impact of travelling for EU residents


This paper aims, firstly, at identifying the main dimensions of perceived change induced in young people by a travel experience and, secondly, at understanding which dimensions of the tourism experience have the greatest influence on this change. A survey was designed based on the contemporary literature and validated through a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with experts. Data were collected from a representative sample of 400 young Italian travellers. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) identified two dimensions of perceived personal change. 

The first dimension is linked to cultural knowledge and openness to other cultures, while the second relates to the introspective benefits that allow young travellers to enhance their self-understanding. By using logistic regression models, the influence of sociodemographic variables and the tourism experience on the two change dimensions were identified. This study confirms the potentiality of tourism to promote change in the young traveller. 

Moreover, in answering its first aim, it shows that change is a two-dimensional construct involving personal and interpersonal change. Regarding the second research aim, this study has contributed to a more solid distinction between meaning and motivation to travel. Results moreover show that meaning, motivation and satisfaction are the components of the travel experience that exercise a significant influence on the perceived change. 

Keywords: youth tourism, millennial travel experience, personal and interpersonal change Introduction This paper investigates the impact of youth travel on personal development and focuses on those travellers born between 1980 and 2000, the so-called “millennial” generation (Richards & Wilson, 2003; Glover, 2010). This generation is considered to look at the world through a global lens and to show an attitude of openness to new experiences. Research suggests that millennials are usually confident in themselves, are connected thought social networks, and use these and the internet to plan holidays and trave, are aspirational and promote change (Benckendorff, Moscardo & Pendergast, 2010; Rainer & Rainer, 2011; Ruspini, Gilli & Decataldo, 2013). These characteristics of millennials are often summarised with three Cs: Confident, Connected and (open to) Change. However, research focused on how travelling impacts on these three Cs, and especially on the last of the Cs, is limited. Therefore this article focuses on perceived personal change as a travel benefit. The target group of this study is young Italians aged between 16 and 29 years who travelled independently of their family or an organisation in 2010/2011. The aim of this article is twofold: firstly,

 to identify the main dimensions of perceived change induced in young people by a travel experience; and, secondly, to understand which components of the tourism experience have the greatest influence on this change.

Literature review Specific benefits expected from a tourism experience, such as personal development and change, depend on what the traveller is looking to experience. As briefly pointed out in the introduction, “millennials” are thought to share characteristics that set them apart from other generations (Benckendorff, Moscardo & Pendergast, 2010; Rainer & Rainer, 2011; Ruspini, Gilli & Decataldo, 2013).

 It is therefore relevant to single out this group when researching travel benefits. Although there is some debate on the possibility of investigating behavioural patterns by using generations and thus incurring the risk of downplaying individual differences, it is also acknowledged that focusing on generations is useful from a professional perspective and feasible from an academic viewpoint (Glover, 2010). Focusing on the travel experience of “millennials” is not only interesting because of their shared characteristics, but also because academic literature has dedicated little attention to youth tourism, preferring to focus on workplace expectations and consumer behaviour of the millennial generation (Glover, 2010). Consequently the existing research on youth travel is fragmented (Richards & Wilson, 2004; Staffieri, 2016). 

The lack of interest in youth travel is surprising because youngsters in general and the millennial generation in particular have a significant social and economic impact not only on the present, but also on the future of the tourism industry (Cavagnaro & Staffieri, 2015). Economically the total value of international youth travel was estimated at US$190 billion in 2009 (Richards, 2011). The same study found that on a major trip young people spend on average of US$2 600, which is almost three times more than an average tourist. 

From a sociocultural perspective, it has moreover been observed that young people are an innovative force and that their choices may lead to new approaches to tourism by the wider society (Martinengo &

 Savoja, 1993; Fermani, Crocetti, & Carradori, 2011). Therefore new developments in tourism behaviour can be anticipated by describing young people’s present behaviour (Leask, Fyall & Barron, 2013; Cavagnaro & Staffieri, 2015). The economic and sociocultural impact of the young tourist segment underlies the importance of investigating this target group and identifying the benefits they receive from a travel experience. Research on (youth) tourism identifies several benefits derived from travelling (Chen & Petrick, 2013; Durko & Petrick, 2013; Petrick & Huether, 2013; Chen, Petrick & Shahvali, 2016). Primarily, travelling is seen as an important step in the training and knowledge development of young people. It is an opportunity for cultural exchange and socialisation, which has the potential to make young people more open-minded (Leed, 1991; Gemini, 2008). As the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation (WTO & WYSETC) noted: “The majority of young travellers feel that they have broadened their horizons and become more open-minded, flexible, confident and tolerant as a result of their travel experience” (WTO & WYSETC, 2008, p. xii).

In addition to broadening his/her horizons, the young traveller develops his/her communication skills, both within the group of travelling friends and with the people he/she meets at the destination (Mattioli, 1998). Furthermore, the tourism experience meets the young people’s need to expand the boundaries of everyday reality (Buzzi, Cavalli & De Lillo, 2007) and encourages the deepening of core values such as respect and trust towards others (Leed, 1991; Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006; Smed, 2009). As several authors have noted, the relationship with other young people enriches the relationship with the self, giving rise to the construction of the traveller’s identity (Leed, 1991; Martinengo & Savoya, 1993; Gemini, 2008; WTO & WYSETC, 2008; Stone & Petrick, 2013). For these reasons, travel is considered a radical experience of the individual traveller (Buzzi, Cavalli & De Lillo, 2007; Moisă, 2010). Independence is a key concept here: travelling gives young people the opportunity to experience independence and this, in some cases, leads to the further development of traits of his/her personality. Parallel to the development of the young travellers’ independence, the journey promotes knowledge of the self, of others and of the cultures with which the traveller comes into contact, (Leask, Fyall & Barron, 2013; Ruspini, 2013).

In sum, the literature suggests that the benefits that young people derive from travel range from cultural exchange, socialisation and developing an open mind to deepening core values, (re)-constructing their own identity and experiencing personal change. This range may be reduced to a dichotomy between forces pushing toward the other and forces pushing toward the self (Leed, 1991). In other words, benefits individuated by the literature such as cultural exchange, socialisation and developing an open mind are a result of forces pushing towards the other, leading to change in the relationship between the self and the other; while deepening core values and personality development are connected with the forces pushing towards the self and leading to interpersonal change. Interestingly, no reference is made in the literature to changes in the way a traveller perceives his/her relationship with the natural environment. In this light, it can be concluded, in order to investigate benefits that young people derive from a travel experience, it is essential to explore the transformation  and change of the traveller’s identity in regard to themselves and in regard to others (Leed, 1991). However, research that examines the perceived value and benefits of tourist behaviour focuses mostly on satisfaction and loyalty (Prebensen, Woo & Uysal, 2013; Cohen, Prayag & Moital, 2014), leaving practically unexplored the dimension of change. This study wishes to close this gap by assessing whether youngsters perceive both intrapersonal and interpersonal change after a travel experience. It should be considered, though, that the value that tourists derive from being in a location for an extended period of time is more than a trade-off between quality and price, and includes social, emotional and epistemic benefits (Prebensen, Woo & Uysal, 2014). As such, benefits, including perceived change through travel, reside more in the experience than in the object of consumption, and should be researched in relation to the different phases of a travel experience. Therefore, the present research investigates change as a travel benefit in relation not only to the main sociodemographic variables, but also to the main phases of the travel experience (Prebensen, Woo & Uysal, 2013; Staffieri, 2016), i.e. the need recognition (including meaning given to and motivation for travelling), the experience itself (here condensed in the destination choice) and the post-experience evaluation (satisfaction).

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