Budget Backpackers: Economic and Social Impacts

May 23, 2016

Dr Tara Duncan from the University of Otago’s Department of Tourism wove together research and industry information to give a rich picture of the multifaceted nature of the budget backpacker and their value to our economy and communities.

“Backpackers are frequently also working holiday makers, visiting friends and relatives, and potential longer term employees. They contribute in many ways to local economies and communities as they travel, study, work and volunteer”, said Dr Duncan. “Recognising that backpackers are often more than travellers is essential, especially for destinations such as Queenstown”, she said.

We often think of backpackers as seeking budget accommodation, focused on meeting people, taking longer holidays and choosing informal and participatory activities on an independent and flexible schedule.

In reality, a backpacker may also be a working holiday maker, seasonal worker, WWOOFer, flashpacker, student or tourist staying in a big hotel. For example, Dr Duncan talked about trends for young travellers to take shorter holidays and spend more on luxury, immersive experiences, or to combine luxury, budget, WWOOFing and backpacker travelling.

She also argued that backpackers are our future tourists. They come back as they get older (and with more disposable income), they come back to invest and they promote New Zealand as a destination.