Travel firms ‘missing growing youth market’

Travel companies and tourism organisations are missing out on the growing youth travel market, says a leading academic.

Greg Richards, professor of leisure studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, will tell the World Youth & Student Travel Conference in Manchester this week: “This will be the market with more time to travel. Some of the resources their parents might have had are now being invested in their kids’ travel.”

Richards will describe youth travel as the future for the industry, as the world financial crisis squeezes pension payouts for retirees. He will tell the conference: “Youth travel is more resilient and relatively high value.”

The World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation reports a 3.5% year-on-year fall in sales for the sector in 2009, compared with a 8.5% decline in the mainstream market.

Richards says: “The youth market will become more attractive for a whole range of destinations.” However, he argues countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will be best placed because they are established back-packing destinations where the value of youth travel is recognised by government.

“Most countries see youth tourism in a different way and many have a fairly ambivalent attitude to it,” says Richards. “It is perceived as low spend.”

Richards will give tourism organisations attending the conference advice on how to approach the youth market via social media and online advertising.


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