Youth travel during pandemic

Youth Travel Industry During COVID-19 Pandemic

Youth travel is an important segment of the travel industry. In 2019, the youth travel segment generated tourism receipts or destinations worth approximately US$330 billion.

Twenty-three percent of the world’s international arrivals were young travellers under the age of 30. They were holidaymakers, but also international students, au pairs, interns and overseas volunteers and teachers, immersive language learners, cultural exchange programme participants, backpackers, flashpackers, digital nomads and a lot in between.

The World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation revealed the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the industry by releasing the results of its COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey for the period March – August 2020.

More than 2,400 responses have been received over the six-month course of WYSE Travel Confederation’s COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey.

Expected business prospects have been strongly influenced by the progress of the pandemicin major markets. Since June there has been a worsening view of business prospects for the year, with the proportion of respondents expecting things to get much worse this year rising from 55% to 70%.

Virus ‘hotspots’ and the move of authorities to control these outbreaks in specific regions or localities have tempered the optimism about demand. Expectations related to change in demand have remained steady for July and August. This pattern was generally repeated within different sectors of youth travel.

In terms of the major world regions, slightly more positive forecasts for demand in 2020 were seen by August in most regions, apart from North America and Europe.

Top Business concerns and actions

Short-term and long-term business concerns have remained fairly consistent for the period June – August. Economic uncertainty and travel restrictions have been the top two concerns for travel businesses over the short- and long-term. Political uncertainty and employment concerns follow, while visa regulations have slowly crept up into the top five of long-term business concerns.


Globally, as of August, the majority of respondents expected that a recovery for their business would begin within the first half of 2021. However, there is a sizeable group of businesses that do not expect things to improve until 2022 (12%) or until a vaccine is available (13%).

In May this year, WYSE Travel Confederation called on governments to take action to support the youth, student and educational travel and tourism sector with the 10-Point Youth Travel Recovery Plan. This was based on WYSE Travel Confederation’s knowledge of the crucial social and economic role that young travellers have played in the travel and tourism industry.

WYSE Travel Confederation’s research has consistently indicated that young travellers:[1]

  • Stay longer and spend more than average tourists
  • Attract visiting family and friends to a destination
  • Support local businesses by spending with unique and independent providers of accommodation, hospitality, retail goods, and services
  • Book tours and activities that provide ‘local’ experience and knowledge of a destination
  • Young travellers represent life-time value to destinations through wordof-mouth and return visits later in life.
  • These characteristics represent powerful potential for social and economic recovery for tourism destinations – ones that government and other travel and tourism industry stakeholders should not overlook.

New Horizons IV: A global study of the youth and studenttraveller, 2018, WYSE Travel Confederation.

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