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Millennial and gen Z travellers spending more, experiencing life as a local

Mar 9, 2018

Forget clubbing, couch-surfing, and selfie sticks. The 2018 ITB Berlin Youth Travel Hall (4.1) showed off what the youth travel market is really about – experiential and immersive travel for key players in tourism for development.

woman looking onto busy city street

From the Hall 4.1 Main Stage, the World Youth and Student Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation delivered insights from the New Horizons Survey. The survey of 57,000 travellers ages 18-35 worldwide offers the industry’s most comprehensive look into youth and student travellers. Youth accounted for at least 23% of the 1.3 billion international arrivals in 2017.

Young travellers see experiences as more important to collect than stuff. The number and range of activities undertaken in the destination continues to grow, with a 26% jump in activity levels in 2017. Young travellers tend to stay longer and spend more than a typical, traditional tourist.

While in the destination, they prefer visiting cafes and restaurants, historical sites, and shopping. One experience young travellers are seeking more and more is living like a local. Over half the respondents said they had spent time living like a local in 2017, compared with less than 28% in 2012.

While the top destinations benefiting from Millennial and gen Z travel spend haven’t changed much in recent years, the New Horizons Survey has revealed some significant shifts. The United States is still at the top of the list for young travellers, but it has lost some of its share of the pie. Spain is now the second leading destination and Australia moved back into the top 10 for the first time since 2007.

“We have worked closely with our destination members as they’ve tapped into this valuable travel market – one which stays longer, spends more, and are the most likely to return to the country later in life, with family and friends,” said WYSE Travel Confederation Director General David Chapman.

WYSE Travel Confederation member Fáilte Ireland is one destination that has used WYSE’s youth traveller insights to develop their destination marketing, capitalise on their existing assets, and influence young travellers to experience Ireland beyond the city centres. The Ireland exhibition stand took up a prominent space beside the WYSE Village in Hall 4.1 for showcasing their three signature brands: Ireland’s Ancient East, Wild Atlantic Way, and Dublin, Breath of Fresh Air.

“We knew from New Horizons research that youth travellers are willing to go beyond tourism hotspots, live like locals, and be immersed in Ireland’s culture,” said Amana Horan, Business Development Officer for Fáilte Ireland. “The research has helped us to fully realise the interests and motivations of each segment of the youth travel industry. That was instrumental in developing our brands.”

The New Horizons Survey has consistently found that top motivations to travel for young people are to explore other cultures, experience everyday life in other places, and increase their knowledge. Millennial and gen Z travellers are not only lucrative for destinations, but they’re also the market that is ready, and willing, to fully embrace sustainable travel.

“Youth are pioneers and trendsetters. They attract others to new destinations and places that are off the beaten track. Destinations that aren’t tapping into the power of youth travel are simply missing out,” said Chapman.