May 24th, 2024

TikTok, Google Maps and the Gen Z Traveler

TikTok, Google Maps and the Gen Z Traveler
Whitney Scott
Whitney Scott
Media Strategy Associate

The most recent generation to reach adulthood, Gen Z ranks travel and seeing the world as the most important way to spend their money and spend an average of 29 days per year doing so. These digital natives approach travel differently than generations before them – meaning how you drive relevant connections with aspirational travelers needs to change, too.

As a member of Gen Z and the go-to trip planner of my family and friends, I’ve long recognized the benefit of combining TikTok with Google Maps in my travel planning – currently running saved lists for Christmas in Key West, a Northern MN camping trip, attending the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, and marking spots to catch the next Aurora Borealis after the great show a few weeks ago.

A quick company poll showed that I am not the only Gen Z traveler leveraging Maps as an integral part of the overall travel experience. The responses were immediate – “Absolutely I do,” “This is the way.”

Finding inspiration on TikTok, leveraging Google Maps and the impact of AI

To relevantly connect with Gen Z travelers during their planning process, there is no better way than through TikTok. The number one site for video-centric travel content, at least 88% of Gen Z follows at least one travel influencer on the app. With Gen Z ranking TikTok over Google and Instagram as a means to finding travel inspiration – it is clear video remains king for travel decision influence.

While TikTok videos of travelers’ adventures heavily influence aspirational travelers’ plans, it isn’t the only travel-related content being shared on the app. Travel credit cards with good rewards systems are a popular topic, with users sharing how to best maximize those benefits for budget friendly travel – signaling intent from the over half of Gen Z travelers who don’t currently use a travel credit card that they are determined to change that.

That said, Gen Z travelers are not completely eliminating Google as a resource. Google Maps is another hot travel topic on TikTok with 40.6M posts under the “Google Maps Travel” search, where creators discuss the various ways they leverage the app not just as a navigation tool, but as a personalized mobile travel guide.

Gen Z uses Google Maps to visualize itineraries- finding restaurants, accommodations, and unique sights, all while being able to read reviews and save locations for future reference. Choosing an emoji to show up as the icon on your map means the possibilities for different map categories are endless. Maybe you’re seeking out bookstores and cafès in Budapest- book emoji for one list, croissant for the other, and you can easily see which locations you heard about on TikTok are close to one another.

In a personal use case, here is how my “Keys for Christmas” map is currently looking. The Christmas tree emojis are my list of sights and attractions while the stars are anything food-related. The little house emoji is where we are staying. I learned about almost all of these locations while searching on TikTok.

Furthermore, offline navigation makes Google Maps a sought-after app for Gen Z travelers who prefer off-the-grid experiences and remote adventures where WiFi and cell service may be limited.

The evolution of Google Maps as a travel tool will only continue based on recently released products and those on the horizon:

  • An AI-based itinerary creation capability alongside the traditional Google Search tool
  • A capability added to Maps meant to provide users with recommendations from locals and publishers, as well as lists of “trending, top, and hidden gem” restaurants generated by info from Google Maps
  • A new AI-based feature is meant to show users key photos and reviews that summarize people’s favorite aspects of a specific restaurant or place
  • AI can also help identify what a dish is called, which would benefit travelers in a new country
  • Coming soon is the ability to translate content (like a PDF restaurant menu) on the screen without switching apps – helpful to travelers trying to find their way around a country where they don’t speak the language.

So what does this all mean for marketers looking to connect with Gen Z travelers?

Go to where your audience is. TikTok continues to be a strong discovery point with Gen Z, with social media having replaced traditional Google for local search. Brands should consider this as they plan not just their social strategies, but also their search plans.

Reposition how you think about Google Maps. It is no longer for just directions, but serves as a de facto local travel guide, often shared among all members of a traveling party.

Oh, and make sure your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) listing is up to date.

Whitney Scott
Whitney Scott
Media Strategy Associate
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