Gap years used to be predictable. A jaunt through Europe or Asia or America with a bunch of similarly aged travellers straight after school or university, stopping regularly to soak up the sites of whatever city you were in that day – and then hitting its bars that night.
But the hard-partying break could be on the decline. The current crop of millennials seems to be less interested in pub crawls and cocktail buckets and more into curated travel experiences that will also light up their social feeds – the perfect street-food bite, #wellness and design-focused hostels.
Already one UK holiday promoter has changed its business model in response to what they’ve termed “ego travel”. Thomas Cook is discontinuing its once hugely popular Club 18-30 brand (which organises party holidays to various sunny islands) and is instead focusing on its Cook’s Club offering of boutique hotels.
The company’s latest Holiday Report found “ego travel” was a seriously important factor in millennial’s holiday planning, with 52 per cent of 18-24 year olds factoring in social media posts when booking a hotel. Another study from the Tourism Management travel and planning journal found social return – likes and comments – influences destination selection.
So what is ego travel? It means a bunk bed in a nondescript hostel no longer cuts it – your room should have a social-friendly feature (think the Pantone hotel in Brussels, the ice hotels being built in cooler climes or the bubble tents popping up everywhere). Smoothie bowls photograph better than enormous brown pork knuckles, and a sunset yoga session will score more likes than a blurry selfie in a neon nightclub.
Given millennials are apparently prioritising travel over saving for the future, they’re seeking experiences worth giving up their smashed avo brunches for – unique, personal, adventurous experiences. They’re more interested in visiting a picturesque cliff in Norway than a boozy night out in Berlin – and is that really a bad thing?