Looking Ahead at Youth & Student Travel – The Boom 2.0
Youth & student travellers have always been a resilient bunch, enthusiastic and determined to explore the world and have authentic overseas experiences. As we now start to navigate the travel space post-pandemic, StudentUniverse believes the youth & student travel market will rebound greater than ever before, with demand so huge that it could echo the low-cost travel boom of the 1980s.
We’ve seen the launch of multiple new low-cost airlines around the world already in 2021 – Icelandic airline PLAY, Norse Atlantic Airways in Norway, US domestic airline Breeze Airways, and Super Air Jet in Indonesia – testament to the confidence in the global budget market following 15 months of travel restrictions.
Not only are they lovers of low-cost and budget travel, youth travellers tend to be driven by alternative factors beyond the typical ‘holiday’. Young people are motivated by the desire to experience other cultures, build unique life experience, and benefit from formal and informal learning opportunities from other countries, including education or work abroad. These experiences can be life-changing, and are also hugely valuable to young peoples’ personal growth and career development. Young people also travel differently to older adults – they spend more time and money in a destination, and they look to social media for inspiration and direction.
StudentUniverse, the world’s leading travel booking site for students and youth, sheds light on what we can expect from the youth travel market in the next 12 months.
1. Educational travel will return, and with huge demand
Whilst students have been forced to stick closer to home the past fourteen months, their desire to have a university abroad experience to destinations like the US, Asia, Australia and New Zealand will return as soon as they can travel.
However, with Australia and New Zealand likely to be closed to all non-citizens until end of 2021, we expect students to turn to Europe, Canada and the US more so than ever. With the next university year to begin in just over three months, students all over the world are starting to enrol now. 38,000 British youths travel to international universities each year and are eagerly awaiting ‘Green List’ updates to see whether they’ll be able to travel to their desired institution for their studies. A May 2021 survey by QS revealed that the majority of prospective
international students (54%) have reconsidered their study-abroad plans based on the way that governments in certain destinations have handled the coronavirus crisis – so countries that are doing better in terms of vaccinations and case numbers will likely come out the most popular.
2. A need to know, not show
In the wake of social media, student and youth travellers have typically been known for showcasing their lavish trips, jam-packed gap years and international volunteering on Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok as a way of engaging with their peers.
But, as times have changed and the pandemic has impacted this group of travellers particularly hard, we’re seeing many just wanting to know they’ve done it, not show it off. Gen Z-ers in particular are determined to ditch the pre-pandemic social media travel clichés, like staged pictures and banal captions, in favour of living authentically in the moment.
3. Longer trips in one destination
As travel rules continue to rapidly change, test requirements remain and not all airlines are yet running their full schedules, we expect travellers will choose to travel to one country for a longer period, and travel within that country a lot more – instead of jumping between different nations. Because of this, we believe countries that offer both a myriad of experiences and have low-cost domestic airlines will be the most popular, for example the US, Canada, Indonesia, Thailand and France.
As purpose-driven travel also intensifies, we will see students do what they do best when it comes to travelling: spending more time and money in local communities, particularly in destinations that have been hit hard by the lack of tourism. All key in helping the wider tourism industry bounce back after what has been a hugely challenging time.
4. Seeking space & nature
While typically young people have been drawn to the main metropolitan cities busting with people, looking for the excitement of cosmopolitan urban experiences, we think that the pandemic will prompt young people to instead seek out more wild, nature-based experiences and destinations.
We expect less city breaks and more countryside stays, less nightclubbing and more intimate social gatherings with fellow travellers, less time spent in built-up areas and more time spent exploring the great outdoors. Cities such as New York, Sydney and Auckland will serve more as gateway locations to reach other destinations, rather that the final destination itself.
5. Independent & self-serve travel
Solo travel isn’t new, but we will see youth and student travellers looking to reduce interaction where possible due to ongoing social distancing rules worldwide. This demographic of traveller will embrace technology to self-check in – reducing their contact with hotel or airline staff – and self-drive, waving a temporary goodbye to shared public transport and a big hello to car-hire companies. They’ll utilise online tools and apps to manage transport, booking tickets, and figuring out what to do next.
Whilst festival holidays, meeting new friends and moving around destinations in groups have been popular in the past, youths are raring to travel again and will do what it takes to ensure they can resume their adventures soon – even if it means going it alone.
6. Visits to the US will rise
For many decades, youth travel between the UK and US has been mutually popular. The US is StudentUniverse’s #1 outbound destination from the UK. The vast amount of experiences and places to explore in the US has always made for an enticing destination for young Brits. In 2020, restrictions on travel into the country coupled with criticism of the handling of the crisis saw bookings – and in fact desire to visit – stall. But with a strong vaccine roll-out and talk of a travel bubble soon opening between the UK and US, travel might come sooner than we think, to the delight of thousands of young Brits and Americans.
It’s now in the hands of the UK and US governments as to whether young people will be able to go on their much-anticipated adventures this year. Let’s hope they don’t have to wait too long.
Notes to editors:
Sam Willan, General Manager StudentUniverse UK, is available for interview upon request.
For further press information, please contact:
Emma Arthurs | Charlotte Wright
T: +44 (0)20 3440 8927
E: [email protected]
StudentUniverse is the world’s leading travel booking site for students and youth. Through negotiations with a network of global partners, StudentUniverse offers discounted pricing and terms on flights.
StudentUniverse launched in the UK in 2013 and was acquired by Flight Centre Travel Group in 2015. StudentUniverse is headquartered in Boston with offices in London, Brisbane, the Philippines.
StudentUniverse believes that travel is essential to a modern education. Millions of students use the service every year. For more information go to www.studentuniverse.co.uk.