Youth Wanderlust: Key to Boosting Revenue

Travel & Environment Desk
Youth Wanderlust:  Key to Boosting RevenueYouth Wanderlust:  Key to Boosting Revenue

Iran has seen a significant rise in inbound tourism over the past two years, with the elderly making up the bulk of foreign travelers visiting the Mideast nation.

While it is true that tourism is a thriving and profitable sector in its own right, only a small segment of young travelers choose Iran as a destination. This is a cause for concern and needs to be addressed.

“Iran receives tourists of all ages, but the average age of inbound travelers is 50 years old,” Ebrahim Pourfaraj, director of Iran Tour Operators’ Association.

Experts believe Iran’s popularity among the older population is because they are far less influenced by the media. In recent years, the western media’s smear campaign against Iran aimed at isolating the country took a hefty toll on Iran’s tourism industry.

The younger, impressionable generation is more susceptible to the media’s trickery, whereas older individuals are experienced and see through the media’s deception.

Even though it is common knowledge that older tourists, more than any other group, visit Iran, the country is still ill-prepared to cater to their needs. Take Tehran’s subway stations, for instance: While there are escalators inside the stations, there are none leading from the station to the main street, forcing seniors to climb dozens of steps. The problem extends to the country’s major attractions as well.

However, the intent of this article is to bring attention to the growing youth tourism sector and outline young people’s wants and needs, which are essential to devising marketing campaigns and developing infrastructure.

  Why Youth Tourism

Youth tourism refers specifically to Generation Y travelers. Gen Y, or the Millennials, are those born between the early 1980s to the late 90s.

The 182-billion-dollar global youth travel industry is estimated to represent 200 million international trips a year, and it has grown faster than global travel overall. By 2020, the UNWTO estimates there will be almost 300 million international youth trips per year.

A 2013 report by the World Youth Student and Education Travel Confederation stated that young travelers represent 20% of international tourism, making the group a significant economic force.

According to the report, young travelers are spending longer periods of time abroad; the number of trips of more than 60 days has increased over the 2007-12 period.

And youth travel is not all about budget accommodation. There has been a significant rise in travelers identifying themselves as more upscale “flashpackers”, backpackers who travel with laptops, smart phones and other high-tech gear, and who tend to have heftier budgets than traditional backpackers.

Staying longer and opting to stay in better establishments means young travelers spend more money than most other groups. In fact, young tourists spend an average of $1,183 per trip. Interestingly, Chinese millennial travelers spend $1,400 on average, making them a lucrative target.

The report also suggests that the places visited by young people are changing; they are spending less time in major gateway cities and exploring more remote destinations. This is yet another area where Iranian authorities should be focusing on to attract young travelers.

Despite Iran’s abundance of historical structures—19 of which are world heritage sites—and climatically different regions, most foreign tourists visit standard tourist hubs such as Isfahan and Shiraz.

However, young travelers are keener to get off the beaten track and travel to relatively unknown places. This not only takes pressure off staple holiday destinations that are struggling with accommodation, but also helps boost the economy of areas not usually visited by tourists.

  What They Want

Unlike the common belief that young travelers tend to act rashly when traveling abroad, the report says millennials are more likely to visit historical places, museums and cafes and restaurants, rather than hang out on the beach or go to theme parks.

According to David Chapman, director general for the WYSE Travel Confederation, “Young travelers today want, more than ever, to enrich themselves with cultural experiences, to meet local people and to improve their employability when they return home.”

More young travelers are “shunning the traditional sun, sea and sand holidays” to improve their resumes.

According to the report, 22% of young travelers want to learn a language, 15% want to gain work experience and 15% travel to study.

European cities are young people’s favorite destinations. Seventy-six percent of young travelers who visit Europe take time to explore historical monuments and museums compared to only 56% in non-European cities. This is while there is no lack of historical and cultural diversity outside Europe, so why the difference?

The reason may be that young travelers find it easy to explore European cities, thanks to accessible public transportation in cities offering safe and clean conditions to get around.

They embrace opportunities for enjoying daily and nightly activities, and interacting and engaging more with local people, according to a joint study by the European Cities Marketing, a network of European Tourist Office and Convention Bureaux, and TCI Research, an independent tourism research agency.

In order to improve Iran’s global profile and further enhance the industry’s growth, Iranian officials must begin to focus on young tourists who are more adept at using social media to promote destinations.

First, the infrastructure must be put in places where young travelers are expected to throng to. Next, tourism packages, which appeal to them, should be prepared and advertised.

Word-of-mouth, one of the cheapest and most effective methods of marketing, has gone digital and the youth can be the best cultural ambassadors of the country.