Children of the World
The business of travel is getting ready for the next, next, next generation
Much is made these days about generations – you know, a demographic group that, thanks to an accident of birth, is supposed to have more characteristics in common with one another than they have with, say, their parents. Right now the demographic cohort du jour that’s generating all the headlines is GenerationY, otherwise known as the Millennials. Born somewhere between the 1980s and 2000, these young people seems to be reshaping everything from the ways we all go shopping to the reasons we travel.
As the father of a couple of Millennials, I can attest that they indeed have more in common with each other than they do with their parents. But then, what generation has ever had anything in common with their parents – at least until time comes for them to try to raise their own kids?
So with that caveat in mind, I have a word of advice for all the GenXers and GenYers out there: Get ready, because demographers are already talking about the next onslaught, Generation Z. These teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 are starting to set themselves apart from their preceding generations, at least in terms of what they expect from travel.
In a recent poll of more than 5,000 Generation Z youth in nearly 30 countries, the majority are already looking at travel and studying abroad as a way to experience new ideas and immerse themselves in drastically different cultures than their own. However the report, published by AFS Intercultural Programs, finds that these erstwhile travelers are definitely children of the times in which they live. Over half the students (52 percent) say they are anxious about safety and security, a concern which supersedes other more traditional roadblocks to pursuing international study, including fear of isolation (50 percent), homesickness (48 percent) and discrimination (34 percent). So while idea of cultural exploration is attractive to Generation Z, obstacles remain. And the obstacles they face are very real. In my own case, I remember the trip we took with our then-middle schooler to London. We were excited to show her the usual sights; Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court and the Tower. But instead of soaking up the culture and history, she seemed more interested in Oxford St. shopping and a visit to Harrod’s. Dad came home pretty well convinced that the entire trip was a waste. I could not have been more wrong. Today, this same daughter – now all grown up with kids of her own – is a seasoned traveler who loves nothing better than to dust off her passport and head out to see the world, and show it off to others. And her children, the next generation, have already discovered their own love of travel and adventure. The point is, if the upcoming generations have a desire to travel, let’s do whatever we can to encourage them. Because the funny thing is, as our travels take us farther afield, our world gets closer together. BT — Dan Booth Editorial Director
The cover of the February 2017 issue of showed China Airlines’ new Premium Economy seating. The photo was uncredited. We apologize for the oversight.