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Younger travelers and their trends for 2022

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the beach in Cancun, Mexico

Resort hotels line the beach in Cancun, Mexico. Young tourists were picking Mexico and the Caribbean as their destinations of choice in 2021. (Brad Calkins/Dreamstime/TNS)

Travelers between the ages of 18 and 35 are springing back from the pandemic in big ways.

Over the past year and a half, when all travel was stalled, these travelers were the ones sharing their stories and their favorite destinations on social media, changing not just the destinations they’d like to visit, but also the trends and experiences they prefer.

Younger travelers, according to Contiki, desire either beach vacations, European explorations or something in between.

Immersion and adventure activities are top-of-mind for many travelers as they begin venturing back out into the world. The desire to experience more is going to be the impetus for many young travelers to visit places like Thailand, Ireland, Egypt and South Africa.

Solo travelers also make up almost half of the tour operator’s bookings for next year, signaling not only a confidence in traveling alone but a desire to experience the world from their own unique vantage points.

The average age of travelers booking with Contiki is 27, which makes sense considering that’s usually a time when working professionals are earning enough to begin going on trips before they’re obligated to pay for other expensive life milestones, like marriage, buying a house, or having a child.

Two millennial travel advisers weighed in on the trends they’ve been seeing among their younger travelers.

Ryan Doncsecz, Groups Department Manager at VIP Vacations and Jordan Bradshaw, Vice President at Northcutt Travel Agency, are both seeing similar trends emerge from their clients.

Popular destinations for younger clients from both agencies include Mexico and the Caribbean, especially when it comes to all-inclusives, as well as the ever-popular Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks. The main trend, though, is a focus toward more FIT journeys that focus on immersion and discovery.

“We have been seeing a big wave of younger travelers interested in seeing the world," said Doncsecz. "The first location in terms of ‘new booking requests’ that has surprised me a bit is the Maldives. While it has always been a bucket list destination for many, social media has helped share this unique locale with stunning beaches and hotels to the next generation of adventure seekers. This seems especially popular in the honeymoon market."

Bradshaw has seen similar interest in the Maldives and other tropical destinations that offer both beaches and adventure activities for honeymooners.

He also echoed the same trend in social media influencing younger clients: “We also see the younger generation of travelers is very influenced by what they see on social media and base their destinations that they ask about by 60-second clips they see on TikTok or Instagram. That is where I think a great travel agent can come in and advise more information about those destinations and if they think they would actually be a good fit for the client.”

Another trend they’ve been seeing is that younger travelers are oftentimes more willing to skimp on things like airfare in order to use their money in other, more rewarding ways for them. That also includes comparing travel advisers.

“A young traveler will still book the ‘basic economy’ flight to save $50 ahead of time, but then will whole-heartedly spend that $50 while away. As an adviser, it is important to recognize that you may be price shopped and often directly compared to another agency,” commented Doncsecz.

With plenty of younger travelers already fully vaccinated, travel fears are more about getting stuck in another country after testing positive than fears of safety while abroad.

Overall, younger travelers are looking for incredible escapes with opportunities for immersion and discovery, oftentimes influenced by social media and always within a particular budget.

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