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Gap Year IDEAS

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Studies into gap years

MINTEL Report July 2008 – Adult Gap Years

UK school leavers and university graduates, taking a gap year before embarking on their next stage of education or work is a widely promoted option. Long viewed as an indulgence of middle-class children supported by their parents’ financial resources, taking a gap year has moved into the mainstream, having earned the popular designation of a ‘rite of passage’. Now promoted by schools, travel suppliers and governments, youth gap years are an important economic activity and expanding travel product segment, especially in the UK.From the popularity and success of this segment, the concept of adult gap years has emerged. With the UK as its most developed source market, demand for adult gap travel is spreading. Although youth gap travel is well defined, the parameters and market activity of adult gap travel market are just emerging.Adult gap travel includes distinctive characteristics that make this a promising travel segment for consumers and operators alike. Yet, beyond recognition that adult gap travel exists and is ‘hot’, there is little agreement as to its scope and future dynamics. The diversity of who takes an adult gap, where they go and what they do makes this a challenging – and exciting – consumer activity to define, measure and monitor.This report analyses activity in the market, navigating overlapping activities and bringing clarity to fuzzy trends. It provides insight into the developed UK market and activity in emerging ones such as the US, Australia and Canada. Consumer activity, key market dynamics and future prospects are investigated.
Key report topics:
Is adult gap year travel a distinct segment or simply a variation of youth gap year travel?
What product life cycle will the adult gap year segment follow?
Will it shadow the youth gap year segment?
Who are adult gap travellers and what motivates them?
How can existing and new suppliers tap into this market?
What new products and services are catering to the adult gap year segment?


Volunteer tourism: A global analysis

Tourism Research and Marketing
83 pp
January 2008, ISBN: 978-90-75775-34-1 
Main Description
This report provides a first global overview of the rapidly growing volunteer tourism market, and analyses the motivations, behaviour and travel patterns of volunteers and the activities of the organisations providing volunteer travel experiences.  Part of the recent growth in volunteer travel can be related to the diversification of volunteer experiences, which make a definition of this market more difficult. Although most volunteer tourism involves a combination of travel and voluntary work, new forms of experience are emerging which involve a combination of work and leisure, or making donations instead of working. 
This increasing demand for volunteer experiences is being met by a growing number of volunteer service organisations, most of whom have their headquarters in the developed world. Over half of the organisations we identified are non-profit, but the number of commercial providers is rising rapidly. Their activities have a considerable impact on the countries served, not only in terms of the fees paid directly to them by participants, but also because the volunteer travellers spend much larger sums of money funding their total travel plans - an average of over $3000 a trip in 2007. 
Based on our survey of over 300 volunteer tourism organisations worldwide, we estimate that overall the market has grown to a total of 1.6 million volunteer tourists a year, with a value of between £832m and £1.3bn ($1.7bn - $2.6bn). The most substantial growth in the sector has taken place since 1990.  A survey of over 8500 young travellers in 2007 indicates that volunteers are more likely to be women than men, and 70% were aged between 20 and 25. The frequency of volunteer motivations among young people grew slightly between 2002 and 2007, in line with trends in volunteering in general. Motivations for travel tend to be a mixture of volunteering, exploring other cultures and work and study abroad. There also seems to be a significant element of ‘unorganised’ volunteer tourism, with many young people finding volunteer placements once they arrive at their destination rather than being placed or sent by a volunteer service organization.
The main destinations for volunteers are Latin America, Asia and Africa. Together these regions account for almost 90% of the locations offered by volunteer service organisations. This underlines the close link between levels of development and volunteering, with most flows of volunteers being from relatively rich to relatively poor regions.  National Tourist Offices have slowly begun to realise that there is a ‘high spending’ tourist market that is attracted to volunteering, and they are beginning to introduce volunteering opportunities on their websites. There has also been a significant growth in the number of commercial organisations catering to the volunteer market, and these are beginning to compete with the traditional non-profit volunteer service organisations.
There are also emerging ethical concerns about the benefits of volunteer travel, with some groups suggesting that it can do more harm than good. This especially concerns the way in which the volunteer work can be misdirected and organised more for the benefit of the untrained traveller than the recipients of their efforts.   One of the proposed solutions to this problem is to recruit more experienced and highly skilled volunteers who will have more to offer their hosts. This trend matches the growth in career gaps and sabbaticals among older volunteers, which is slowly giving the volunteer tourism market a more senior age profile.  The growth in volunteer tourism has also produced a plethora of analyses, websites and industry events, which are slowly adding to our body of knowledge about this important social phenomenon.
2.1. What is meant by 'volunteer'?
2.2. Defining and measuring civic service
2.3. Types of Volunteer Projects
2.4. Profit or non-profit
2.5. Fund raising
2.6. Costs
2.7. Government funding of projects
4.1. Volunteer Motivation and Commitment
5.1. Impact of volunteer tourism on local people
6.1. Estimated volume of volunteer activity
6.2. Estimated market value
6.3. Charitable contributions
6.4. Government and government agency involvement
7.1. Volunteer markets
7.2. Volunteer destinations
7.3. Volunteer Tourism - a global demand profile
7.4. Volunteer tourism and Tourism Boards
7.5 . Responding to crises
8.1. Getting information
8.2. Voluntary Service supporting organisations
8.3. Volunteer Tourism Research

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), June 2007:

According to a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (June 2007), 88% of recruiters think a well-structured gap year helps equip you with the soft skills you may not have acquired while studying. Vice chairman Terence Perrin says: "Overall, gap years are viewed very positively. Communication skills, leadership, organisation and motivation are all important. "One thing that impresses employers is that graduates come back more mature and with more insight into themselves and the world. I think recruiters recognise that after a year's travel there's a lot more to bring to the table. They have left the security of their home looking for a new challenge and for that you need independence, motivation and confidence."

'BSI 23 April 2007, Press Release. Safer adventure holidays and field trips for British abroad.'

Whether exploring the Amazon, attempting to scale Mount Everest or taking part in a gap year in Africa, a new British Standard has been launched today at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in response to increased calls to make overseas adventure activities safer. The British Standards Institution (BSI) has published BS 8848: A Specification for adventurous activities, expeditions, visits and fieldwork outside the UK. The new BSI standard has been developed for adventurous activities abroad with the aim of reducing the risk of injury or illness. It specifies requirements that have to be met by an organiser of adventurous trips conforming to good practice. It is aimed at expedition organisers, universities and other organisers of field trips, gap year travel companies and providers of adventurous holidays.
See for more details.  

'Workers ditch commuting for globetrotting', Direct Line research, Feb 2007.

Millions of British workers are set to trade in their parking permit for a passport as they plan to take sabbaticals from work. Nearly 5.5 million employees* are currently contemplating their escape from the workplace, according to new research from Direct Line Travel Insurance. And they're set to join the ranks of the three million workers ** who have already temporarily climbed off the career ladder over the past five years.

Attracted by the benefits of working for firms that offer their staff time out, one in four employees (26 per cent) work for a company where sabbaticals are a staff perk. The government, public sector, finance and insurance industries are leading the way (40 per cent of employees working in these sectors are able to take sabbaticals) followed by IT and telecomms (36 per cent) and medicine/health service (25 per cent).

Employees offered sabbaticals by sector:

= 1. Government/ Public Sector (40 per cent)
= 1. Finance/ Insurance (40 per cent)
3. IT/ Telecommunications (36 per cent)
National average (26 per cent)
4. Medicine/ Health Services (25 per cent)
5. Education (24 per cent)
= 6. Travel/ Transport (22 per cent)
= 6. Construction (22 per cent)
8. Retail (14 per cent)

According to the Direct Line Travel Insurance research, wanderlust is the main reason why people are packing their bags - 43 per cent having always wanted to go travelling. However, one in three workers planning a sabbatical say they are looking to take a break from the rat race (30 per cent) and one in four claim to be suffering from burn out (23 per cent). Sabbaticals also appear to make sense for businesses, helping with recruitment and retention. One in four employees (24 per cent) said they would be more likely to work for a firm that offered sabbaticals, with one in three (33 per cent) saying they would be more likely to remain with a firm long-term if they knew they could take a career break. Despite this, not all firms are in favour of sabbaticals. More than one in 10 workers who have taken a sabbatical said that their employer was not supportive, with two thirds (64 per cent) of these revealing their boss had tried to prevent them from leaving. One in three quit their job completely for the freedom of travelling.

Chris Price, Business Manager at Direct Line Travel Insurance comments: 'Taking an extended break from work used to be the preserve of a privileged few, but now more and more people are taking time out from their careers to travel. It seems that firms are recognising this desire and are offering sabbaticals as a way of recruiting and retaining the best staff.'

For further information please contact:
Carmel McCarthy / Direct Line Press Office
0208 256 2178 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to Editors:

Research was carried out online between 30 January and 1 February 2007 by YouGov Plc, who questioned a sample of 2,407 adults in Britain. Results are weighted to be representative of the GB population. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.

Notes to Editors:

* There are 44.2 million adults in Britain (Office for National Statistics). Sixty nine per cent of adults are in employment of whom 18 per cent are planning a sabbatical (YouGov). Therefore:
44,200,000 x 0.69 x 0.18 = 5,489,640

** There are 44.2 million adults in Britain (Office for National Statistics). Sixty nine per cent of adults are in employment of whom 10 per cent have taken a sabbatical (YouGov). Therefore:
44,200,000 x 0.69 x 0.1 = 3,094,800

'YouGov poll, reported in The Evening Standard 9 November 2006

School leavers should take seriously a new poll that shows that a university degree is no longer enough to get you the job you want. A gap year, however, may help. The YouGov poll, commissioned by volunteering organisation GVI, shows that though 58 per cent of managers agreed that "no degree adequately prepares a person for the world of work", 64 per cent said gap years would help prepare people to develop crucial work skills before they enter into their career.

'Milkround research on 3 July 2006 on Gap Years' (Extract)

Taking a gap year is a perennially popular option in this country, with an estimated 200,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25 taking time out to volunteer, travel or work each year - and getting involved in activities ranging from hiking Inca trails to volunteering in orphanages.
With a large number of our subscribers choosing to go on gap years, we decided to carry out a survey to ask them about their plans, and what they hoped to get out of it. We also surveyed candidates who had already been on gap years to ask them what the benefits had been for them; and asked candidates who were not going on a gap year, what the reason for their decision was.
As one would expect, we found enormous variety in terms of activities on gap years (although tending to fall into one of the categories of paid work, volunteering and travelling), and in terms of destinations (ranging from the UK to locations all over the world), and in the reasons why students and graduates chose to go on gap years, and the benefits which candidates felt they had gained from doing so.
Respondents were nearly unanimous however in citing their gap year as beneficial to their careers and to their personal development, and in hoping to gain professional and personal skills (or declaring that they had done, if they had been on a gap year in the past).
378 students and graduates answered the poll. In the first part of this report we cover the different activities and destinations of gappers; while in the second we look at the reasons for going and the benefits gained from gap year activities.
See for more details.

'Gap Year Travel', report from Mintel, July 2005 -

'Denture Venturers' and 'Career Gappers':
A new age for gap year travel
Latest research from MINTEL's Travel and Tourism Analyst shows that older 'Career Gappers' and 'Denture Venturers' are giving students a run for their money in the multi-billion pound global gap year market. Having only really taken off in the early 1990s, the global gap year market is now worth a substantial £5 billion, accounting for between 1 and 1.5 million trips a year. What is more, by 2010, an estimated 2 million gap year trips will be made by travellers from around the world, with total expenditure more than doubling to a staggering £11 billion. "The growing popularity of gap year travel is showing no signs of abating. But MINTEL believes that it will be the increasing number of older adults such as 'Career Gappers', taking a break from work or 'Denture Venturers' going on pre-retirement travels, who will in fact boost the market in the future," comments Jessica Rawlinson, Publishing Manager, International Travel and Tourism at MINTEL.
"Here at we have seen a similar shift in the age of gap year travellers. Changing work patterns, from life-long to more 'portfolio' careers, has enabled a wider number of people to take career breaks between jobs. Employers today are also undoubtedly becoming increasingly aware of the value of longer periods of international travel. As a result, many 25 - 35 year olds are temporarily opting out of working life before they settle into another job, buy a house or perhaps even start a family. In addition, rising numbers of older people in the population of developed countries, together with the increased health and wealth of this age group, has helped to spawn pre-retirement gap travellers. Indeed an ever increasing number of 50 - 55 year olds are 'ski-ing' - spending the kids inheritance - and becoming so-called 'Denture Venturers'," comments Tom Griffiths, founder of
British gappers show the world the way:
Remarkably, UK gappers account for half of all expenditure within this booming sector. Today, the British gap year travel market comprises approximately 1% of all UK outbound trips and around 10% of outbound travel expenditure. In total, the UK market for 18-24-year-old travellers is estimated to be around 200,000. But this market is set to grow; with more young people being involved in tertiary education and increasing numbers of students each year opting to take a year out. Amazingly however, there are now almost as many British pre-retirement gappers as pre-university gappers.
Gap year travel: A £5000 spending spree:
Whilst gap travellers do not spend huge amounts on a day to day basis, the long duration of their trips means that total expenditure is usually well above the average for overseas travel. Today, the average gap year traveller spends around £4,800, but the most extravagant group is the 'Career Gappers', as they can shell out almost double this (£9,000) on their gap year. "As 'Career Gappers' have already spent several years working, they usually have greater disposable income to raise the funds for volunteering, courses or expeditions than pre-university gappers. What is more, as volunteers, they bring more experience than students who are travelling immediately after they leave school. And while they often do not yet have too many financial and personal responsibilities, they can afford to spend more than pre-retirement gappers," explains Jessica Rawlinson. On a positive note, the money spent on these travels is invaluable for local economies. Gap travellers tend to stay in locally-run accommodation and buy locally-produced goods and so a greater percentage of each pound, dollar, or whatever currency spent remains in the country visited.

Please note that all information contained in this website article is
owned exclusively by Mintel and governed by Mintel's terms and
conditions. Use of any information for any published or electronic
media, in whole or in part, is prohibited without the express written or
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Should you have any questions regarding the uses of these materials or
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report, please contact the Emily Measor on 0207 606 6000. 

The Russell Commission, March 2005.

With sound recommendations on international volunteering in gap years, including:
    * The need to show a clear link to UK volunteering
    * The requirement to be responsive directly to real community needs
    * To be accessible to all

The 'Review of Gap Year Provision' report, published 29 July 2004.
Commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) on gap years, it was carried out by Dr Andrew Jones from Birkbeck College, University of London. The main issues addressed were:
    * defining what a gap year is
    * national levels of participation
    * the benefits and disadvantages of undertaking different kinds of activities on a gap year
    * a survey of the organisations that provide gap year opportunities
    * existing standards and approaches to quality assurance in gap year provision.

IDS HR Studies Update 776, June 2004.
Career breaks and sabbaticals - gap years.
'Looks at the growing demand from employees for career breaks.
Shows how employers consider these requests.
Discusses the impact on pensions and other employee benefits.
Looks at arrangements for staying in touch with employees on career breaks.
Describes the typical terms on which they eventually return to their job.
Includes details of sabbatical and career break schemes in 19 organisations.
Many employees now want the flexibility to take an extended period away from work to travel abroad, study, look after children or older relatives, or simply to recharge their batteries. Employers are increasingly accommodating such requests by offering career breaks or sabbaticals.
Career break schemes give employers the discretion to retain valued employees who want to take a significant amount of time, perhaps years, away from work to focus on these other aspects of their lives. Employees are not paid during this time, but have the right to return to work or at least to apply for re-engagement on favourable terms.
Sabbaticals are much rarer and are normally offered for shorter periods, typically up to three months, as a reward for continuous service with the employer. Employees can choose what to do with the time, and there tend to be very few restrictions. Individuals remain employed, sometimes on full pay, and return automatically to their job at the end of the sabbatical.
This in-depth article is the lead feature article in the June 2004 IDS HR Studies Update.'
IDS Customer Services on 020 7324 2599 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. can provide further information.

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