Millennials Travel Because They Can't Afford Houses, Experts Say

These days, taking a gap year (or several) to backpack around Europe, Southeast Asia or South America is pretty much a rite of passage for young adults. You're rarely surprised to hear that someone's jetted off to Australia and if you're living vicariously through these keen travelers' Instagram pages, you feel like you've visited the same spots in Peru or Vietnam countless times.

So what's going on? Rich parents? Those selfish, irresponsible millennials you've heard so much about burning cash?

Nope. According to tourism industry experts, the trend has sprouted from the simple fact that millennials feel they'll never be able to save up enough to put down roots – so why bother trying?

The Motorcycle Diaries, 2004 (Photo: FilmFour / BD Cine)

Faced with soaring rent prices, gentrification of once cheaper areas, inflation in the property market and the very real chance of being turned away for a bank loan, young people are thinking twice.

Add to that the doom of thousands of pounds in student loan debt and it's no wonder the prospect of buying houses has lost its appeal. Because, after all, what good is it to save up your whole life if you can't even buy the home you'd like to buy? 

Instead, millennials are opting to invest in something they know will also bring them a lot of joy right now: traveling. 

Living in the present

Donna Jeavons, marketing and sales director at Contiki, an 18-35 specialist travel agency that has seen a 10% rise in spending this year alone, explained to The Independent:

"I think the urgency for buying a house is no longer there. The cost of buying – in particular the deposit – can make it prohibitively expensive for many young people at this stage in their lives, so saving can feel like a fairly futile exercise. 

As such, they're choosing to "live in the moment," rather than slog away and save up for something that might never happen. Too poor to buy but rich enough to travel, they're investing more in life experiences rather than stable financial futures.

As a result, the 18-35 tourism sector is having a major moment with many now willing to put more money into quality travel experiences than ever before. Of course, the industry is lapping it up with companies like Air France and even Virgin now catering to the younger market. 

But while travel has become something of a "necessity," for director of tour operator G Adventures Brian Young, this doesn't mean that young people have given up hope of settling down – they're just doing it later. As he explains, while they're not willing to put money aside at the expense of traveling, "they are setting aside budgets, and making it part of their life."

What's more, travel has become much more affordable than before, opening up "destinations which were never previously accessible," according to Jeavons. 

Young people are more encouraged than ever to travel before, during and after their studies, providing them with more experience and generally making them more open-minded and more appealing to the job market when they do finally start to lay roots.

In this way, travel is seen as less of an indulgence and more of a long-term investment. And that's surely got to be better than scrimping and saving to settle down in a house you may end up resenting...