Youth market, STA Travel: both on a growth curve

Youth market, STA Travel: both on a growth curve

STA Travel plans to open at least two more stores in New Zealand this year and the footprint will grow further in 2019 and beyond.

Country manager Sarah Bedford says the company (started in 1979) currently has 17 retail outlets around New Zealand (over half in mall locations) and is benefiting by concentrating on its core markets – ‘students, young people and the young at heart’.

This comes at a time when the 18 to 35 age group showed a 14% increase in travel out of New Zealand (year ended November 2017) driven, like other sectors, by competitive airfares and general affordability.

‘We continue to target the 18 to 35s, but our customer base is broader now because we are in malls. We still speak to that audience and our tone of voice is younger and cheekier – so sometimes older people come in (to an STA Travel shop) because they identify with the brand.’

Bedford says STA still sells a lot of one-way tickets to London (‘do you want some exciting stopovers with that?’) and has clients seeking the traditional Kiwi ‘OE’ experience. However, there is definitely growth in the shorter trips and organised tours as young people put their careers first.

‘UK – Europe is still our number one focus but people are also getting off the beaten track and there are new destinations showing strong growth.’

She says youth travel to Japan has exploded – up 66% January to November 2017 when compared with the year before.

‘Everyone is talking about Japan and though the cost can still be an issue the cheaper flights help.

‘The Philippines are up 50% for 18 to 35s – it is a smaller base, but it is showing growth because of the new direct flights.’

Canada is another destination making great strides with youth, Bedford adds. ‘We sell quite a few working holiday programmes and the Work Canada programme is extremely popular. We have even had some of our own staff go to Canada to work.’