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Getting more college students to travel is no doubt included in many travel brands’ millennial marketing strategies and that’s for good reason — global student travel is worth more than $200 billion.
While most college students don’t study abroad or take gap years, or a year off between graduating from high school and beginning college or a year-long sabbatical from work, for example, a study from hostel booking site Hostelworld show there’s interest in taking extended time off (defined as a one to six month break from work or school) to travel but much of that is likely wishful thinking.
To that effect, some 50 percent of respondents who were under the age of 30 said they hadn’t taken a gap year but would consider doing so at some point before or after college.
Hostelworld’s study, which was fielded to 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older online in September 2016, found nearly 26 percent of respondents have taken a gap year while about 74 percent said they haven’t. Respondents included both college students, unemployed adults and full-time and part-time employed adults.
For those who said they had taken a gap year, 58 percent said they did so after college in their 20s, 30s and beyond. “Taking a gap year is quite common in Europe and in other countries around the world, but it’s still an emerging trend in the United States,” said Feargal Mooney, CEO of Hostelworld. “As younger generations and public figures — like Malia Obama — embrace travel and time off, there’s no doubt gap years will become common in the U.S. just as they have in other parts of the world.”
The Obama Administration has acknowledged the importance of study abroad and last year announced that it would more actively promote international student travel, particularly to Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Though the White House’s impact on growing study abroad programs remains to be seen.
It’s also no secret that traveling is an expensive habit, particularly if you’re a college student or a recently graduated student with heaps of student loan debt. Some 62 percent of respondents who said they hadn’t take a gap year said they wouldn’t even consider doing so in the future.
Affordability and cost were cited as the main reason why a gap year seems out of reach. Hostelworld notes that this finding doesn’t vary significantly between income levels — the cost associated with taking a gap year is a common anxiety across the board.
Leaving the classroom or office behind for several months or a year sounds like a fun idea but is impractical for most people, whether for financial reasons or work-related. A Skift survey in September found that half of Americans took little to no vacation this summer, for example.
The charts below break down more of the study’s findings, including thoughts on gap years by employment status, age and likelihood to take one.
Chart 1: Fewer than 40 percent of full-time and part-time employed respondents said they would consider taking a gap year, while nearly 62 percent of full-time college students who haven’t taken a gap year would consider doing so.
Chart 2: About half of respondents younger than age 30 who haven’t taken a gap year would consider taking one at some point before or after college.
Chart 3: The more time off you take from work or school, the more likely you are to consider a gap year, the study found. More than half of those that have taken extended time off said they’d consider taking a gap year at some point in the future.
Source: Hostelworld and Skift