Global Size and Growth of Youth Travel
This section introduces the size and state of the current global youth travel market and provides key insights into youth travellers.
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1. Key Youth Travel Takeaways
A report from BETA UK (2017) reveals that youth travellers to the UK represented 38% of all international arrivals in 2016 and that the market to date is worth £22.3 billion per annum to the UK economy.
Youth travel (people aged below 35) constitutes a considerable travel segment for the UK:
- International visits by young people represent 38% of all travel to the UK.
- In 2016, youth and student travel to the UK accounted for 14.9 million arrivals, with expenditure by those travellers amounting to £22.3 billion.
- However, with an average annual growth of 4.7% over the last five years, youth travel is not keeping pace with overall tourism growth to the UK.
Shifts in demographics and preferences are changing the face of youth travel to the UK:
- Customers are getting younger – 51% of all travellers served by responding inbound UK providers were juniors (below 18 years old).
- Youth travellers tend to come to the UK in smaller groups and for a shorter period of time than before (on average 8.2 weeks), yet they stay considerably longer than the average tourist to the UK (7.4 nights), resulting in their higher spending.
- London dominates the list of preferred destinations in the UK (as reported by 96% of inbound UK organisations).
The UK is a desired destination, but its competitors are more active in attracting the global youth:
- Until the recent weakening of Sterling, the strong currency has been driving customers away – 21% of customers initially opting for the UK chose another destination in the end, chiefly due to lower costs associated with living and studying elsewhere.
- Thanks to a friendlier visa policy and an increased in-country presence and promotion, the USA, Australia, and Canada have been growing at a quicker pace than the UK, especially in the higher education sector; Ireland’s popularity for English language training has also increased primarily thanks to currency fluctuations.
- Since the traditional markets for the UK such as Europe (77% of all youth travel visits to the UK) have peaked or are shrinking, growth opportunities predominantly lie in Asian countries and the Middle East.
- In 2017, there were 14.9 million youth travel arrivals to the UK
- £22.3bn expenditure of youth travellers to the UK
International youth travel visits accounted for 38% of overall tourism to the UK
With Europe accounting for 77% of all youth travel to the UK (led by France, Germany, Ireland and Spain), the future of movement policy post-Brexit will deeply impact the tourism and student travel sector. Further complicating the matter, a third of staff at responding organisations are from the EU.
Keep up with the latest statistics and news on the Youth Travel Market from BETA UK.
Further information and resources
Read or download the "Power of Youth Travel" global report (2016) from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Find out more about the WYSE Travel Confederation which also offers key statistics, reports and news on international youth travel.
2. Reasons and Motivations for Youth Travel
The Reasons Youth Choose to Travel*
- Educational travel
- Work and Travel Exchange Programmes
- Cultural Exchange
- Sports and Adventure Tourism
- Leisure Tourism
Motivations for Youth Travel** - For young individuals travel is:
- a form of learning
- a way of socialising
- a form of discovering other cultures
- a means of self-development
- a source of career development
*Based on research outcomes from Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde - sample 150 respondents.
**Based on research report from UNTWO 2016.
3. Youth Travel Characteristics
Based on research findings from Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde (2018), a sample of 150 respondents aged 18-35 (92% overseas, 8% UK) found that youth travellers:
- Stay longer on trips, travel several times every year and spend more.
- Have more free time and can go on longer (and more expensive) travels
- Are looking to escape from everyday life, get away from it all, travel alone or with colleagues,friends or family
- Use technology, mobile and social media and are essentially driven by word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family.
- Are willing to experience new things, are information-driven and experience seekers.
- An increasing number of young people consider themselves as belonging to the middle class and have higher expectations and standards for their life, of which travel is an important part.
- Are more socially conscious when making decisions about travel destinations.
- Culture based, eco-tourism, adventure travel, engaged, authentic matters.
- “Environmental integrity” – visitors to destinations which include this have higher expectations.
- Are more concerned with the impact of their visit, not just socially and culturally but also environmentally.
- Are drawn to eco-tourism products and services and opportunities to give something back, or make an impact on the environment.
Get practical business examples of how to engage youth travellers with eco-tourism and responsible tourism in the Eco-tourism toolkit.
Further information and resources
Download the Eco-tourism toolkit and find more inspiration and business examples in the Business Loch Lomond Sense of Place toolkit.
4. What do Youth Travellers want from a trip?
According to research conducted by Marketing Works, University of Strathclyde, based on a research sample of 150 respondents plus Loch Lomond and Scotland-based business interviews, when planning and choosing trips, youth travellers are motivated by:
- Specific expectations – nature, scenery, relaxation, getting away, escape, retreat
- Nature tourism – links to experiences, with potential for sustainable impact from visitor
- Accommodation – important when nature-based, must meet needs of visitors. Focus on local engagement, sustainable, local environment and culture
- Local food – also a decision prior to travelling – food and drink are important deciding factors
- When travelling for nature and views, outdoor pursuits are also important, for example, walking, hiking, trails
- Seeking a “local experience” specific to the area they are visiting. Eco-tourism is significant
- Festivals and events are seen as a way to interact with locals and ‘live’ the experience
- Cultural activities - music and arts
- Good food with authentic provenance for trying out
- Historical/heritage themes
- Adventures – outdoors
- Trails and itineraries for exploring off the beaten track
Download the full research report below.
Check out the Business Loch Lomond Sense of Place toolkit for ideas on how to develop and promote authentic experiences in your local area.
Further information and resources
Browse the Business Loch Lomond Sense of Place toolkit.