seal  Purdue News


March 8, 2004

Purdue University experts can talk about spring break trends and alternatives.

Is the sun setting on traditional spring break destinations?

A Purdue professor of hospitality and tourism management says more college students are choosing alternatives, including humanitarian service trips, to the traditional fun-in-the-sun spring break destinations.

"The Panama City Convention and Visitors Bureau did a massive marketing campaign this year in 500 college and university newspapers, and bookings are still down by 50 percent," says Xinran Y. Lehto, an assistant professor of hospitality and tourism marketing. "The out-of control image and tarnished reputation of hedonistic spring vacations has parents annoyed and universities concerned."

Lehto asked her undergraduates about their spring break plans, and she said the results were surprising.

"Only 10 percent to15 percent of my students were planning vacations at southern beach resort locations," she said. "About the same number were planning on community service spring breaks. Some students were combining the two, doing what's become known as 'volunteer tourism' and 'alternative spring break' in locations like San Francisco and Hawaii.

"Volunteer tourism is an up-and-coming trend," she says.

The largest group of Lehto's students – 30 percent to 40 percent – reported they plan to go home and relax before returning to the final two months of spring semester. Another 10 percent of her students said they were going to stay in town and work.

Lehto is not ready to pronounce fun-in-the-sun spring break locations a thing of the past, however. "Particularly here in Indiana and other cold-weather states, it's understandable for students to seek out warm locations," she says. "It's a natural human tendency."

CONTACT: Lehto, (765) 496-2085,


Participation in college study abroad spring break programs on rise

Participation in study abroad programs during spring break is on the rise among college students, says Purdue University Study Abroad director Brian Harley.

"We in study abroad and international education are committed to keeping the semester and year-long programs viable and growing but at the same time are seeing an increase in interest in short-term programs," Harley says.

"When we talk to students and their parents on campus during the summer, they are eager to hear about the spring break programs," Harley says. "Some of these programs have waiting lists, and there are probably more students who, as they learn about these programs, will participate."

According to the Institute of International Education, nearly four times as many U.S. college students participated last year in short-stay, study abroad programs than in the 1985-86 academic year. The survey includes study abroad programs ranging in duration from winter, spring and summer breaks to those lasting a full academic year.

The majority of participants since the 1985-86 academic year (35 to 40.2 percent) opted for semester-long programs, with the next largest segment (28.1 to 34.4 percent) traveling during summer break. Since 1993-94, when the IIE starting tracking the numbers of students participating in programs of less than eight weeks duration, the percentage of participants has risen steadily from 1.7 percent to 7.3 percent.

For many students, the study abroad experience during spring break is their first trip out of the country, but it usually won't be their last.

"Many will be going back for longer study abroad programs once they get the taste for international study and travel," Harley says. "Our goal is to keep the spring break programs well under $2,000.

"It's a comparably safe, educational way for students to travel abroad at a reasonable rate. We do hope it's fun, and there's nothing wrong with having fun. During international travel, why wouldn't you learn something every day?"

Purdue's 2004 Spring Break Study Abroad trips include: Mechanical Engineering Collaborative Program with Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Agriculture in Ireland; French Gastronomy: a language-intensive learning experience through cooking; Aviation Tour of Europe, Aviation Technology with firsthand study of the global aviation industry; France and England and a comparative study of European history and the modern world.

CONTACT: Harley, (765) 494-2383,