Travelling with “purpose” is high on young holidaymakers’ list, finds a major survey from STA Travel. Rob Gill reports.
Young travellers are looking for “meaningful experiences” when booking their trips and are less interested in hedonism than they were 20 years ago, according to research from student specialist STA Travel.
The agency chain, which operates 53 shops in the UK and celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019, found that gap years and round-the-world airline tickets “continue to be as popular as ever”.
But now younger holidaymakers are now more interested in experiential travel, “voluntourism” and animal welfare projects, rather than just enjoying themselves.
This is demonstrated by the fact that 90% of the 10,000 STA customers surveyed for the inaugural Youth Travel: Past, Present and Future report say they would consider volunteering while travelling.
The research also finds that the issue STA Travel clients feel “most passionate” about is mental wellbeing (73%). This was followed by human rights, climate change, animal welfare and gender equality.
Tim Fryer, UK country manager at STA Travel, said: “This report demonstrates how our customers travel for a variety of reasons – from opening their eyes to other cultures, building self-confidence, mental wellbeing and general life experience. The hedonistic approach of travel from 20 years ago is less important now.
“The other big keyword for this generation is culture – whether that’s through food, language or beliefs – it’s all about getting off the beaten track to really understand the essence of a place.”
While demand for round-the-world airline tickets remains buoyant, STA clients are becoming more adventurous in their choice of routing as they make their way around the planet. There has also been growth in airline sectors and one-way flights.
Australia and New Zealand continue to be the most popular gap-year destinations for STA customers, with flight bookings up by 5% and 6% respectively.
Other destinations seeing significant growth include Japan, with flight bookings up 31% year-on-year and Sri Lanka, which has enjoyed 9% air growth compared with 2018. But bookings to the US were down by 23% in January, which STA said was “a slight improvement on the trend witnessed for most of 2018”.
While STA expected flight sales to the US to improve, it added there was a general consensus coming from STA Travel’s branches that the US is not a “cool” destination for young travellers at the moment, partly thought to be due to the “Trump effect”.
Looking over a longer period, STA has also seen significant changes in its top-selling destinations over the past 10 years, with Bali rising from 18th place in 2008 to fourth in 2018, while Vietnam, which only made the top 10 for the first time in 2013, is now ranked sixth overall.
Conversely, both South Africa and China dropped down the popularity list over the past few years.
To cater for the increase in demand for voluntourism, STA offers 50 volunteering options across 22 countries, which include working with animals and conservation projects.
As for the most popular types of holidays, STA said the campervan was “definitely king” at the moment, with sales surging by 26% in January compared with the previous year.
“This backs up the trend seen for greater freedom and flexibility when travelling,” said STA, which added campervan bookings had already been on the rise during 2017 and 2018, with sales up by 10% year-on-year.