How likely are millennials to be the first sector to resume travel post-pandemic? Katie McGonagle reports.

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1 Intrepid Travel

Adventure operator Intrepid Travel runs small-group guided tours worldwide, including a range aimed at under-30s. More than half of its customers in the millennial age bracket travel on Original-style trips, followed by its budget-friendly Basix tours, 18-29s range and active trips.

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Zina Bencheikh, managing director EMEA, Intrepid Travel says…

“Until now, millennial travellers were used to travelling frequently and often last-minute, hopping on a plane or a train to explore somewhere new, while sharing their experiences on social media. After weeks spent in lockdown, unable to socialise with friends or post pictures of their adventures online, we anticipate millennials and Gen Z will be among the first sectors raring to travel again.

“In the short term, we’re anticipating increased interest in domestic and regional travel for shorter time periods, such as week-long escapes within the UK. Once restrictions lift further, we expect more demand for destinations in and around Europe.

“It’s possible we’ll see new booking trends emerge among millennials, such as trips booked by singles wanting to meet people after long periods of isolation, trips that offer nature and active pursuits, friends wanting to celebrate missed occasions like birthdays or hen dos, and ‘bubble’ trips booked in accordance with government travel regulations.

“Currently, millennials still want to travel to far-flung destinations, with countries such as Peru, Nepal, India and Jordan coming top for 2021 bookings, and Mexico and Indonesia proving popular too. The average trip duration is 12 days, which is the same as last year.

“Travellers will be looking for reassurance from companies post-Covid 19, so we’d encourage agents to focus on informing travellers about precautions around cleanliness and hygiene when they travel, while reassuring them of a brand’s reputation. Our customers want their trip to be a force for good, and we suspect this sentiment will remain the same in 2021.”

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2 Tourism Australia 

A quarter of all UK travellers to Australia last year were under the age of 30, accounting for 175,000 visitor arrivals – including 40,000 people on working holiday visas – and contributing more than £500 million to the country’s economy.

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Sally Cope, regional general manager for the UK and northern Europe, Tourism Australia says…

“The youth travel market has always been really important to Australia. The stats tell the story, with under-30s making up 25% of visitor arrivals every year from the UK. We look at them as high-value travellers because they tend to disperse through the country, explore the region and take up a lot of activities on offer.

“There’s a rising sense of optimism now, and when people can plan and take holidays, we believe the youth market will be one of the early returners. There are two factors to that. There’s the desire to get out; I feel there will be some pent-up demand as people will want to spread their wings again, and Australia appeals to that market anyway – the wide open spaces, reconnection with nature and big road trips are popular with youth travellers.

“There’s also a second factor: we have seen when there has been an economic downturn previously, people tend to look at taking a gap year, so it will be interesting to see if that happens again. It’s a great opportunity because the age cap on the working holiday visa is 30, so it’s not just the traditional gap year – after the bushfires, we saw a lot of interest in ‘voluntourism’, which appeals to that millennial market.

“Australia has always had quite a long lead time between planning, booking and actually travelling, so even though people can’t travel now, we can still talk about it. Our role at the moment is keeping the dream alive – and that goes for travel agents as well – so that they can be ready to sell when people want to book.”

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3 Busabout

Busabout – sister company of guided holiday brands Contiki, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations – operates a flexible hop-on, hop-off coach network and range of winter trips around Europe, as well as tours, sailing, island-hopping and small-group adventures in Europe and Asia.

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Duncan Robertson, managing director, Busabout says…

“The millennial and Gen Z market is certainly keen to get back out there and, reassuringly, the majority of our clients have been keen to defer their travel plans – their epic European adventure will still go ahead when operations resume.

“I think there will be a large proportion of younger travellers who have been on furlough over the past few months, and while their income will have been affected, their spending is also likely to have gone down, so in many cases, they will still have budget to travel when things return to some sort of normality. We see this age group frequently prioritising travel over material goods or longer-term investments. Agents can tap into this pent-up demand by familiarising themselves with what different operators offer, with social media being one of best ways to do so.

“I think we’ll see a few trends emerging post-Covid 19. Firstly, I think millennials and Gen Zs will increasingly be looking for private accommodation and moving away from a hostel-based room-sharing product. We’d already been pivoting towards this and are partnering with more hotels – people want a sociable holiday, but they want their own space too. I also think sunshine and sailing will prove popular, offering freedom to relax.

“Holidays will become more of a cherished commodity and travellers will be less willing to be defined by someone else’s itinerary or preferences. This is where our Create Your Own Adventure concept in Europe will come in to its own, with guests choosing where they go and what activities they want to do according to their own timetable.”


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