Death of the backpacker? Highlights of New Horizons III report launch at ITB Berlin


One of my highlights from this year’s ITB Berlin conference was the launch of the New Horizons III report  by Professor Greg Richards from Tilburg University .


In the company of my panel members-David Chapman from WYSTC, Eva Seller from Tourism Australia, Anna Sanghi , Mastercard & Prof Greg Richards from @Tilburg_uni & John McCoach from STA Travel UK, Prof Greg Richards from Tilburg University

In the company of my panel members-David Chapman from WYSTC, Eva Seller from Tourism Australia, Anna Sanghi , Mastercard & Prof Greg Richards from @Tilburg_uni & John McCoach from STA Travel UK, Prof Greg Richards from Tilburg University


I had the honour of being on the panel discussion that followed later to discuss the report in the esteemed company of David Chapman – Director General, WYSE Travel Confederation, Greg Richards -Professor of Leisure Studies, Tilburg University, Anna M. Zanghi – Global Lead Youth Sector Product, Mastercard, Eva Seller – Regional General Manager, Continental Europe, Tourism Australia and John McCoach -Global Director Product, STA Travel Group


Highlights of the survey


This is the largest survey in youth tourism ever with over 34,000 youth travellers interviewed. I thought for the benefit of those who were not present, I’d summarize some of the findings from the report which had some fascinating insights.


1.Youth tourism spend has doubled in a decade


As the survey results revealed, despite the global recession, youth tourism is a growing industry with the total spend of the youth traveller doubling in over a decade: 1500 euros in 2002 to 2900 euros in 2012.


2. People are ‘travelling younger’


People are ‘travelling younger’ with the fastest growing segment in the youth segment , the affluent, 30-34 age bracket which is now takes up 17% of the market while the 23-25 and 25-30 age bracket is in decline.

Digging further into the survey results, 31% of people in the 30-34 age bracket were choosing hostels compared to 32% in the 20-22 age bracket.


3. Decline of the backpacker, rise of the flashpacker


The report confirms something I’ve witnessed over the last year visiting hostels across Europe : Hostels are diversifying in terms of their customer base. They are no longer the preserve of 20 something backpackers-50% of their market according to the report are now the new breed of affluent, tech savvy backpackers know as ‘flashpackers’


4. Flexibility of time and low cost airline fares are key factors when planning their trips


48.5 % of youth travellers plan their trips whenever they find time available so are flexible in terms of planning their trips plus 48% book trips around whenever cheap fares are available.


5. Top 5 cities for youth travel are…


All outside Europe: 1. Rio de Janeiro 2. Tokyo 3. Sydney 4. Buenos Aires and 5. San Francisco.


6. Hostels-still the favourite choice for youth travellers but hotels, apartments not far behind


At 33%, hostels still remain the favourite accommodation of choice, closely followed by hotels at 32% while 22% of the survey choose to stay in apartments, latter an interesting stat. Only 4% couchsurfed.


7. Price, still the key factor when booking accomodation


Price still remains the overall key factor when booking a holiday (80%) while 23% regarding mobile booking access as key.


Youth travel is important for the future of travel.

The youth traveller of today is the customer of tomorrow. The German National Tourism Office recognises the power of youth travel has just launched a campaign to encourage young travellers from all the world to come and explore it’s a youth hotspots. They’ve launched a cool, interactive website and mobile phone app which allows young people to share their tips of their favourite youth hotspots-everything from clubs, shops or cultural attractions.


Especially with the launch of the WYSTC New Horizons III report, the BudgetTraveller is really excited to be part of the GNTO’s year of youth tourism campaign where I will be exploring Germany by rail exploring these youth hotspots over the next few months. ( Details coming up later this week)


It’s an exciting time to be involved in youth tourism and I hope the WYSTC report and the GNTO campaign will inspire other tourism brands and organisations to rethink their youth tourism strategy and invest in this much neglected sector of the industry.


To find out more about reading the full New Horizons report and other WYSTC research, check out


  • Runaway Jane says:

    The top 5 cities were a surprise! Although nice to see a few South American one’s in there as it will be interesting to see when I get there later this year what the general age band of most travellers is there.

    Not majorly surprised by the ‘flashpacker’ thing though. In my opinion it’s not actually really flashpacking. It’s just technology has evolved so much in the last 5 years and that there are now things like tablet computers and smart phones which didn’t exist 7 years ago when I started travelling, but that make travel easier. I think the world has just move on technologically rather than backpackers per say. People still backpack. They just bring an iPhone with them! 🙂

  • Vicky says:

    Interesting highlights Kash. So happy to hear people are travelling younger, and more.

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