Tour OperatorsContiki’s Adam Armstrong urges travel agents to engage youth travellers at the opportune time where the market still remains largely untapped.

A major youthquake is on its way

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Contiki is flying its youth flag and beckoning travel agents to join them in a new travel landscape getting increasingly dominated by youth travellers.
Contiki is flying its youth flag and beckoning travel agents to join them in a new travel landscape getting increasingly dominated by youth travellers.

There’s a youthquake coming that will shake up the travel landscape. And it’s expected to hit the shores of every nation in the world. As the Millennials and Gen Zs gain more spending power and a greater desire to travel as a result of being influenced by social media, the question arises on whether the travel community is sufficiently prepared to handle the legions of youth travellers who carry with them vastly different expectations from past generations.

What better way to learn about the preferences of youth travellers than from one of the world’s leading tour operators specialising in vacations exclusively for 18- to 35-year-olds? A ‘youthquake’, defined as a shift in societal norms influenced by the values, tastes, and mindsets of young people, is what Adam Armstrong, CEO of Contiki, predicts is just around the corner, based on the company’s current insights on booking trends.

Growing older, but staying young and trendy at heart

Realising that youth travellers are getting more concerned about their environmental and social impact, Contiki has become more transparent about its sustainability initiatives, detailing its 11-goal sustainability agenda.
Realising that youth travellers are getting more concerned about their environmental and social impact, Contiki has become more transparent about its sustainability initiatives, detailing its 11-goal sustainability agenda.

Contiki’s high success rate among its guests since it began in 1962 is attributed to the ease of convenience where all the basics have been organised for travellers like accommodation, transport, and trips to classic sites, but still come with the flexibility for them to wander, explore and get lost in exotic places, essentially allowing them to create their own unique adventures.

“We’ve been doing it for 60 years, so we’re pretty experienced,” Armstrong said. “But we have been continuously innovating and evolving along the way, and we’re not doing the same stuff as we were six years ago.”

By constantly looking at new destinations, getting rid of older destinations that are no longer popular, conducting focus groups and group surveys, gathering the sentiments of their community of travel consumers on Facebook groups, and going on the ground to test out new itineraries, Contiki’s product development team is constantly re-innovating to keep its products fresh, exciting and up to date for the current generation of youth travellers.

On the flip side, the youth travellers are also keeping things exciting for Contiki, Armstrong shares that “the portion of people booking within three months of departure has doubled from before the pandemic”, something that causes some trepidation for Contiki as “we like to have the numbers confirmed so that we can smoothly plan all the logistics in advance”.

From that observation on shorter lead times, Contiki decided to leave their bookings open much later this year, and saw the bookings come flooding in. Additionally, Armstrong shared that other trends included travellers asking more questions as they want some reassurance in the weeks leading up to their trip.

Stand a chance to tap on the next big business opportunity

Contiki’s Adam Armstrong: “We’ve lost youth specialist travel agencies across the world and no one has really come in and taken their place. We have spoken to a lot of intelligent agents who have spotted huge business opportunities in the youth market and they’re now working out how to take their business to a different age.”
Contiki’s Adam Armstrong: “We’ve lost youth specialist travel agencies across the world and no one has really come in and taken their place. We have spoken to a lot of intelligent agents who have spotted huge business opportunities in the youth market and they’re now working out how to take their business to a different age.”

With 2022 coming to a close, Armstrong remarked about how revenge travel was accurately prophesised. That especially proved true among the youth and luxury travel markets as Contiki and its parent company The Travel Corporation (TTC) has observed thus far.

“They’re spending a good money on their tour with us and their airfares. Even though pricing is double or triple what it was pre-pandemic, they are still paying, which suggests to me the desperation to get away."

Though the market is ready for the taking and expanding by the day, Armstrong says that there is a lack of youth specialist travel agencies due to the pandemic forcing many to fold up. But there are many existing agencies who are able to still recognise the big business opportunities that await them once they are unable to unlock the secrets of tapping into the youth market.

To achieve that, Armstrong has several tips:
• Go digital: Work on the website to give it a more updated look.
• Speak the lingo: Don’t just conduct research, look at the modes of communication as well. Youths don’t respond as well to traditional means of marketing.
• Stay woke: The youths care more about sustainability due to increased education and heightened awareness of the environment. Bring this across in your messaging in a fun way that their social travel and sustainable needs can be met.
• Slide into the DMs (direct messages): More often than not, youths don’t want to interact by voice. They would prefer asking questions via a live chat on the website or WhatsApp.
• Get into the social media game: That’s where all the youths are consuming content, but it’s also important to dissect the different types of social media platforms and subsections. Consumers above 30 are still on Facebook and Instagram, whereas the ones around 18 are mainly on TikTok. But TikTok is complicated and consumer habits differ for every market. What we have done is devise this elaborate social media strategy covering all platforms that varies by countries.

“The lights are on for any travel agent who wants to work with us, we’re always ready to engage and educate our partners” Armstrong beckons. “But you’re going to need a huge strategy, you’re going to have to sit down and construct a digital strategy because that’s the world they’re interacting in.”

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