How do you encourage next-gen travellers to go ‘off the beaten track’?

The rise in global tourism is set to be driven by young travellers, especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region. So how will the world’s most popular destinations cope with the numbers? How can destinations still ensure they give travellers the high-quality experience they expect?

Following the success of last year’s study into the profile and travel trends of young Asian GirlCheckingGuideBooktravellers, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has, this year chosen to go a step further. Last month, together with staff at PATA headquarters in Bangkok and colleagues at Toposophy in Athens, I launched the Association’s new research project (see full press release here) which will look at how young travellers from the Asia Pacific region define their own travel expectations and how destinations around the globe can meet their needs with the right tools to help them explore further, while easing pressure on already-crowded visitor attractions.

A burning issue for the tourism sector

The subject of tourism dispersal touches on so many vital areas for the tourism sector: the development of infrastructure, use of natural resources, innovation in marketing, efficient destination management and spreading the economic impact of visitor spending further. That’s what makes this such an exciting project to be managing right now – outbound travel from China is already undergoing a meteoric rise, and we’re only just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

If this growth is managed well, the impact of their spending could provide an enormous economic boost for decades to come. If it is managed badly, the environment, local communities and cultural and natural heritage sites will suffer irreparable damage – not to mention the experience of the visitors themselves.

Now is the time to act

Tensions are already rising in popular tourism hubs as visitors flood in, block up streets, damage historic buildings and quickly erode the very experience that people travel thousands of kilometres to enjoy; an unspoiled view of a landscape, landmark or place of worship they’ve heard so much about. While it’s easy for the media to portray this as a Chinese problem, in reality citizens from other emerging economies are rushing to tour the world’s natural and cultural wonders too – and this is only due to increase.

In this study which is being generously sponsored by Visa Worldwide, we’ll be revisiting the travel trends and characteristics of the Millennial generation (aged 16-35 at its broadest interpretation) to see what exactly motivates Millennials to travel and ‘explore further’. The travel media constantly talk about how Millennials seek ‘unique experiences’ but what does this mean in reality? Does ‘off the beaten track’ mean the same thing for a young Korean as it might for a German? How do you appeal to Millennials’ adventurous nature, and reassure them that you can offer the authentic experience they’re looking for? How can you help them take to the road or rails and step out of the familiar sights and brand names of a big city?

I believe that the destinations that are starting to tackle these very questions are showing destination management and marketing at their best. It’s also a subject that’s close to the heart of Toposophy Destination Marketing Agency, which will be the lead research partner for this project.

The survey will go online shortly and is open to young people aged 16-35 from 14 countries and territories in the Asia Pacific region.

The project has started this summer, and will continue to late 2015 when PATA Members will be the first to hear about the results. As the subject is top on the PATA advocacy agenda, expect much more news to follow in the coming months too!

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