Increased terrorist attacks across Europe and, in particular the UK, have failed to scare off young Aussie travellers, who are still leaving our shores in droves.
Whether it’s a gap-year working trip or a short-stay vacation, tourism companies and young travellers say even the most recent attacks in London and Manchester have not derailed their plans to see the world. And many say they actually feel safer due to enhanced security.
“That market has been pretty strong,” said Flight Centre spokesperson Haydn Long.
“Parents quite often pay for the travel for the people in that demographic, and sometimes mum and dad can be a bit cautious and say, ‘Look maybe it’s time to rethink,’ and that happened a year or two ago. (But we) haven’t heard so much of that happening at the moment.”
Molly Russell, 23, of Richmond, NSW, is currently travelling in Europe with her boyfriend. She admits to being nervous about visiting the Manchester Arena, following the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in May that killed 22 people. Even London became a concern after five people were killed at Westminster in March and eight people were killed in June on London Bridge and at nearby Borough Market.
“I’m just thinking about how different the experience will be (going to Manchester Arena) now,” Molly told Hatch.
“It was supposed to be an exciting day, but now we’ll be thinking about the people who lost their lives there. And in regards to London, we’re trying to take more safety precautions.
“It’s really horrible and a bit scary, but at the end of the day we can’t not go just because of a few horrible people. A terror attack could occur anywhere at any time, even in Sydney, you just never know and you have to take risks in life.”
The UK remains Australia’s fourth-most popular destination for short-term departures, according to the recent Australian Census, showing a 39 per cent increase in popularity from 2006 to 2016. And although these statistics were collected before the recent attacks, Mr Long doesn’t see that trend changing any time soon. Australia’s travel advice level for the region is “normal“, and a combination of cheap flights and warmer weather means it remains a popular travel destination for young Australians, he said.
Mia: It feels safer than ever
Mia Schofield, 18, of Belrose, is currently touring Europe with her family after attending a cousin’s wedding in Scotland. While the Year 12 student admitted to niggling concerns, “especially when I hear sirens”, she didn’t believe it was stopping young people from travelling “and I don’t think it should”.
Jesse: Glad I didn’t cancel
Jesse Mullens, 25, of Potts Point, recently returned from his first European trip, on a 16-day Contiki tour of the UK, and spoke to Hatch from a busy airport. He said despite arriving in London just days after the London attack, he didn’t allow fear to overtake his holiday.
Matt: You have to live a normal life
Matt Kingston, 26, lived in Windsor, NSW, before moving to London last year. He told Hatch the recent attacks haven’t had any effect on his day-to-day life or how he views the world.
Sticking to their plans
The trend for youths to continue to travel despite terrorist attacks seems to be consistent world over. A recent US and UK survey by StudentUniverse, an international travel booking site for young people, revealed there had been substantial weekly and monthly increases in tourism at places that had been affected by terror incidents, including Boston, Paris and Nice. Its survey showed only 3 per cent of young people had cancelled travel as a result of terrorist attacks, and more than half would not let an attack stop them from travelling to an affected area.
In fact, students and the rest of the youth market appear more likely to stick to their plans than older travellers, according to StudentUniverse global managing director Mike Cleary.
“These students are often embarking on once-in-a-lifetime experiences – from backpacking adventures to gap years to semesters abroad – and refuse to give up their opportunity to have these travel experiences,” Mr Cleary said in a press release.
Mr Long, whose company Flight Centre is affiliated with StudentUniverse in the US, agreed the younger demographic was “pretty resilient” compared with other travellers.
“If they’re concerned by world events in a particular location, they tend to keep travelling but they might just bypass an affected area,” he said.
But he said this time of the year was peak travel season for Europe’s summer, and this year was “looking pretty strong”.
“(Australia has had) some really cheap airfares over the past six months or so – some of the cheapest airfares we’ve ever seen to London. I think that’s been a pretty powerful incentive to people to travel to the UK in particular,” Mr Long told Hatch.
“You’ve got the benefit at the moment of the stronger Aussie dollar compared to the pound. From an affordability perspective, it’s a really good time for people to be travelling.” – Patrick Staveley
Photo of Contiki group in UK supplied by Jesse Mullens.