Industry Update
Editorial Article22 May 2008

Youth Travel Matters: Understanding the Global Phenomenon of Youth Travel

A New Industry Report Published by the World Youth, Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation and UNWTO

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United nations World Tourism Organization (WTO)

This global overview of the youth and student travel industry – reveals the latest trends in youth travel destinations, products and innovations – based on in depth studies conducted by WYSE Travel Confederation and UNWTO over the past 5 years…



  1. Profile of the Young Independent Traveller, 2007
  2. Government Policy on Youth Travel – An International Review
  3. Impact of Extended Travel Experiences on the Values of Youth Travellers
  4. Profile of the Global Youth Accommodation Sector
  5. International Work Experience Programmes for Youth – Participant Profile
  6. Global Directions in Language Travel
  7. The Future of Youth Travel

Some Key Findings:

Profile of the Young Independent Traveller, 2007

  • Youth Travel, representing an estimated 20% of all international arrivals, is one of the tourism industry’s fastest growing sectors
  • Forget the ‘budget image’ – today’s young travellers stay longer and spend overall more than mainstream tourists. Since 2002, the average spend per trip has increased by 40% to €1,915 in 2007
  • A new generation of ‘flashpackers’ (older backpackers with bigger budgets) is emerging, extending the ‘youth travel’ market to 30+ years
  • 70% of young people travel with a purpose – to learn a language, volunteer, work or study abroad etc
  • 80% return home more tolerant and respectful of other cultures as a result

Making destinations exciting, accessible and affordable

  • 60% of the world’s tourism authorities have identified youth and student travel as being “important or very important” to the future of their tourism industry
  • A growing number of countries are therefore seeking to attract niche markets (e.g. sports and adventure) with specific youth travel marketing campaigns and policies
  • Key aspects of destination development are: youth budget accommodation, cultural routes, information services, web portals, tour packages and discount programmes
  • Australia, USA and France are currently the most popular youth travel destinations

This year’s hottest topic – Budget Youth Travel Accommodation

  • A new trend is driving growth in the youth accommodation industry. Youth hostels worldwide are upgrading their bunk-bed dormitories and developing innovative concepts to attract the ‘flashpacker’ market e.g. offering hostel and hotel rooms under one roof
  • This, combined with major developments in social networking and environmental issues, has led to a dramatic increase in the quality and professionalism of the youth accommodation industry
  • 50% of youth accommodation suppliers have recently invested in improving their capacity and facilities

Global Trends in Language Travel and Working Holidays

  • The value of student travel has prompted many countries to ease visa restrictions on working holidays, particularly Australia and New Zealand - now favourite destinations for GAP Year Students
  • Demand from student travellers for a broader range of language travel products – combined with a series of industry mergers and acquisitions – have opened up new locations for the language travel market
  • Japan is currently the most important source market for language learning, followed by Spain and Germany. The UK continues to be the strongest language travel destination – with new destinations such as Australia and China opening up

Background Info

This report “Youth Travel Matters: Understanding the Global Phenomenon of Youth Travel” has been developed within the framework of the Cooperation between UNWTO and the World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation (WYSE Travel Confederation), a UNWTO Affiliate member.

The unique motivations of young travellers makes this niche market extremely important to the key objectives of the global tourism agenda; and the personal social and economic value of youth, student and educational travel is increasingly being recognised by educational institutions, employers, official tourism organisations and governments worldwide.

Young travellers will be tomorrow’s globally-oriented citizens; leaders in future travel trends, and pioneers in contributing to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Contact information:
For a youth travel industry perspective and press comments contact:
WYSE Travel Confederation: Stephanie Cooper
[email protected]

For overall comments on the tourism industry, contact:
UNWTO Media Officer: Marcelo Risi
T: +34 91-567-8178 /8100 - F: +34 91-567-8218
[email protected] -

The 103 page research report will be available for purchase from UNWTO’s e-library from the last week of May 2008 on –

Marcelo Risi
Phone: +34 91-567-8178 /8100
Send email