European Cities Marketing (ECM) added youth travel into their strategy during their annual conference on June 4-7 in host city Dresden, considering the opportunity they present for the leisure and meetings industry.
The conference, held at the International Congress Centre Dresden and moderated by Dieter Hardt-Stremayr, dealt with the key topic of “Young travellers, young delegates, young cities – What do we know, what should we do” focusing on three main questions: What do we know about young travellers and conference delegates? What tools are needed to reach this target group? And what is our role as the Destination Management Organisation in this market?
Juliet Stevens, Marketing Manager, World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation declared: “Youth travel is no longer a niche sector; it’s bigger than Facebook, bigger than McDonalds and bigger than the Argentian budget, generating over USD182 billion in tourism receipts in 2013. The global youth travel industry is now estimated to represent 200 million international trips a year, and the youth travel industry has grown faster than global travel overall. By 2020 the UNWTO estimates there will be almost 300 million international youth trips per year.”
European cities are young people’s favorite destinations
Citing findings from WYSE Travel Confederation’s New Horizons III report, Miss Stevens also revealed that young inbound travelers to Europe are more likely to visit historical places, museums, nightclubs and visit cafes and restaurants, rather than hang out on the beach, or go to theme parks, which are typically more popular activities for youth travelers outside of Europe.
In the frame of ECM annual meeting, ECM and TCI Research produced a joint study on the youth market. Olivier Henry-Biabaud, author of the report, added: “Young travelers are enthusiastic with old city centres and historical and cultural diversity: 76% of visitors take time to explore historical monuments vs. only 56% in non European cities; they find it easy to explore thanks to accessible public transportation in cities offering safe and clean conditions for visiting and opportunities to enjoy days & night activities, interacting and engaging more with local people”
The seminar day started with the keynote example of Berlin’s intangible magnetism for the young generation. Burkhard Kieker, CEO of VisitBerlin stated: “Berlin’s success is made by the freedom of lifestyles which surely draws new class of tourists. Being a tolerant city brings talents; talents and tolerance attract technology. A city reinventing itself has a lot more opportunities, and we tried to use our infrastructures into new assets. Old factories are converted into clubs, and trendy areas. We really want people to start as tourists and come back as entrepreneurs; it is our role to make them be part of Berlin.”
Throughout the day, a series of case studies of European Cities covered social media, bloggers relations, or pocket guides from the cities of Nuremberg, The Hague, Torino or Antwerp. Other invited guests included specialists and experts on trends like Maarten Leyts or on some specific youth events like re:publica, or products like a city map dedicated to youngsters presented by Nicolas Marichal from USE-IT Europe.
The crucial role of social media within the online marketing was covered by Catharina Fisher, Social Media PR, at the German National Tourist Board, explaining us how word-of-mouth is transforming itself into “world-of-mouth”. A focus on what Generation Y wants from conference destinations was provided by the renowned meetings industry specialist Rob Davidson, Senior Lecturer in Events Management at the University of Greenwich.
“Members of Generation Y listen to each other much more than they listen to you”, points out Rob Davidson, addressing representatives of European destination marketing organisations. He went on to say: “The continuing success of your cities as conference destinations depends upon you achieving a firm understanding of what Generation Y really wants. Many of the traditional conference and tourism programmes will not motivate this generation; but we must offer services that will satisfy the needs of ALL generations – without alienating anyone.”