Generation Z, the iGeneration, or simply the Post-Millennials – whatever we want to call them, it’s probably time to get to know these emerging travel consumers a whole lot better. recently conducted a survey on the hospitality preferences among high school seniors and recent high school graduates from international schools in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Thailand, Singapore, and Japan. Some of the findings took us by surprise, so then we had to dig a little deeper with an interview process to learn more about what makes Asia’s youngest independent travelers tick.

The study collected responses from 106 participants, comprising 46 12th graders and 60 recent high school graduates. The respondents were first of all asked to rank their top three travel destinations in Asia. The big cities came out on top with Tokyo the clear leader mentioned by 67 respondents, followed by Bangkok (39), Seoul (34), and Hong Kong (33). Other notable travel destinations were Phuket (28), Kyoto (21), and Bali (16). Among those which made the list but failed to impress were Pattaya, mentioned by 4 respondents, Jakarta (2), and Singapore (1). Absent from the list was Kuala Lumpur.

While 7.5% of the sample group expressed a preference for traveling alone, larger groups were much more typical, with 27.4% usually traveling in a group of four, 23.6% in a group of three, and 30% in groups of five or more.

Participants’ travel durations ranged from 3 to 14 days, with a 3-night hotel stay being the most popular at 45%. Those staying more than a week amounted to just 6%.

Next, we asked our sample group about their booking preferences. More than 95% book their accommodation before they travel, in the culmination of an inexorable trend away from showing up at a hotel in person and asking to see a room. At least a third of those accommodation bookings are made more than three months in advance, while fewer than 4% book within a week of their travel date.

Over 60% of the participants express a preference for booking their hotels through OTAs, while 17.9% book directly through the accommodation provider. Tour operators account for less than 1% of the market share, and the remainder did not state any firm preference. When booking online, participants pay the most attention to reviews, at 62.3%. Other factors that contribute to their decisions are hotel descriptions, images, and ratings, respectively, while location, proximity to public transport, and price are also critical factors in the selection process.

Guest experiences are considered key to providing an excellent stay, so we made sure to ask our participants what hotels could do to provide those superior experiences. For room amenities, participants listed plug adapters as the item they would most like to find in their room, followed by hair dryers, pocket WiFi, slippers, and umbrellas. In terms of checking-in at the hotel, it might be surprising to learn that 60% of these young travelers express a strong preference for traditional front desk check-in over using their phones to complete the process. Some of the explanations given for this included data privacy concerns, a fear of making mistakes, a preference for human interaction in case any problems or questions arise, and a fear of running out of battery or data. In all, only 11.3% would use phone check-in by choice.

The survey results also show that these young guests still find traditional luxury hotels more appealing other types of accommodation such as Airbnb, lifestyle hotels, budget hotels, resorts, and hostels. In addition, most participants feel more comfortable with accommodation that provides breakfast over other alternatives such as breakfast outside the hotel, or ‘do it yourself’ types of breakfast, with ingredients provided by the hotel. This might be seen as surprising, as young travelers are often thought to prefer the camaraderie of hostels, or the new ‘sharing economy’ options offered by Airbnb. However, when asked, the participants said they preferred the reliability offered by traditional hotels, describing them as ‘official’, ‘proper’, and ‘following protocol’, in contrast to those ‘weird lifestyle hotels’.

For hoteliers looking for ways to attract this particular demographic, then, it may be wise to remember that traditional hotels are themselves a novelty for young people taking their first journeys. Offering something different isn’t necessarily important when the newfound magic of travel and freedom provides all the ‘difference’ in the world.