SOUTH Africa's tourism industry should not disregard backpackers because they mean big business, this according to a recent study into the contribution backpacking tourism makes to the country's economy. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town and commissioned by Backpacking South Africa Western Cape and Baz Bus. The study showed that the backpacking market was unique in that it contributed significantly to the tourism economy, removed economic leakages, increased distribution of tourism benefits through 'grassroots' spending and greater geographic spread. The average backpacker visiting South Africa, according to the study findings, is a British or European national aged between 21 and 25, spontaneous, enjoys highly varied activities and spending time at the beach and in national parks. They usually visit the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal with a strong trend to see the road less travelled. More than 70% of those surveyed said they would recommend South Africa to other tourists. They also spend an average of R12 611 per trip, with maximum spend of R60 000 per trip. 'This finding should be used to encourage investment into the South African backpacking tourism market,' said the report. The report also suggested that a more vigorous and focused marketing campaign be set up to lure this lucrative market to the country. More awareness also needed to be created in the North American, South American and Asian markets.