Gap Year Travel in Australasia - May 2013
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“Taking a gap year can be a great experience and one which helps you get the skills you need for higher education. Gap years cover loads of options, from travelling abroad to work or volunteer, retaking qualifications, or learning something new that hasn’t been an option before.”
-The UK Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
Although gap-year travel is a relatively new segment within the tourism industry, it has grown and diversified since the mid-1990s. This tourism genre is largely comprised of students – known as gap-year travellers, or ‘gappers’ – taking a year off from study between school and university. However, the definition has broadened in recent years to include graduates or postgraduates taking an extended break between completing university and entering the workforce, ‘career gappers’ taking time out during their working career, and ‘later-life gappers’ such as retirees who embark on a prolonged period of travel.
Similar to many other niche tourism segments, gap-year travel is difficult to measure in terms of both volume and value. The relatively small amount of research undertaken in this field has tended to be academic in focus and has concentrated primarily on the sociological and educational factors related to students taking a gap year.
The economic value of gapping is mostly derived from the length of stay in a country or destination. While gappers have a relatively low spend per day, the long duration of their trips means that total spend is usually well above the average for the destinations they visit. Gap travellers also tend to stay in locally run accommodation, buy locally produced goods and undertake activities with local service providers. Therefore, a greater percentage of each Pound, Dollar, Euro or whatever currency is being used remains in the country visited. This means that gap travellers are generally welcomed in the local communities they patronise.
The diversification of the gap travel segment has been supported and, arguably, partly driven, by the burgeoning of a gap-year travel industry. Both public- and private-sector organisations have recognised gap, or year-out, travel – with its close assimilation to the ‘backpacker’ and ‘working holiday’ travel markets – as a distinctive and significant part of the global tourism industry. Gappers are now actively targeted with a portfolio of products and services, ranging from specialist flight packages, work and volunteering placements, tours and activities to travel and medical insurance and a plethora of online and offline travel information and social-network promotional campaigns.
Australia and New Zealand are favoured gap-year destinations, particularly for travellers from the UK, the US and Europe, and the two respective tourism boards have expended considerable marketing energy, creativity and finance to promote their destination’s variety of travel, work and volunteering options available to gap-year travellers.
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