afrol News, 13 October - Young people are trendsetters, and new research shows that Africa has become the most desired travel destination for Western youths. The trend bodes well for Africa's booming travel industry.
Young Europeans have already followed their parents to the Mediterranean and Thailand and heard about the elders' round-the-world trip with stop-overs in Australia and the US. A charter trip to Egypt or the Caribbean is nothing special anymore.
For the big, once a lifetime adventure, trend researchers have found, sub-Saharan Africa is currently the hot spot among young people.
One of several market analyses documenting this trend was today released by the UK travel analyser 'Year Out Group', which looked into the increasingly lucrative "gap year" travel market, where predominantly young people take a long break from studies and work for a lifetime experience.
"The most popular gap year destinations are shifting," the survey found. "Travellers are heading further afield and wanting to do something beyond just sitting on a beach in Thailand," the market researchers concluded.
The study found that "South Africa and Kenya are the most popular destinations for structured gap year placements, with increasing numbers of gap year travellers avoiding the traditional destinations of Australia and New Zealand, in favour of more exotic destinations and activities, such as going on safari to see the 'Big Five' in Africa."
"Gap year travellers are not content with just a glorified holiday; they want exciting and varied destinations, cultures and activities to experience," the researchers said. "Although the old favourites do offer these, more and more people are attracted to destinations that have been under the radar of traditional gap year travel, such as Peru, Tanzania and Fiji."
Another trend, especially among young Americans, is to seek a meaningful gap year as a volunteer worker in the developing world. Also here, Africa is the great trend, taking over for the classic Latin American volunteer working holidays market.
The market for shorter and longer working holidays is booming, also conquering Europe. The trend among you
Gorillas at Bwindi National Park are among Uganda's main attractions for young travellers
ng travellers is combining what many see as an "immoral" act of travelling - as it is an expression of luxury and environmental destruction in a poor and fragile world - with a "moral" act of getting engaged.
Popular issues for engaged youths currently primarily include environmental issues and animal welfare, while humanitarian and medical aid is losing its dominance among volunteer working holidays. African wildlife is of special interest.
Among the many trendy "volunteer and adventure travel" organisers is I-to-I, having Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia among its top destinations. "As part of you gap year in South Africa you could find yourself helping out at a lion park in Jo'burg, working with orphans in Cape Town or even training to be a wildlife ranger in the African bush," the operator promises, very in line with current market trends.
Also in major European travel markets such as Germany, France, Spain and Scandinavia, "adventurous" African destinations tailored for young travellers are standing out as a trend. Increasingly, established charter giants are following this trend and offering lighter and shorter "adventure" trips to a growing number of African destinations for middle age and older tourists.
The trend is promising for Africa's tourism industry, where many more countries from Mali to Malawi could find trendy "moral" niches for engaged young travellers from Europe and North America.
As a trend, Africa's popularity among the youth may have far reaching consequences as established travel operators react and offer more African destinations to the mainstream market. Also, these youths will one day grow up and probably visit more high standard African destinations with more ease than elder generations.
Africa, in any case, already is one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations. It bodes for the industry well that especially the upcoming generation has embraced the continent.
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