An Insider’s Guide to Travel: A Guide for Travel Agencies

An insider’s guide to travel #1

Amy, from our Ideas & Imagination team, is spending most of her Summer travelling and will be sharing regular insight along the way in her insider’s guide to travel. This week Amy started her trip in Java, although the travel agent advised otherwise…


Sitting across from Tony, it would have been all too easy under his expert guidance to change our travel plans to a ‘more backpacker friendly route’. The subject of travel often brings about a relentless onslaught of advice and guidance with everyone having an opinion on the best places to see and how to maximise your trip. While much of this is often useful and can lead to breath-taking experiences, it is important to take advice for what it is, a suggestion rather than a mandate. As young people, students are often pigeonholed as a segment of society that fit into one type of travel consumer, the partying backpacker with an innate need to brag on social media about finding themselves halfway across the globe.

This condescending view of students is reflected in our interactions with organisations that claim to cater exclusively for the student market. Student travel agencies seem to focus a lot on communal partying rather than listening to what students want: a dynamic mix. While we do want to experience things like the full moon party in Koh Phangan, we also want to see the culture and heritage of the countries we visit.

Travelling is such a subjective experience, and these agencies miss a large opportunity by branding all students as alcohol-fuelled hedonists in search of self-discovery. Take Tony for example; who despite us telling him several times that we wanted to go to Java first to experience the real Indonesia, kept looking at return flights to and from Bali. Tony’s reasoning was that Java does not cater for our needs as stereotypical university backpackers, yet he refused to listen to our individual needs as a travel group.

We ignored him, having done our research, and booked to fly to Java anyway. And I’m so glad we did. He was right – there was not a huge party scene, but he was wrong in so many other ways because what we experienced was far better than any stereotypical student night out and fitted our needs far better. We hiked 35km, travelled on a bus for 20 hours and had four hours sleep as we climbed two volcanoes in two days. We saw sunrises that looked like stock images, over temples such as Prambanan, before watching traditional Indonesian ballet. We experienced an incredible amount of authentic Indonesian food as locals we befriended cooked and showed us their favourite Indonesian dishes.

In hindsight, Tony was right – it wasn’t the stereotypical party scene. I’d argue it was far better, as we spent our nights dancing with locals in a reggae bar that they’d started from nothing. As our new friends picked up their instruments and sang, we were ushered to the dance floor by their friends as they showed us how Indonesians celebrate. This week has been incredible, and it saddens me that we nearly didn’t go on the say-so of a student travel agent.

Yes, most students want to go out and drink but it’s not all we care for. Understanding the student travel market means asking the right questions, and valuing us as customers.