July 21, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

How TikTok changed the way Gen-Z travels

Planning a summer getaway? Chances are you’re turning to TikTok to plan your itinerary, whether it comes to selecting a destination or cherry-picking the tourist hotspots you’ll be visiting.

TikTok is awash with lifestyle recommendations, encompassing everything from skincare to fashion. When it comes to travel, this is no different. For young people, TikTok has become the ultimate travel guide.

New research can back this up. Tripit conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans, finding that the vast majority of young travelers scour TikTok and Instagram for this purpose: 69 percent of Gen-Z and millennial respondents said they find travel inspiration on social media. Of this, 44 percent said they use TikTok specifically.

The survey revealed that Americans are now twice as likely to plan their travels around pop culture destinations, with 40 percent of respondents saying they are likely to do so in the next year. Gen-Z respondents and millennial travelers make up the bulk of this: in fact, 2 in 5 Gen-Z’s have taken a pop-culture based trip in the past year.

Travel planning in the influencer age

For better or worse, social media tourism has reigned over the last decade. Preceding TikTok’s influence, Reddit has long been used for practical traveling tips in lieu of guidebooks. YouTube travel influencers now take trips with their fans. Instagram has played an undeniable role in trip planning — with the age of Instagram travel encouraging the hunt for picturesque locations made “for the gram” and hidden gems. TripIt found that 49 percent of Gen-Z’s who use social media for inspiration still turn to Instagram for travel ideas.

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Over the last decade, and especially following the rise of Instagram and TikTok, many have pointed out that social media-fuelled travel has affected destinations negatively, with a rise in over-tourism and oftentimes, selfish travel habits. Research from University of Surrey in 2019 found that “egocentric photographic and social networking behaviors” have plagued travel destinations. More recently, influencers have been banned from highly-documented restaurants and cafes, for reasons changing from affecting public peace to “out of control” photoshoots. For businesses, communities, and even countries, these platforms can build or break tourism.

TikTok loves a pop culture trip

Now, TikTok has fed into the evolving nature of travel. TikTok, like Instagram, has specifically fueled a rise in pop culture trips. The app is full of creators venturing to places found in TV shows, movies, and other forms of entertainment. There are some hitting all the Parisian locations found in Netflix’s Emily In Paris, or others exploring Dubrovnik, Croatia based on where Game of Thrones was filmed (the latter being popularized on Instagram back when the show was actually airing).

A well-dressed couple stand looking at a view in an estate's leafy grounds, taking a photo on a phone.

“Emily In Paris” itineraries abound on TikTok.
Credit: Stéphanie Branchu/Netflix

Propelled by TikTokkers, travel trends have become both specialized and extremely popular. Last year, beauty enthusiasts became obsessed with French pharmacies, known for their extensive and affordable range of products, after they started trending on TikTok. Traveling for Taylor Swift is a major topic of conversation, too: her songs have provided travel inspiration and her global Eras Tour turned into a chance to travel. The same goes for Beyoncé, whose Renaissance Tour had people jumping on flights and vlogging their way through it all. Meanwhile, hashtags for cities like Dubai, New York, and Miami have garnered billions of views on the app, each featuring beachside restaurants, rooftop views, and sushi spots.

These numbers shouldn’t be surprising. TikTok’s massive influence has embedded itself into countless industries, speaking to over one billion users worldwide. The app has transformed into a search engine for younger users in particular: some 40 percent of young people turn to the likes of TikTok and Instagram to answer their queries, eclipsing more traditional platforms like Google.

Serena, age 26, tells me that she has used TikTok over Google for her travel needs in the last couple of years.

“You can use it as a search engine with all your criteria and narrow down your destinations. It’s given me two-day itineraries and niche content that’s been tried and tested,” she says. “On the other hand, if you search for these things on Google, it’ll give you a web page of like 25 results.”

Several Gen-Z travellers affirmed TikTok’s wider influence on their travel habits. Adam, age 25, says that his friend group plans frequent day trips around the UK based off of TikTok travel content and influencers. In this case, TikTok serves as the inspiration to book a certain holiday. Serena says she uses the app for both ideating trips and planning what to do on them: “TikTok is super useful when you’re overwhelmed and you don’t know where to go.”

“People are definitely turning to TikTok for their travel research,” adds Rohan, age 24. “Using TikTok is really good for restaurants, hotels, hotels, and bar recommendations.”

The travel age gap

Older generations, however, are not totally sold on TikTok as a travel agent. TripIt’s research shows that nearly 9 in 10 Gen-X and Boomer travellers would rather hop on a flight to a place that’s been personally recommended by family and friends. 83 percent of travellers older than Gen-Z surveyed also said they prefer planning their holidays with the help of user review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, rather than with the help of a social media platform.

But younger generations are happy to endeavor to the places that have gone viral. Nearly a third of Millennial and Gen Z travelers (29 percent) would rather travel somewhere that they discovered on apps like TikTok and Instagram. Airlines, airports and travel companies are aware of this, consistently fostering their own presence on social media. Look no further than budget airline Ryanair and its skyrocketing popularity on TikTok, or the fact that some of the world’s largest airports, like Singapore’s Changi and London’s Heathrow, now create TikTok content.

If they weren’t on TikTok, they’d be missing out. After all, the phrase “I found it on TikTok” has become nothing short of ubiquitous. This newfound approach to travel will likely be here to stay – and grow.


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