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UK is “missing out” on youth travellers – BETA

The UK is missing out on youth travellers who are choosing competitor destinations largely for their friendly visa policies and work opportunities, delegates heard at the British Educational Travel Association’s annual parliamentary reception in London.

Members of BETA came together to mark the 16th anniversary of the association at the Houses of Parliament. Photo: BETA/ Twitter

"There's a key word in some of your literature, which is safety"

“We continue to push for better support, recognition and funding for [the youth travel] sector,” BETA chairman Steve Lowy said.

“Our visa policy remains unduly hostile, and extremely complex”

“We simply cannot ignore that competitor destinations are growing at a faster pace than the UK, thanks to better government support, and the greater understanding of the importance of youth mobility,” Lowy explained.

Concerns around student work rights, the phasing out of ID cards, and visa processing issues are making it difficult to attract young people to the UK, he said.

“We feel the government is in listening mode,” Steve Lowy BETA chairman noted, however, as he welcomed Theresa May’s tourism sector deal as a “game changer for tourism”.

“The deal promises to provide 10,000 new apprenticeships, 130,000+ hotel rooms and a 23% increase in visits across the UK by 2025,” he said.

It is “concerning” that the UK’s rate of growth in the global youth and student travel sector is falling behind, baroness Doocey highlighted.

“Youth coming to the UK tend to be coming in smaller numbers and for shorter periods,” she said.

“Our visa policy remains unduly hostile and extremely complex,” Doocey added.

“Those who used to come from EU countries for a holiday as a taster [of the UK], with a view to living here and studying here are now being discouraged from doing so.”

Outward mobility is high on the higher education agenda, Lowy suggested.

The UUKi’s Go International campaign has “boosted the awareness” that UK’s young people do not travel abroad to study when compared to European counterparts.

“Kudos also to the British Council and the team behind the Global Wales Discover campaign,” he added, while he called for more campaigns focusing on “the importance of youth mobility in order to build a more globally skilled workforce”.

Lord Smith of Hindhead who hosted the annual reception explained his appreciation for one aspect of the organisation’s work.

“There’s a keyword in some of your literature, which is safety,” he said.

“We want young people to learn a lot about the world and come home safely so that they can live a full and interesting life. What you do is something I very much support,” he added.

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