen Z doesn’t hesitate to splurge on experiences that promise lasting memories, like helicopter tours over the Na Pali Coast or diving with manta rays. This dual approach has businesses rethinking how they package and market experiences and what value means to a younger traveler.

Through their evolving preferences and behaviors, Generation Z is not just visiting Hawaii; they are transforming it on the fly. They are compelling Hawaii to adapt to their distinct, digital-first, and eco-conscious travel ethos. Ready or not, Hawaii’s travel scene is changing, and Generation Z is surfacing at the helm of this change.

Do you see Generation Z remaking Hawaii travel for the better or worse?

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24 thoughts on “How Generation Z Is Revolutionizing Hawaii Travel, Like It Or Not”

  1. I have two genz son’s and if I ask them if they would rather spend their money on a new apple cellphone and x-box,Playstation console versus a trip to Hawaii they would say Hawaii is a waste of monehy and overrated and choose the X-box, cellphone option Every Time. Besides how many genz people could withstand a minimum 6 hour flight and be happy about it.

  2. Gen Z ? Are we serious?

    14-27 year olds who mostly live at home, don’t have a great jobs, or jobs at all, are going to afford Hawaii vacations? Maybe a few, but this just seems silly.
    This is also the generation least likely to get a drivers license, play sports, date or do outdoor activities (relative to other generations at the same age).

  3. The only thing I can think of in corrolation to the gen Z crowd is that Auilani Disney Resort opened August 29, 2011. In 2011 these individuals were around 10-14 years old if they visited that resort when it opened. BOH answer this please. What does a Disneyland experience have to ever do with Hawaiian culture or how the resort even got approved to be built on the islands in the first place. I understand Seaworld on Oahu but not this resort. IMO it’s all about the Money . Hawaii don’t really know what they want to promote. Answers anyone.

  4. My hope is that bus travel will become more widely available on the islands. I just don’t understand how Oahu officials felt it was appropriate to get rid of the beach bus. How unsustainable! I would gladly pay more for good, reliable public transit on all of the islands to avoid unnecessary driving.

  5. How much credit card debt does a Gen Z have? No problem just make the minimum payment and don’t worry about the unpaid balance. It’s the credit card companies fault. They gave me the card. Sound like Alfred E Newman’s famous quote “Why,Me Worry” Just the perfect solution for Hawaii. Invite the super rich with tons of disposable income and the young adults who don’t care in which most seek their parents to bail them out in most financial hardships. Bottom line. If you can’t afford to pay off the vacation upfront then Maybe you shouldn’t go.

  6. Whether Gen Z is reshaping Hawaii tourism or not,Hawaii Tourism Authority is marketing to them.
    An older boutique hotel in Waikiki opened as the first adults only hotel; no kids,,but dogs are allowed.When I walked by this hotel, it seemed like all the guests entering and exiting were Gen Z

  7. I am 78 and totally agree with gen z. Been to Hawaii 40 times and I always try to seek out more local events, etc. I miss the old Hawaii with the feeling of aloha the moment you step off the plane.

  8. It sure sounds like gen z provides nothing but positive outcomes of their travel to the islands. I wonder if the usually vocal locals and enviros share the glowing praise of another generation of mainlanders spending lavishly to visit the islands?
    My experience with many gen z’ers is while they are technologically savvy their tendency is to devote a huge percentage of their time staring down at their phones, taking selfies or videos to share on social media in dangerous or controversial means and are selfish, undisciplined and many times rude.
    If this is the new target audience for the state’s tourist industry, good luck to locals and the hospitality workers having to tolerate the entitled z’ers.

  9. Before we get too much further in the “revolutionize” thesis. This is the same generation that 30% of bring their parents to job interviews both in person and online. A significant portion of these let their parents do the talking… This according to KHON 2 news online this morning… BOH, hope it’s OK to post this link… I can’t even imagine doing this… What happens when real life intrudes???

    Best Regards

    1. I would be skeptical of that story, it’s based on a “survey” run by some resume company that was not done according to actual research/reliable survey standards (clickbait to get their name out there which unfortunately seems to be working.)

      My early 20s gen z daughter and her many friends who all have jobs in various industries applied, interviewed, and got hired on their own with no helicoptering involved (I did get a request to review her resume and most of my suggestions were about formatting.)

  10. I don’t think Gen Z is fast reshaping Hawaiian tourism. Many are still teenagers. The rest are young and probably can’t afford to come to Hawaii. I have been traveling to Hawaii often over the past 50+ years and have seen changes, many due to how expensive it has become. Covid changed things when less people came and the beaches were not crowded which appealed to the locals. But I love Hawaii and will be back in July.

  11. The Gen Z’s desire for immersive experiences is in direct opposition to the Governor and Mayor’s desire to remove STRs and sequester visitors within the confines of fake, Disneyland-like hotels.

    The immersive-experience visitor wants an STR as a base from which to explore “Real Hawaii”. It’s a 180-degree mismatch.

    Good luck, Hawaii. If this is your intention, congrats!

    1. I totally agree with your summation, Pat.

      My only problem is that you are being sarcastic. And I find that I’m more able to influence people around to my way of thinking if I step with kindness when I speak.

      I’m only saying this because we STVR lovers need your voice and I want your voice to matter more, not turn people away. We need you!

      1. Thank you. I guess I’m just feeling weary and defeated. We’ve been dealing with these governmental shenanigans on Maui repeatedly for years.

        I haven’t noticed being “nice” when dealing with the County has made any difference whatsoever, but as a general Rule of Life, your advice has merit, so I’ll work on that.

        1. Thank you very much for not taking offense, Pat, I appreciate you. I so didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Like you said, the lawmakers are counting on us “fighters” to feel defeated and weary, and therefore, to give up the good fight. I’ve noticed your posts on here, so I know you’re a doer, and that’s why I took a chance, because I don’t want your voice to go unnoticed. It going to take all of us doers to beat this thing back. Thank you again.

  12. You’ve just described my typical Airbnb guest. They are mindful, caring, pleasant, respectful, eager to learn about the history and culture and customs, economical, eco conscious, organic, etc. several that have become friends over the years. This article is long overdue. If media’s original focus was positive reporting and change, this article would be on point. Instead hotel lobbyists and their politicians set the narrative that tourism is bad and you don’t know who is living in your neighborhoods, etc., and the residents pick it up and say, yeah, I liked it when there was nobody on the beaches during COVID. Our own government asked us to report on our neighbors. How many jobs directly and indirectly will affect residents? Anyway, thanks for the positive reporting.

    1. I’ve been hosting since 2013, achieving all the coveted Airbnb awards. And I can tell you that this is the makeup of 99.9% of my guests, and my guests are of all ages.

      Some people are hotel people. Others, like me, would never dream of staying in a hotel.

  13. Could be a mixed bag. Finding obscure places might be good, but if it’s a place locals enjoy because of a lack of tourist, that might be bad. Think the Queens Bath on Kauai. Also, a traditional Hawaiian experience might mean no screens, as Hawiians of the past had no screens.

  14. Gen Z: You blew it. You missed the most important item!

    Gen Z and even older tech-savy folks have capital ($). If the government of Hawaii would make Hawaii very very attractive for Gen Z and other tech-savy people, they would move there (and bring their $). We hear about the antique cable connectivity the whole state is stuck with. That will have to change. The new satellite constellations that allow individual users to connect directly to the satellites will help. Better schools (private is ok). Let’s say they are already working remotely. Why not in Hawaii? They will then invest in things they can do in Hawaii and bring new employment opportunities to the state. What if the (now overgrown as a fire hazard) valley that runs down the middle of Maui became the next Silicon Vally. Med Co.s that cure cancer. Or AI City ? I can tell you it won’t happen unless the people of Hawaii get rid of the single party Hawaiian government that has driven the state into a very deep ditch.

  15. I think most of us who are drawn to Hawai’i are drawn to it for the reason you state that Gen Z is drawn to the island.

    The point is, how are Gen Z’s going to immerse themselves at the neighborhood level when STVR’s are currently being banned—and once that fully happens—they’ll be forced to stay in a hotel?

    Hotels do not provide a cultural experience.

    Staying in a hotel is like staying in any other place that has a gorgeous view. That’s about all you get from a hotel.

    I think Hawai’i lawmakers, and perhaps constituents who’ve bought into what those lawmakers are selling, are looking for the billionaire tourists: big money, less foot-traffic.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d prefer not to be around the mentality coming from that overprivileged subset.

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