Travel advisors are making a big comeback, especially with younger travelers. We talked to the pros at STA Travel for their insights into today’s transformative experiences.
Berlin Travel Festival
The STA Travel experience is aimed at younger travelers – often at an age where looking to have an adventure before settling into working life. These are the “trips of a lifetime.” While STA Travel multi-city flights are well known – allowing travelers to make their way across the globe, hopping from one awe-inspiring city to the next – they also offer alternative destinations and volunteer opportunities around the world. Or, if a more DIY experience is called for, it’s possible to rent campervans in countries near and far. We talked to Marlene from the shop in Berlin Mitte, one of five STA Travel shops in Berlin, to find out how STA Travel crafts adventures for a new generation of travelers.
Photo: STA Travel
Your travel offerings go far beyond the traditional week at the beach – today’s travelers are looking to learn, grow, push themselves, and gain new perspectives – what goes into creating a transformational travel experience?
For us, there are two main things: Many, many questions and our personal travel expertise. On average each of our staff has visited about twenty-five countries, spent four months straight on the road, a quarter of our employees have booked an Round-the-World ticket, and every tenth has been on the Inca Trail.
Now, as you say, travel experiences are getting more individualised every year. Therefore, it is essential for us to find out as much as we can about our travelers. Once we know what kind of journey they are looking for, what their preferred destinations and regions of the world are, what exactly they are expecting from their trips and what their budget is, we can consult them on a very personal level and create a tailor-made trip for them.
STA Travel was founded in 1979, almost 40 years ago – do you know what some of those early trips were?
We were founded by two Australian students who had just returned from their travels, slightly jet-lagged but on the biggest high of their lives. Inspired by the planet, the people they met and the places they saw, they set out on a mission to bring affordable flights and worldly adventures to other students, young people, and explorers.
So even in the very early days, it was all about creating unforgettable travel experiences that are both unique though adventurous experiences and encounters with locals but at the same time affordable for young people.
What kinds of experiences are young travelers looking for in 2019 and beyond?
You already described it: At the moment it’s all about journeys that allow young travelers to grow and gain new perspectives. Our travelers still book “classics” such as Work & Travel in Australia, but at the same time, they like to go off the beaten track and, for example, go to Japan for a language exchange. Volunteering is a big topic as well – more and more young people want to use their holidays to give something back and support local communities.
How do you encourage young travelers to get involved in local culture?
Actually, we don’t really have to encourage them! If they book Work & Travel, for example, they live and work in their chosen country for a while – and automatically soak in the local culture. We also offer a wide range of tours, language holidays, or volunteering projects with homestays or community work.
How do your travelers book – online, in person in your store, or a combination of both?
You might be surprised, but many of our young customers actually book in person. We do notice that they have already done a lot of research online but they are grateful for the advice of well-traveled insiders and professional help.
It must be said though, that once the booking is completed, the consultation goes back to the web. We usually do not print any travel documents – this is all done via email, as well as trip support.
What is one of the most overlooked destinations in the world?
Ethiopia. A few of our staff have been there and came back absolutely enchanted. Churches built into rocks, green mountains, bubbling volcanoes at the hottest place on earth – the Danakil Depression – and the best coffee in the world!
Back to Berlin, what are your favorite three places? Sights, stores, restaurants, clubs – anything!