'I'm not really a big drinker' - Post-Leaving Cert breaks that go beyond sun, sea and sangria
As the party winds down on Club 18-30 holidays, Kathy Donaghy looks at new journeys of discovery
With travel giant Thomas Cook signing the death warrant for the notorious Club 18-30 booze-fuelled break, travel experts predict that while young people will still seek out sun, sea and sangria, more are yearning for a different travel experience.
For years, thousands of students have been bolting for party towns like Ibiza and Santa Ponsa in Majorca as soon as the Leaving Cert finishes, but research shows that young people are tapping into a desire for a more fulfilling trip away.
Eoghan Corry, editor at travelextra.ie, says the buzz word in the travel industry at the moment is 'experiential' with operators realising that young people want more experiences on holiday than just boozing.
While Corry says the pubs of Santa Ponza won't be closing anytime soon, what is happening is a growth in the number of operators offering fun action experiences for tourists.
"If you go to any of the big resorts famous for the sun, sand and sex holidays, the number of people offering white water rafting and canoeing is growing. Where you used to have just one operator offering these, now it's five," he says.
'Immersion' is the other big word in the holiday world and Corry explains that while it's always been there, now it's trendy to talk about it. "This is people immersing themselves in the local culture. Instead of going to the Irish bar, people go to the local pub," he says.
He says that in the 1980s and 90s the package holiday like those provided by Club 18-30 offered something innovate and exciting.
"When things became more sophisticated it wasn't seen as counter-cultural at all. Organised groups of young people have become a bit more sophisticated. While booze hasn't gone out of fashion, activities have become much more important in their own lives," says Corry.
Barbara Byrne, a mum of two from Newbridge, Co Kildare, is counting down the days until June 29 when she and her daughter Aisling (18) head off to walk parts of the famous Camino de Santiago.
Barbara, a Slimming World consultant and avid walker who has previously walked parts of the historic route, says she can't wait to complete it with her daughter when she finishes her Leaving Cert.
"I'd love to introduce her to the Camino. She'd come walking with me sometimes and she's asked me what the Camino is all about. It's really about time on your own and time to think. All you have to focus on is getting on the road and getting to your destination. Aisling is well up for it," says Barbara.
Aisling explains that the idea of a beach holiday is not really up her street.
"I wouldn't like going to the beach. When we're away we don't like to just sit down and pass the day. I'm not really a big drinker either," she says.
"None of my friends are going away after the Leaving Cert. Most of them have part-time summer jobs at home and are hoping to go to college afterwards. I'm looking forward to being finished the exams and being able to just relax after the stress of the Leaving Cert."
Seventeen-year-old Ciara Pagden from Galway spent an amazing two months in Zimbabwe - the home place of her father - in transition year, working in a primary school for three weeks. The opportunity left her hungry for similar experiences.
A student at Colaiste na Coiribe in Galway, Ciara is going into her Leaving Cert year in September and says travel combined with volunteering is definitely something she'd like to do more of.
"The school I worked in was outside a town in the middle of nowhere. It was unbelievable. I was in tears for the first week of being there. It was so shocking. The children had nothing and it was all overwhelming. I also spent some time in an animal sanctuary where there were lions, turtles and birds," she says.
"I would definitely do it again. I'm not looking to go off and do this big, crazy sun holiday," says Ciara, adding that getting to know different cultures is much more interesting to her.
"Many people go to music festivals in Spain or Budapest now. I was talking to my friend this morning and she's just finished her first year of college. This year she's going with another friend on a city break. They're going sight-seeing and then to a music festival. There are still people going on the sun holidays but there's definitely a trend towards more sight-seeing.
"I'd love to do the exact same thing I did in transition year again and volunteer in a school. This summer I'm going back to Zimbabwe with my parents but it's more of a holiday. I have been in touch with the school where I worked and I'm going to go back to visit and bring some supplies. It's definitely made me more aware of everything we have and how lucky we are," she says.
Thomas Cook's decision to phase out the boozy beach holiday feeds into a growing body of studies that indicate young people are seeking out more than sun, sand and sangria.
Research carried out by The Youth Lab, the strategy and marketing division of youth marketing agency Thinkhouse, took a look at what young people are thinking, feeling and doing today, 10 years on from the big financial crash of 2008. Head of The Youth Lab Claire Hyland says success for a generation of 16 to 35-year-olds today has been recalibrated and travel experiences play a major role in providing fulfilment and purpose.
"A lot of the traditional markers of success, like buying a home or having a family - these are now being pushed out or delayed or they're not happening at all. Some 79pc said it was important to them to travel and meet people and 86pc said it was important to spend time with their friends."
She adds: "We live in a hugely connected world and young people are aware of all these incredible places to go and visit.
"They know how to use social media to make the most informed decisions and to book flights. They will go on to social media platforms to get advice because they want to have the best experience they can. With mapping and geo-specific technology they can see what's going on at a music festival or in a city on their phone," says Claire.
She explains that the evolving workplace with more casualisation and uncertainty means that young people are not following a rigid nine to five schedule, which facilitates more frequent travel in their lives.
Such trips can also bring young people opportunities to earn competitive currency as they can use travel to volunteer and engage in projects overseas which can bolster their CVs.
"It's all connected to their personal identity," says Claire. "There's also a desire to reconnect with nature and to go off the beaten track to places where your average person wouldn't be able to go."