The global youth travel industry is now estimated to represent almost 190 million international trips a year, and the youth travel industry has grown faster than global travel overall. By 2020 there will be almost 300 million international youth trips per year, according to UNWTO forecasts.
The youth market, therefore, represents a major opportunity for future growth in the travel industry. With effective development and marketing, the potential of the youth market can be increased still further.
Why youth travel is important
Youth travel is important because it is a market for the future — not just for the future development of the young people themselves, but also the places they visit. WYSE Travel Confederation research shows that:
•Young travellers often spend more than other tourists
•Young travellers are likely to return and give more value to the destination over their lifetime
•Young travellers are a growth market globally, while the spending power of older generations in Western economies may decline in the long term
•Young people are less likely to be deterred from travelling by terrorism, political and civil unrest, disease or natural disasters
•Young travellers are the pioneers who discover new destinations
•Young travellers are at the cutting edge of using new technology
•Young travellers gain cultural benefits from their travel, and contribute to the places they visit
UNWTO and WYSE Travel Confederation are convinced that youth travel has moved far beyond its original status as a specialized travel niche to become an important element of the travel mix in any tourism destination. One of the reasons for this is that travel underpins many different aspects of youth lifestyles. For young people:
•Travel is a form of learning
•Travel is a way of meeting other people
•Travel is a way of getting in touch with other cultures
•Travel is a source of career development
•Travel is a means of self-development
•Travel is part of their identity — you are where you’ve been.
Young people see travel as an essential part of their everyday lives, rather than just a brief escape from reality. This has far-reaching consequences for the places they visit. Because of the way they travel, the social and cultural consequences of hosting young people are becoming even more important than the economic effects. The added value to be extracted from youth travel lies in innovation, positioning, cultural links, international trade and exchange, social support, education, learning support for local communities, and so on.
The following sections explore the broader economic, social and cultural impact of the expanding world of youth travel.
“By 2020 there will be almost 300 million international youth trips per year, according to UNWTO forecasts.”