Official article here in the Toronto Sun
International tourism is one of the fastest growing global sectors, boasting a steady increase in travelers and revenue over the last six consecutive years.
Last year, more than 1.2 billion tourists embarked on international adventures, a number that was up 4.4% from 2014.
The global tourism industry is in fact so lucrative, it now makes up 10% of the global GDP and provides thousands of jobs directly and indirectly on every continent.
A large contributor to the steady rise in international travel are Millennials, also known as the Wanderlust Generation. Millennials are more apt to travel thanks to the Internet, which has opened up the world and exposed them to the many wonders it has to offer.
But importantly, unlike previous generations, Millennials are no longer content with spending their vacations lounging poolside or on a beach. This is the web-savvy generation after all, one that values the experience economy and prizes more immersive, culturally-rich experiences.
The Wyse Travel Confederation, an organization working in conjunction with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), recently released a report highlighting Millennials’ travel trends. Their findings supported the experience economy theory, with 78% of Millennials in the report confirming they would rather spend money on a desirable experience.
Young travelers between the ages of 15 and 29 also accounted for an estimated 23% of all international travelers in 2015. While most young people are money poor and time rich, respondents reported spending more time at a destination than typical tourists, resulting in them spending up to two thirds more on average.
In terms of country of origin, 28% of Canadian Millennials travel at least once every year, according to a survey released by Top Deck Travel.
The plentiful amount of Canadian-born travelers is no surprise to student graduation trip provider S-Trip!, a Canadian travel company that specifically caters to young travelers and has more than 35 years of experience in the industry.
S-Trip!, which was originally founded by a group of former teachers who saw an unexplored niche in organizing trips for young travellers, has remained one of Canada’s leading student tourism and grad trip providers, in part because the company has worked to keep pace with the changing demands of their target demographic.
"Students are so different today and their needs are different,” said Meraj Delavari, vice president of operations for S-Trip! “A high percentage of our travelers are now asking for more excursions, multi-day volunteer opportunities, and more options for daytime activities. We're excited about this trend and have pivoted the planning and operations of our trips towards this direction.”
As part of adapting to the times and the desires of today’s students, S-Trip! reviewed feedback from past trips and introduced a volunteer component to their program in 2010. In the six years since then, the company has included a variety of volunteer opportunities on each of their grad trips.
“Our volunteer activities are so popular with our travelers that we now offer three types of experiences: eco-conservation, cultural exchange and community build and restore projects,” Delavari said. “We're extremely proud of the volunteer component on our programs, which has become said one of the defining aspects of S-Trip!”
Of course, providing international trips for teenagers and young adults is not without its challenges. Over the years S-Trip! has put as much emphasis on the safety of their young travelers as they have on implementing volunteer activities.
Part of that commitment has entailed hiring more staff to monitor and track student activity, providing a range of activity-based programming to keep travelers busy, as well as implementing a stricter code of conduct that must be adhered to.
The S-Trip! staff are aware of some of the misconceptions about student travel and are working diligently to change that perception, while also offering students the graduation trips they deserve.
Regardless of your age, international travel is a thrilling, life-altering experience that leaves you with memories that last a lifetime.
Coincidentally, the focus of this year’s 36th annual World Tourism Day on Sept. 27, will centre on accessibility in relation to travel, with the official moniker being “Travel For All”.
An increase in accessibility will open up the doors for many disabled and mobility impaired travelers to embark on epic adventures of their own.