Travel Agents

From tents to super yachts: the changing nature of youth travel

Ali Coulton

When we think of youth travel, we generally get flashbacks of dingy hostels and having to scrape together loose change to buy a beer.

But recent data from Topdeck on youth travel trends suggest millennials are more likely to opt for hotels and sailing trips than the traditional shoe-string backpacking trips usually associated with the 18 – 39-year-old market.

To find out more about the changing nature of youth travel, we spoke with Ben Ittensohn, Regional Manager of Topdeck.

Our chat came at a great time for the youth travel company, who’ve just launched a very exciting new product.

It’s quite different, it’s a premium superyacht,” Ittensohn told us.

Compared with the kind of travel we did in our early 20s, a superyacht is very different indeed to waking up in a hostel bunk bed covered in someone else’s puke.

Ok, so this happened to a travelling companion, not us, but we’re still haunted by it to this day.

It’s an 8-day trip in Croatia, its got two decks and a private DJ on board.”

“It’s in our limited edition range, offering 18-39-year-olds an entertainment pack experience.”

Ittenson told us although the superyacht isn’t what most people would call conventional youth travel, it is consistent with youth travel trends.

“Youth travel used to be about doing it on a shoestring but now it’s all about having that great experience,” he said.

“You’ve got to do that great cooking class or that wonderful walking tour that takes you through the back streets of Florence or a sailing program on a yacht.”

“Years prior it was more based on shopping or affording a few drinks along the way more so than the social currency or bragging rights.”

According to our youth travel survey, people are willing to pay a little bit extra for something a bit different or a little bit better quality. So far it’s proven effective.”

These new trends seem fairly far removed from Topdecks previous big seller- their camping program.

We still have a camping program, as in they’re putting up their own tents and everything, but the numbers aren’t growing, they’ve been pretty steady for a few years,” Ittensohn told us. 

“Where we are seeing the growth is in that accommodation option or in the hotel range or the explore option.”

The explore trips are focused on one country for an average of about 13 days and usually has hotel accommodation.

“We’re certainly seeing a rise in people who want to do just one country and explore it a little more in-depth.”

“We don’t use 5-star hotels but we use hotels more so than the camping program.”

One trend that has stayed strong amongst youth travellers is their preference for booking through travel agents.

Aussies have always had a strong connection with retail travel agents, and we haven’t seen that change,” Ittensohn said.

“A lot of the time it’s first-time travellers booking their first overseas trip so they want that endorsement from a travel agent.”

“If they’re booking a 2-4 week trip they want it arranged by someone and someone to hold accountable if something goes astray when you’re overseas.”

“Retail is certainly the strongest channel of distribution at least for us in the Australian market.”

Ittensohn’s only advice for agents to help them maintain their popularity is to promote experiential travel and share their stories.

“Agents should promote the authentic experiences they get with coach travel or with youth travel and share their own experiences,” he said.

“Most people with a retail background have probably done one of our trips, and whether they’re inside the younger demographic or not I’m sure they still have fantastic memories they can share with customers.”

“Unfortunately many people still think we run double-decker buses around Europe like we did in the 70s but we now have sailing holidays, which are really popular, we have region based trips, our camping program and the smaller group hotel trips.”


Do you have something to say on this? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Ali Coulton here to share your thoughts.

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