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CONTIKI 57.0: Katrina Barry (MD) On The Brands' Biggest Evolution Yet

Contiki’s proud pioneering history spans 57 years and has seen countless changes to cater to the ever-changing insatiable travel appetites of 18-35-year-olds. But is the 2020 Europe launch the brands biggest evolution yet?

Contiki’s proud pioneering history spans 57 years and has seen countless changes to cater to the ever-changing insatiable travel appetites of 18-35-year-olds. But is the 2020 Europe launch the brands biggest evolution yet?

A year in the making, Contiki’s Europe 2020 launch sees the youth traveller brand take its most significant steps forward yet with an innovative overhaul of many of the vital ingredients from its European touring business.

So what’s the scoop? I caught up exclusively with Contiki MD, Katrina Barry on the night of the Contiki Legends launch to find out more.

READ: The Full Contiki Legends download here.


1. From millennials to Gen Z

At the heart of Contiki’s category reinvention is the move to Gen Z travellers (born in the mid-1990s to early-2000s) as a core focus given their different needs and desires.

It’s a big shift as Katrina explains: “In 2020 there will be 61 million Gen Zs globally which represents 40 per cent of our customers. And guess what? Gen Z is extremely different from Gen Y.

“So, if our average age across Asia and Latin America and Africa is 29, we’re serving a millennial Gen Y customer there. But the average age in Europe is about 22 or 23 because that’s their first big trip. That’s usually where they go on a Contiki first and then onto other regions such as Asia or Africa later.

“We’ve had to shift our millennial product or Gen Y product to a Gen Z product in Europe and this is the year that we’ve focussed on really amping it up.”


2. The revamped ‘stays’ experience

Riad, Marrakesh

Marrakesh Riad

Today’s youth traveller has become accustomed to a level of stay that is certainly more flashpacker than backpacker ever was.

Out are the hostels and hotels that didn’t make the design cool cut and in are the new generation of upscale Euro stays (like Jo&Joe Open House below) or eco-lodges to relax and socialise in style with all the trimmings.

For Katrina, it’s a welcome change: ‘We’ve completely overhauled our accommodation and now its all about funky, design-led hostels, glamping and hotels which is really exciting.

“Gen Z has all travelled well before – similar to millennials, but even more so from our research. They’ve been staying in four-star places across Thailand, Fiji, and Bali with Mum and Dad, so their expectations are super-high. If over the years, it was, “I don’t want to camp anymore I want to stay in hotels.” Now it’s “I don’t just want to stay in hotels, I want to stay in quirky, unique places.

“We needed to find unique accommodation options because that’s what Gen Z want.”

The brand says that many of the new 2020 European stays will also be exclusive to Contiki.

Jo&Joe Hotels

Jo&Joe’s Open House


3. New trips & sizes to find your tribe

From 24 small group travellers to 40+, there’s now a Contiki tour for every 18-35-year-old to add even more flexibility and choice.

This means that travellers can choose a trip that better suits their likes and pace and ensures that they’ll find fellow travellers in their tribe to enjoy the kind of experiences they like.

“There’s 6 new trips and these are all small-group with less than 24 passengers. What’s not well-known, is on a global basis of about 25 per cent of our trips are all less than 24 people. Mainly because it’s Croatia, Greece, all of Asia, all of Latin America and all of Australia. In Africa, they’re as small as from seven to 12.

“Our average group size in Europe is 42, so we’re doing a new choice selection for 2020. For travellers, it’s about choosing the right sized group for the right experience.

“If you are doing the cities, you want to have 40 people so that you find your people in the group. Who’s the museum crowd? Who wants to do the Michelin-starred restaurants? or who’s on the more budget-side? Being part of a larger group helps you find your tribe.

“Whereas if you’re travelling around the Cinque Terre, then you don’t want a group of 40 people, you want to be in a group of probably around 20 max. It’s all about more choice and flexibility.”


4. Small-Group Travel by rail

More big news is that Contiki is introducing train travel for Europe 2020 for the first time with three train trips: London to Berlin, Berlin to Budapest and Rome to Barcelona.

“There’s definitely a perception that train travel is more eco-friendly but it also enables us to do different experiences with smaller groups. We recently trialled one with a group of influencers and they absolutely loved it.”


5. More life-changing moments

Floating Yoga in Portugal

Sunrise floating Yoga in Santa Cruz, Portugal

With 45 brand new localised and exclusive European experiences centred around food, local, cultural, wellness, activity and meaning to make up a total of 300 experiences in the new 2020 range, Katrina explains the strategy behind the new offering.

“We survey all our customers at the end of every trip about what was good and what we could do better. What we’ve seen with Generation Z-ers even more so than Generation Y statistically is that they want more personalisation, more unique options and more off the beaten path choices.

“So we’ve overhauled all the experiences. Gone are the leather factory demonstration in Florence for example, that we’ve run for the last 20 years. Even though Florence is so famous for it, we felt it was time to do something new and different.

“In Berlin for example, a tour is now led by Syrian refugees telling their story whereas in Santa Cruz in Portugal you can do sunrise floating yoga in a beachfront pool at an Eco resort.”

Other new experiences also include; Whisky tasting and folk tales with a Scotsman in Edinburgh, Gondolier lessons in Venice, Surfing in Portugal and Base flying in Germany.


6. More meaning and purpose

In line with the growing responsible travel trend, ‘meaningful’ travel is a key trip element that has been identified as a core desire for Gen Z.

Except that for Gen Z, it’s not a trend – It’s expected as standard.

As such, Contiki has weaved new ‘Conscious experiences’ into their Contiki Cares program powered by Treadright including;

  • Walking tours of London with Unseen, a not for profit organisation that trains former homeless people to be guides
  • Local community farmed and eco-friendly table dinners in Salzburg, Sarajevo, Split and Iceland
  • e-docs which will see one tree planted every time a traveller says no to printing their travel docs

Cascais, Portugal

“In Cascais in Portugal, we work with disadvantaged youths who have set up a non-profit whereby they do a tour of all the street art and talk to you about their experiences growing up in the neighbourhood. In most instances on our tours, you’ll find meaningful experiences in them. Contiki Cares has actually been running for years. We just haven’t talked about it enough.”


7. It’s a huge opportunity for Agents

In a time of diminishing returns for some traditional file fillers, being an expert in the complexities of touring is widely touted as a major opportunity for agents. But only if they take the time to understand both the new product advantages and the customer.

Katrina believes there’s now a Contiki trip for every 18-35-year-old, even if they don’t appear so keen to begin with.

“A client has come to you for a reason. They’ve walked into your store because at a very minimum they’ve got a brochure. At the very best, they recognise you as an expert, so you really need to be an expert in the categories,

“I would never have done a tour before joining Contiki and now I’ve done heaps because I realised that actually, I really like tours. I’ve since done lots of different tours with different sizes and different companies,

“Having the details sorted, the logistics sorted, and then choosing the style of the experience I want to have: A) lets me do stuff I would have never of done before, B) Enables me to meet a whole bunch of other people (turns out I actually enjoy travelling and meeting people). And C) It gets me into cool experiences easily by skipping queues and guiding me to places that I would have found too hard to organise myself.

“I think Generation Z will absolutely book through a travel agent, but they have to add value. They have to be able to describe the stuff that they can’t see online and make stuff real for people because that’s why it can’t be sold online.”


Contiki Europe 2020 is now on sale with 25% OFF Contiki Europe from today until 31 October.

Find out more: www.contiki.com.au