Over the last decade, youth travel has seen rapid development. As the industry matures more, research is available to help fill out the picture of the motivations, needs and behaviours of young travellers and the industry that serves them. It is clear from the research undertaken by WYSE Travel Confederation and UNWTO that youth travel has moved beyond its original status as a specialised tourism niche.
The social, cultural and economic value of youth, student and educational travel is increasingly recognised by employers, educational institutions, official tourism organisations and governments worldwide. More than any other market segment, youth and student travellers are leading with innovation and paving the way for responsible tourism as they take responsibility for the impact of their travel ambitions on much broader relevance to the global tourism agenda and governments across the world are increasingly taking a more active role in developing youth travel policies, products and marketing campaigns.
Yet there is more that can be done. WYSE Travel Confederation and UNWTO believe that there is great opportunity for governments, official tourism organisations and business leaders to further their engagement with youth travel to the economic and social benefit of their long term tourism policies and strategies.
In this report we review the economic, social and cultural aspects of youth travel. We begin by looking at why youth travel is important to the future of travel. We explore the economic, social and cultural benefits and offer a suggested road map for developing youth tourism for stakeholders, including official tourism organisations and governments. The report concludes with a selection of inspiring case studies that illustrate the power of youth travel.
Young people are invariably at the leading edge of change and innovation and the travel industry is no exception. Young people think outside the box, push boundaries and experiment with the new. In an era of unprecedented challenge for the travel industry, youth travel represents not just an important market segment, but also a vital resource for innovation and charge.
The travel industry is itself undergoing rapid change. Traditional vertical distribution chains are giving way to a more complex value network involving a wide range of different suppliers from within and beyond the travel sector. Travel is no longer solely dependent on the infrastructure of the old economy: airline seats, hotel beds and travel agents’ shelves. We are entering a new, flexible, networked economy in which ICT, local culture and society, education, work and play become part of the tourism value chain. In fact, the inter-relationship between travel, other economic sectors and society as a whole have become so integrated that we might conceive of a ‘value web’ rather than the old value chain.
New value web
In the new tourism value web, value is created by linking actors inside and outside the tourism sector in different combinations to create and exploit new opportunities. Young people are often at the forefront of such innovation, because they are willing to cross boundaries and make new links. as early-adopting, heavy users of new technology, young people are pioneering the use of social networking sites and mobile media in searching for travel information and purchasing products.
Young people are the future of travel
Youth travel has grown rapidly in recent decades as living standards have risen and the populations of developing countries are starting to travel for the first time, indeed, these first-time travelers are often characterized by being young and comparatively affluent.