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Studies into gap years


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



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

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.  

'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
verbal permission of Mintel's PR team.
Should you have any questions regarding the uses of these materials or
related copyright issues, or you would like to purchase the whole
report, please contact the Emily Measor on 0207 606 6000. 


20 November 2007, Alliance & Leicester research


Over 50s aim to travel more than ever before over the next 5-10 years
Appetite for travel and adventure tops their priorities.  Today’s over 50s generation could become some of the nation’s biggest globetrotters, with nearly 11 million people aged 50+ planning on travelling more regularly over the next five to ten years, according to new research1 from Alliance & Leicester. 
The research, which identified the goals and ambitions of the UK’s 50 plus generation, shows that travel is at the top of their agendas, with over half (54%) wanting to travel more regularly and to long-haul destinations and a further fifth (22%) wanting to go on a once in a lifetime holiday in the next decade. In fact, travel even takes priority over spending more time with friends and family (48%), getting fit (37%), and finding a healthier way of life (31%).  
Over 2 million (11%) of those aged 50 and over plan on travelling on their own, whilst a more conventional bunch plan on seeing the sites of the world with their partner (77%) or with friends (26%).  Australia and New Zealand are top of the list of travel hotspots, with over a quarter (26%) wanting to visit down under, followed by countries in Europe (21%) and the USA (9%). And whilst some plan on seeing more of the homeland (8%), people in their 50s and over also want to venture to places as far afield as China, Africa, Russia and the Antarctic.
Alongside the appetite to travel, this young-at-heart generation have also set their sights on adventure and experiences, with off-roading (9%), flying a helicopter (10%), scuba diving (7%) and going to music festivals (7%) as activities they would like to tick off their lists in the future.
Commenting on the research findings, Emma Walkley, Current Account Manager for Alliance & Leicester’s Premier 50 account said:  “The desire of the over 50s to see more of the world is clear – this is not an age group that plans to sit back and enjoy a slower pace of life.  Quite the opposite in fact, with long haul destinations and a thirst for adventure firmly on the agenda.
“But whether you are travelling locally or further a field, having adequate protection is essential, and unfortunately for people in this age group, this can come at an increased cost. Recognising that this is an issue, we have recently launched the Premier 50 current account, exclusively for the over 50s, providing annual worldwide travel insurance.  Cover is provided up to the age of 79, giving customers the freedom and peace of mind to travel wherever and whenever they choose.  In addition to the worldwide travel insurance, Premier 50 offers a market-leading credit interest rate and a package of other benefits.”
- ENDS -
For further information, please contact:
Alliance & Leicester Press Office 0116 200 3355
Steve Gracey, Press Office 0116 200 3366
Notes to Editor:
1 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,484 adults aged 50+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th September - 1st October 2007.  The survey was carried out online. The figures are unweighted. 


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