Travel industry experts tip a post COVID-19 boom in young people travelling overseas

Cristina Andreone has a long list of places around the world she is itching to visit.

Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa and the United States are among her top destinations and she cannot wait to jump on a plane out of the country as soon as Australia’s international border is lifted, whenever that may be. 

The 21-year-old had her first taste of travel, since migrating from South Africa as a child, when she rang in the 2020 new year in Bali with her boyfriend,  Harry Parkes. 

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since, like, the age of seven.”

A close-up photograph of a young couple looking at a computer.
Harry Parkes and Cristina Andreone hope to travel through Asia and Europe.(

ABC News: Evelyn Manfield


But her plans for last year — which included a university exchange in the United States, or visiting her grandparents back in South Africa — were upended by COVID-19. 

While Ms Andreone has had to give up on her dream of a university exchange, she has turned her attention to saving up for a trip through Asia or Europe and is hoping now that she has had more time to save, this trip will be even bigger and better. 

Traveller rush expected as restrictions lift 

Ms Andreone is not the only one with a burning desire to leave the country.

It is expected there will be a big rush on travel once the announcement to open Australia’s border is made. 

A Balinese man hugs a couple at a dinner table
The couple got their first taste of travelling in Bali.(



Demographics Group executive director Bernard Salt said he imagined “the websites for the airlines will be swamped immediately”.

Mr Salt said along with retirees wanting to cross countries off their bucket lists, and those wanting to reconnect with family overseas — especially if there is a new baby in the mix — Australians in their twenties would be among the first groups of people wanting to head abroad.

“It’s almost a rite of passage to travel overseas to explore the world before coming back and settling down,” he said. 

Young people hit by travel grief

Curtin University associate professor of psychology Lauren Breen said cancelled plans and lost opportunities — such as missing out on overseas travel — could cause people to experience grief. 

digital nomad
Missing out on a gap year may trigger feelings of grief for young people.(

Averie Woodard, Unsplash


That could include “rites of passage” such as not being able to travel overseas and having school formals cancelled or postponed.

Dr Breen said pandemic-related restrictions were in place for longer than people might have first thought, which affected their ability to plan. 

“They thought maybe 2020 was a write-off, but maybe didn’t realise that 2021 might also be problematic, or even 2022,” she said.

On top of that, with other countries opening up, Dr Breen said lots of young Australians would be experiencing FOMO [fear of missing out], more so than last year.

A rite of passage on hold

Contiki Holidays managing director Katrina Barry said travelling as a young adult was “special”.

A Cambodian nun in a face mask holds a golden bowl filled with flowers next to a golden Buddha statue
Cambodia is among the countries Cristina Andreone wants to visit. (

Reuters: Cindy Liu


Ms Barry said travel provided the opportunity to meet new people, learn about yourself, and see the world — often without too much responsibility. 

“You grow in tolerance and in your awareness and your consideration for difference and for diversity,” she said.

Each year, about 50,000 young Australians head on a Contiki trip, and another 30,000 go on a Topdeck tour, where they traverse across countries, often by bus, with a group of people they have never met before. 

Ms Barry said it was a rite of passage for young Australians.

“[It’s] part of what defines, I guess, becoming a person in your twenties in Australia.”

A person wearing a backpack and hiking sticks looks up at a mountain capped with snow.
The lack of overseas travel opportunities is likely to affect young people’s lives, experts say.(

ABC News: Angad Dhakal


But she said the window for those opportunities was rather small. 

“The reality is, you know, you’ve got your twenties to see the world, to have fun and explore and then in your thirties, you probably have to settle down and start getting a bit smart and save money, rather than spend it on seeing the world,” she said.

Young Australians more likely to travel

Head of travel at Deloitte Access Economics Adele Labine-Romain said the lack of overseas travel opportunities during the pandemic would have an impact on the life experiences of young people. 

She said the loss of opportunities to live and work overseas would be hard to recoup for young Australians, given those experiences were tied to age.

According to data from Deloitte Access Economics provided to the ABC, young Australians have a slightly higher propensity to travel overseas than other cohorts.

Data showed the equivalent of 52 per cent of Australians aged between 20 and 29 went overseas in 2019, based on the assumption each person takes one trip. 

Longer travel plans in the pipeline

Even though there is no date set for when Australia will open up to international travel, Ms Barry said young people believed they would be able to fly abroad by some point next year and many were already booking trips. 

She said Contiki’s demographic was keen to travel for an extended period of time and the most popular trip was one through Europe spanning 45 days.

Topdeck had recorded a similar consumer sentiment. 

Throughout the pandemic, it surveyed around 2,000 of its consumers and found attitudes indicated travellers were keen to travel for longer than before.

Topdeck general manager of sales David Gendle said it was a sign of “pent-up demand for travellers wanting to get out of the country [and] get off the island.”

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