Volunteer tourism, gap-year travel, exchange programs, are all emerging as some of the top travel trends among the Millennial group. This trend has come about partly through initiatives by large-scale, well established organisations, where people work towards changing systems or providing support for vulnerable sections of the society.
Today, there are thousands of volunteer organizations with volunteering opportunities worldwide, making this a more than $173 billion dollar industry. Joining the right organizations can make the experience of giving back to the society memorable, where they only charge you for your accommodation and meals, and travellers can simply go ahead and volunteer.
Banking on this growing trend, Go Discover Abroad is attempting to redefine international travel experiences. The first-ever travel company in India that provides gap-year opportunities to people from across the world, GDA lets you travel to faraway lands and contribute towards social change through volunteering and internships, while also exploring hidden gems.
TravHQ spoke to Saurabh Sabharwal, co-founder of Go Discover Abroad, about the prospects of this tourism segment and how the company plans to leverage it.
1. Can you tell us about yourself and how Go Discover Abroad was started?
Passionate about knowing the unknown and having the zeal to explore different parts of the world, I’ve covered more than 50 countries in the last decade. Been an avid traveler all my life, I’ve been researching on how to make holidays more meaningful and full of learning rather than just chilling. Since 2007, I’ve been running Volunteering Solutions, an international volunteer placement organization offering enriching volunteering opportunities to students and backpackers from all across the world.
Of late, I started noticing the change in travel trends and realized that more and more millennials are keen to embark on journeys that are adventurous and fun-filled, as well as meaningful at the same time. Go Discover Abroad was launched a couple of months back – with the aim to sustain responsible tourism as well redefine adventure travels.
We have been quite lucky that international platforms like World for Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation (WYSETC) and Go Abroad have already acknowledged our presence in the global scenario.
2. What exactly is youth tourism, and how are you guys facilitating it through your product?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s the people of the age group ranging between 18 to 30 years, who are more enthusiastic about sensible traveling rather than just another regular vacation doing touristy things. I would say that “youth tourism” is more about engaging young travellers who prefer to go for budget accommodation, meet other like-minded travelers, go for tours with flexible travel schedules and spend a longer time at a particular destination rather than brief holidays.
To state a data, according to UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) forecasts, 2020 will see about 300 million young people traveling in a year, accounting for $320 billion in market value.
Most of the people showing interest to travel with Go Discover Abroad are also in the same age group (mostly students and early graduates from USA, Canada, and West European Countries) showing eagerness to travel to Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, focusing on long-term backpacking journeys. We cater to their needs and mostly try to customize as much as possible, so as to ensure that every person gets to experience something different and exclusive.
3. Who are your key competitors and how big is this market?
In India, there’s not much competition as the concept of targeting youth travellers is quite new and yet to take over. But internationally, there are certain big competitors including Gap 360, Real Gap and more. The market is pretty big, involving about 2 billion pounds.
4. Sustainability is listed as one of your core values. How much interest do you usually get for tours that have an element of responsible tourism?
There’s a pretty huge chunk of youngsters who are keen on responsible tourism. They wish to spend adequate time living close to the local communities of the host country, eager to adapt their way of life, and wanting to contribute towards the underprivileged societies in their own ways.
5. What are some of the key challenges you face in your daily operations, since this involves immense coordination across geographical locations?
To be honest, we as a team never see anything as a challenge. There’s immense coordination among the in-house as well as cross-country team members and the process of booking and hosting travellers isn’t much hassle. However, one thing that often poses a problem is the time difference. For example, while the Tour Manager is in India, a client from Australia might be seeking a confirmation from the country coordinator in Tanzania. This is something that isn’t in our hands, therefore we go slow and let everyone work at their own pace.
6. What are the top three categories of trips that users take with Go Discover Abroad?
While all our tours have got a very good response from travellers worldwide, the top 3 categories would be – Adventure Tours (including trekking, surfing, wildlife safaris etc), Volunteering and Gap Year Trips.
7. What are the top three destinations that users look for when booking a trip with you?
The top 3 destinations are Thailand, Tanzania (and Kenya as well) and South Africa. Of late, Peru has also become a very popular choice.
8. Can you tell us about the kind of traction you are getting and the size of your team?
We’ve launched just about 4 months back, and currently we have 10 people working in our Gurgaon office, as well as the country coordinators in the respective countries.
9. What are the trends you foresee in this tourism segment?
The tastes and preferences of people are changing with time, and in today’s date, when social media has so much influence in one’s life and the cost of traveling (flight fares, etc) has reduced drastically, I believe that more and more people would be keen on travelling to a new land and experience something like never before. I’m hopeful to see Go Discover Abroad flourish manifold in the days ahead.