The Global Picture
The global youth travel market accounted for 196 million tourism arrivals in 2011 and its value is predicted to rise from US$173 billion in 2011 to US$320 billion by 2020. Australia and New Zealand are popular destinations for backpacking and gap year destinations, either for working holidays or volunteering, and their proximity to the South Pacific offers the region distinct opportunities to exploit the market.
Who is a typical backpacker?
Characteristically, backpackers are young. Around 90% are aged under 35, and can be further broken down as follows:
- 60% aged 18-30, student and Gap Year Travellers
- 30% aged 27-35, young professional, referred to as Career Breakers
- 10% aged 50+, post family, sometimes referred to as the Spirited Youth
Traditionally where do they come from?
- In the UK, gap year travellers drive the backpacker market and approximately 80,000 British school leavers aged 18 defer university for a year to undertake an extended period of travel which may include volunteering overseas.
- Germany is another important European market that also has a long-standing culture of young people travelling abroad for extended periods. Other smaller European markets include France, Ireland, Scandinavia and Switzerland.
Where are new backpackers coming from?
- Australia and New Zealand are widely considered to be the next growth market for gap year travel.
- From Europe, backpackers from Italy are increasing in numbers.
- Backpacking is also gathering pace in North America, in particular from Canada, although it remains less prevalent than in European countries.
- China, South Korea and Japan are considered to be emerging markets on account of the increased arrivals to Australia and New Zealand, although it is more typical that this youth market is travelling for educational purposes rather than backpacking.
The backpacking market to Australia and New Zealand is of key importance to the South Pacific and there are 1.5 million youth travellers to Australia every year. Historically, the UK has been the key source market although today, new markets are rapidly emerging.
The vast majority of backpackers who travel to the South Pacific will do so in conjunction with a trip to Australia or New Zealand and will usually book a trip to the region (usually Fiji) when they are in Australasia.