Youth Travel Trends

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Seeing the world before they’re 30 is a rite of passage for today’s tech savvy younger generation who will account for one in four of the world’s international travellers by 2020. But unlike their parents and grandparents, working on their resumes is more important than a tan, as Belinda Beckett discovers.

They’d rather learn Spanish than bask on a beach in Benidorm and zip-wiring through the Costa Rican rainforests is more their style than a city sightseeing tour.

They want designer youth hostels with en suite bathrooms and free Wi-Fi and you’re more likely to find them hopping on a budget flight than thumbing a lift by a dusty roadside… although they’re not averse to kipping for free on a stranger’s couch for the ‘local experience’.

‘Have smart phone, will travel’ is the motto of the socially networked 18-to-30 generation, ‘app-ier’ travellers than their parents and grandparents who couldn’t simply ‘Skype away’ their homesickness.

They are travelling more often, staying away longer and spending more than their elders and represent nearly a quarter of the world’s international tourists – a huge market force. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicts that over 300 million international trips will be taken by youth travellers in 2020.

“Young people today are growing up in a world where travel is easier and relatively cheaper than for previous generations and they are taking full advantage of this to travel the globe in search of new experiences,” says David Chapman, Director General of the World Youth Student and Education Travel Confederation (WYSE).

But forget sun, sea and sangria; these young nomads refuse to be ‘packaged’. They travel to broaden their minds, enhance their CVs, immerse themselves in new cultures, feast on local cuisine and hang out with other nationalities.

One of the reasons destinations love youth travellers and are bending over backwards to cater for them, says Chapman, is that “Older people tend to stay in internationally-owned hotels, so the profits are exported. Young people stay in locally-owned accommodation, so their money tends to stay in the destination.”

According to The Power of Youth Travel, a joint UNWTO/WYSE study of 34,000 young travellers from 137 countries, the top four motives for travel are exploring other cultures, increasing knowledge, experiencing everyday life and interacting with local people…

Words Belinda Beckett

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