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Don’t underestimate youth and student travel

Amsterdam. Tourism board representatives from around the world met at WYSTC to begin plans for a unified strategy that addresses the needs of the global youth and student travel industry, which is valued at US $136 billion per year.


The importance of youth and student travel to the global economy should not be underestimated, was the message from the Official Tourism Organisations meeting recently held at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in Beijing.

In a two-hour roundtable discussion hosted by the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation, tourism board representatives from around the world agreed on the need for a unified youth strategy to address industry issues faced both nationally and globally.

Fundamental topics such as air routes and student fares, security, visas and the need for consistent data on international arrivals will be addressed by the strategy.

One of the goals of these annual meetings is to give tourism organisations the power to lobby governments about the importance of this market, which is valued at approximately US $136 billion per year.

The roundtable discussion highlighted the following key sector characteristics of the student and youth travel market:

•  Independent travellers spend more than those in other travel sectors, and spend at least four times longer traveling in a destination than the average visitor.
•  They have a higher lifetime value than other travel sectors, since today’s backpackers and students are tomorrow’s honeymoon, family, business and leisure travellers, as well as foreign employees in the local industries – and if they like a destination they will return again and again.
•  They create more jobs and bring greater benefit to local economies, since a higher percentage of their expenditure tends to remain in-country (using local establishments vs. foreign chains).
•  They are more resilient to economic downturn and less risk averse than mainstream travellers.
•  They are pioneers and trend-setters forging new tourism frontiers and opening up new markets through their adventurous spirit and desire for new experiences.
•  They communicate their experiences to a wide audience, often through their intense use of social media which facilitates further viral communication. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are all examples of markets developed from the backpacker market.
•  They lead environmental and socially-conscious issues in their travel patterns and consumption behaviour. Their focus on self-development and cultural awareness fosters international understanding and social improvement.

The tourism organisations participating in the meeting agreed that there was a need for a global youth strategy to assist Destination Marketing Organisations and National Tourism Offices in investing in specific youth and student campaigns and programmes.

As the global industry body for the sector, the WYSE Travel Confederation works closely with tourism authorities worldwide in providing guidelines on products and policies that will help make destinations exciting, accessible and affordable for young visitors.

About WYSTC and WYSE Travel Confederation:
WYSTC is the annual event of the WYSE Travel Confederation, which is endorsed by the UNWTO and UNESCO. The WYSE Travel Confederation is a not-for-profit membership association that supports the global youth travel industry and creates new opportunities for youth and student travellers worldwide.

WYSTC connects the many sectors and organisations that serve millions of young people who travel to study, work and grow. The event provides a singular opportunity to pursue innovative partnerships, develop creative marketing and distribution channels and tap into new markets. This year, WYSTC was held at the China World Trade Centre in Beijing, China from 17–20 October 2010.