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Revisiting 2019 predictions for the youth travel market

Jan 2, 2020

We are kicking off the new decade by taking a nostalgic look back at the predictions made by youth travel professionals at the beginning of 2019. We contacted several for an update and asked other fellow industry shakers about their views on the last year. Did the predictions hold true? Were there any curveballs?

1 – Experiential learning will really take off

Lauren Groves, GROUND Asia, reflected upon this statement at the end of 2019. ¨I definitely agree that we are seeing a lot of growth in the number of students who want to get out of the classroom and get some hands-on experience in the wider world. Aside from the students themselves, further driving this growth are parents, school leaders, teachers, universities and faculty who increasingly see the positive impact experiential learning has on their students, and I think that there is an aspect of ‘no one wants to be left behind’ when a holistic education is seen as essential in order to thrive in our globalised world. As educators gain more experience with experiential learning, we are also seeing clearer learning aims and heightened expectations of educational outcomes from travel programs and I hope that this will push the industry to increase standards overall – to the benefit of everyone.¨

Barry Rawlings, EDU Africa, 2019 winner of the Best Education Abroad Provider category at the Global Youth Travel Awards, also agreed that there has been an increase in interest in experiential learning: ¨I agree in that experiential learning is an emerging trend which has been enjoying steady growth for some time. Gen Z (iGen) is placing a strong emphasis on the values and ethos behind how providers go about their work and are demonstrating a willingness to boycott those who do not meet the mark. This applies to environmental issues, issues of diversity, paternalistic attitudes, appropriate animal interaction and others. Those engaging in token gestures and poorly thought through experiential learning are quickly seen for what they are and rejected. We’re now engaging with a far more discerning traveller.¨

2 – Consumer awareness of responsible and ethical tourism choices will increase

Simon Grout, Busabout, agreed that awareness of responsible tourism is on the increase, adding that Busabout is on a journey to eliminate all single use plastics from their global operation by 2022, and affirming once again that ‘the responsibility sits firmly with the tour operators and travel agents to shape the options available to consumers.’

Nick Pound, World Nomads, added ¨I think we all underestimated the impact the demand for responsible means of travel would have. The emergence of the ‘flight shame’ movement is part of that demand. Flight shame has led to a slowing in demand for flights, with one in five saying that they reduced the number of flights they took in 2019. One other consequence of flight shame – sleeper trains are back!¨

As a finalist in the category of Best Sustainable Organisation at the 2019 Global Youth Travel Awards, GROUND Asia is passionate about educating young travellers about ethical tourism. General Manager Lauren Groves comments, ¨This year we have already seen awareness around responsible and ethical tourism grow, and this is a great step in the right direction. But it’s not going to happen overnight and there is still more work to be done – both to reach travellers who are as yet unaware, but also to clarify the message and give practical tips to those who have a basic awareness but are overwhelmed with information and don’t quite know where to start. It’s clear that Gen Z have a desire to reduce their negative impact on the world, so it’s on us to support them with both information and choices.¨

3 – Bloggers and influencer marketing are on the decline

Simon Grout, Busabout, believes that a shift rather than a decline in influencer marketing is occurring; ¨There is certainly a shift towards customers looking for genuine content and reviews from real passengers over influencers supporting products. Over the last few years we have worked with genuine travellers who love Busabout, which is reflected in their original and authentic content. It’s about finding people with the right attitude and skills rather than the large social media following.¨

 

Etienne Matichard, JO&JOE, agreed with this statement at the beginning of 2019 and at the close of the year remarked, ¨Influencer marketing is still on the decline. We don’t even try to pretend that influencers are coming to our properties through serendipity. We mention the fact that it is a partnership. We are now shifting to brand community marketing. We gather groups of people interested in our brand lifestyle and we use them as local ambassadors.¨

Abby Holland, What Marketing, disagrees however. ¨If anything I think we’ve seen an increase in influencer marketing, with no signs of it slowing down. Particularly with Gen Z, influencer marketing is the modern-day word of mouth, and is a powerful tool for brands to engage with their customers and build awareness and loyalty.¨

4 – New festival formats like winter snow sports or cruises will get more attention

Twelve months ago, Etienne Matichard, JO&JOE, told us that although there were no specific properties catered to this in their portfolio, they were working to develop new festival packages. When he revisited the question, he added that ¨Although we try to keep our properties as the base camp of our guests’ local exploration, tours and activities organised by hostels are becoming more and more important for our guests. They are expecting us to provide them with additional services such as festival tickets, sports classes or attraction tickets.¨

 

Nick Pound, World Nomads, was in agreement with this statement at the beginning of 2019, saying that ¨Surveys of our own customers show that the #1 activity that motivates them to travel is culture, so not only visiting galleries, but also attending arts events and festivals of all kinds – we call them ‘culture vultures’.” He added recently that ¨Culture is still a big travel motivation and it’s moving into the gig economy. One example: peer-to-peer tour guiding (for want of a better term) as a trend. Travellers are using social media and specialist apps to connect with locals who can give them a bespoke experience, taking them into the heart of local culture, doing the things locals do, in the places that don’t make it onto tourist maps.¨

5 – There will be more co-working and co-living thanks to digital nomads

Prof. Greg Richards, WYSE Travel Confederation, commented that in 2019 “Blending will increase, both within the youth travel sector, and between youth travel and ‘everyday life.¨ When asked whether this was a trend that became more prominent over the last year he added, ¨Increasing demand for affordable work and living spaces for location-independent travellers is likely to increase and will be strengthened by the search for increasing yields on property, particularly in city centres. Co-working and co-living provide potential solutions in terms of both supply and demand, and therefore look set to grow in the future.¨

Nick Pound, World Nomads, agreed. ¨World Nomads has an affiliate partner programme and we’ve seen firsthand the rapid growth in the number of people who are using affiliate marketing and sales to fund their travels. Increasingly, we see these partners operating remotely – living the digital nomad dream. Whereas before one or two of them were making a decent living from it, now the number of high-earning partners who are nomads – individuals not companies – is increasing.¨

6 – Hostels will take over the USA and Canada

¨There is a missed opportunity here. American hostels are performing well and there is a lack of offer in various destinations of the two countries. On the one hand, you have hostels targeting budget-oriented travels and on the other hand you have those targeting the “flash packers” that are more like boutique hotels with bunk beds.
Everybody was expecting Hilton to open a “hostel on steroids” as announced by their CEO C. Nasseta, but they have come up with a micro hotel concept. There is a product that is missing there but I think Selina is going to pave the way to the development of hostels in the US and Canada in the coming years.¨ Etienne Matichard, JO&JOE.

“Overall no, although there will be some growth in secondary markets. Prohibitive regional laws and high real estate costs will continue to make it difficult for new hostels to open. This doesn’t mean I think that independent hostels are at risk; I think they will always have a place in the market. Some cities where hostels are needed though, like Toronto, San Francisco and New York, will continue to be difficult for anyone to open up in.” Pete Edwards, Samesun.

7 – Consumers will be more sceptical of Facebook, Google, advertising and data privacy

“Google continues to be tricky as the big OTA budgets push us further down the list. Facebook is becoming more of a messaging tool and is not really a marketing tool anymore, so I agree; it’s more for brand awareness. Instagram is now a more popular tool.” Pete Edwards, Samesun, commented at the start of 2019.

Etienne Matichard, JO&JOE, added upon reflection,¨Now that the GDPR has been implemented, a pop-up message appears every time we open a website to remind us that privacy is dead. The next big thing in the travel industry is going to be the option to book your stay directly with Google – and they already have our personal data.¨

A last word from Nick Pound, World Nomads, as he looks at the changing face of the travel industry in 2020 and beyond:

¨As the climate change crisis deepens youth travellers want to see real change… and they will demand and get it. Emboldened by the #FlightShame success I think other parts of mainstream mass tourism are open to criticism. What’s the carbon footprint of building a massive resort, and what affect does such a project have on the environment and culture of a local community?¨

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