Introduction to Youth Tourism
Travellers, long term budget travellers, drifters, wanderers……. (Maoz 2006)
Youth tourism is a new, fast growing sector in the tourism industry (Khosphpakyants & Vidishcheva n.d). Youth tourism in a nutshell is young travellers having preference for budget accommodation, emphasis on meeting other travellers, independently organised, flexible travel schedule and longer rather than brief holidays (Haigh 1995).
Youth tourism can be seen through modern initiatives including (but not limited to); travel, backpacking, youth hostels, working holiday programs, education, student flights, cultural exchange, backpacker transport, au pair, adventure tours, volunteering, internships, student travel insurance, youth travel agents, tourism boards, internet cafes, language courses, student identity cards and student exchange (World youth student and educational travel 2009).
Studies show youth tourists travel for purpose. Whether to experience a different culture learn a language, volunteer, work or study (Khosphpakyants & Vidischeva n.d). They are keen to experience the local lifestyle and meet other people (Maoz 2006). In fact, youth tourism heavily promotes opportunities to socialize with fellow travellers (Obenouretal, Patterson, Pedersen & Pearson 2004). The majority of youth tourism travel on a strict budget, sourcing cheap accommodation enabling them to have a relatively long duration journey and spend their money on a wide range of activities such as nature, culture and adventure (Maoz 2006). Interestingly enough, youth tourism spends more money than those in other tourism sectors as they spend 4 times longer travelling than the average visitor (WYSET 2009). Furthermore, youth tourists value their flexible itineraries. They report the most memorable travel experiences are often those that are unexpected, and the finest discoveries are those they make themselves (Clarke 2004).
Reputable youth tourism leaders such as Hostel International (HI) and Youth Hostelling Australia (YHA) have created mission statements which support this new, fast growing tourism industry. HI provides accommodation and programs to specifically ‘help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people’ (Obenour et al. 2004). HI aims to promote global awareness through cross-cultural interaction, educate travellers and involve the community through its hostel programs (Obenour et al. 2004). Similarly, YHA aims to encourage their travellers to approach their journeys as being open ended, free spirited, exploration, education and self-development (Clarke 2004).
Return home open eyed, open minded, grown up, laidback, chilled out, easy going, a little more seriously and achieve self-development through travel (Clarke 2004).
Trends and societal changes that have led to the development of Youth Tourism
‘’Youth Tourists are trend setters and pioneers in exploring tourism frontiers and opening new
markets’’ (Wilkening 2010).
- Loans: the availability of loans that youth now have creates easy access to borrowed money which they may invest into travelling (Khosphpakyents & Vidiskcheva n.d).
- Visas: countries and worldwide bureaucracy have become more welcoming of foreigners. Therefore, travellers are able to obtain visas fairly easily to travel to foreign countries (Khosphpakyents & Vidiskcheva n.d).
- Internet: internet has now become part of everyday life. As a result of this accessibility to technology, young travellers are able to use the internet to book and plan their own trips (Khosphpakyents & Vidiskcheva n.d).
- Social media: marketing and communication amongst travellers is evident via social media. Youth tourists share their experiences through a wide of audiences on their social networks; communicating, promoting and influencing (Morrissey 2012).
- Publications: guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet) and magazines (such as backpacking editions), provide word of mouth, advice and guidance to forthcoming tourists (Clarke 2004).
- Resilience: youth tourists tend to be more resilient to economic downturns and are less risk adverse than mainstream travellers (Wilkening 2010). Therefore, any tourism market that chooses to ignore this niche market will be at a ‘’very severe competitive disadvantage’’ (Morrissey 2012).
- Economic Importance: youth tourism has developed into an economically significant and high profile market in the last few years (Haigh 1995). Through foreign exchange earnings from travellers; increases in employment opportunities, ability to afford imports of necessary goods and services and boosts in local economies is created (Haigh 1995). Working holiday visas also positively impacts on the local economy, as youth travellers have the opportunity to earn money whilst they are travelling. Without this incentive they may not have travelled to the destination to begin with due to affordability (Haigh 1995). Additionally, as youth tourism tends to spend longer duration on travelling, budget for cheap accommodation enabling them to spend more money on activities and travel to less ‘popular’ destinations; youth tourism distributes economic benefits throughout local economies (Haigh 1995).
Special Interest Tourism Definitions and Theories in alignment with Youth tourism
Special interest tourism definitions and theories flawlessly aligns with youth tourism. Special interest tourism (SIT) can be defined, and seen through youth tourism; as distinctive leisure and recreational experiences focusing on the traveller’s interests, wants and needs (Derett 2001). SIT has been reported as a complex phenomenon which has flexible delivery, market segmentation and advances in technology affecting its distribution (Derett 2001). This can evidently be seen in youth tourism. As previously discussed, youth tourists thrive for flexibility in their travels and technologies including the internet and social media have helped youth tourisms growth and existence.
Special interest tourism theory also recognises tourists demonstrate aspirations for authenticity and real work experiences (Derett 2001). Similarly, youth tourists seek to experience the local lifestyle of the destination. SIT theories also aligns with youth tourism by youth tourists undertaking serious leisure and seeking personal fulfilment out of it (Derett 2001). Additionally, Derett (2001) reports SIT are travellers with particular interests. Some are happy to share these interests with others along the way and others prefer to limit the number of people they come in contact with on their travellers (Derett 2001). This is seen through youth tourism by some travellers are happy to share these interests alone, with one companion or with people they meet along the way.
Special interest tourism marketing theories are also obvious in youth tourism. With rapid changes in the internet, SIT providers are sharing more information for travellers via the internet (Derett 2001). This is especially important for youth tourism as they prefer their own research and planning, without assistance for travel agents. Trauer (2006) reports SIT ‘products’ expanding. Youth tourism has done just that. It has not only expanded in recent years, it is anticipated a significant expansion will continue over in the future (World youth student and education travel 2009).
A demand for special interest tourism has been recognises as individuals are striving to achieve self-development (Trauer 2006). One of the prime motivators for youth tourists to travel is to gain self-development. Trauer (2006) illustrates a SIT ‘experience’ model which youth tourism can be replicated in. The model exhibits traveller’s behaviours including risk zones, high challenge zones, exploration zones and comfort zones (Trauer 2006).
Youth tourism is typically defined as travellers 18-30 years old (Wilkening 2010). However, a new addition to the niche market is already emerging; Flash packers. Flash packers generally have the similar concept to youth tourism, but tend to be older travellers (30+), with bigger budgets (Kenya 2008).
Majority of youth travellers either travel alone, or with one other person (Maoz 2006). Often, meeting fellow travellers and even forming groups along the way (Maoz 2006). Additionally, youth tourists generally travel as a form of escape, a chance for personal growth and search for meaning (Maoz 2006).
Potential impacts and contentious issues relating to Youth Tourism
- Travel agents: travel agents may struggle for business in the future, as young travellers tend not to use them. In fact, 80% of youth tourists said they did not use travel agents for any plans (Wilkening 2010).
- Infrastructure: infrastructure problems are emerging from youth tourism in poor nations that attract youth tourists (for example, Thailand, Bali and Philippines) (Richards & Wilson 2004). These poor nations have restricted development opportunities due to a lack of capital, resulting in deprived infrastructure from continuous pressure on these services (Richards & Wilson 2004).
- Environment: studies have shown youth tourism providers have very little concern and awareness of their business actions in regards to environmental sustainability (Richards & Wilson 2004).
- Responsible travel: even though these impacts and issues are relevant amongst youth tourism, a youth tourists daily carbon footprint is just 9% of a business travellers (World youth student and education travel 2009)!
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Derret, R 2001, Special interest tourism: Starting with individual’, Special Interest Tourism, Wiley, Brisbane, pp. 1-28.
Haigh, R 1995, Backpackers in Australia, Bureau of Tourism Research, Canberra.
Kenya 2008, Youth Travel, viewed 31st March 2012, http://www.experiencekenya.co.ke/youthtravel_news.php.
Khoshpakyants, A & Vidischcheva, E n.d, challenges of youth tourism, Sochi State University for Tourism and Recreation: Russia, tourism article, 31st March 2012.
Maoz, D 2006, ‘Backpackers Motivations: the role of culture and nationality’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 122-140, viewed 31st March 2012, Science Direct database.
Morrissey, J 2012, The Millennials Check In (The New York Times 12th March 2012), 31st March 2012.
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Richards, G & Wilson, J 2004, The Global Nomad: Backpacker Travel in theory and Practice, Channel View Publications, Great Britain.
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