Speaking at a seminar for the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), StudentMarketing CEO Samuel Vetrak presented the most recent data from various sources in the youth travel industry. He said that last year alone 207 million trips were taken by youth travellers, making up 20% of all global tourism.
Estimates say that the industry will double from US$185bn to US$320bn by 2020
While data available on the sector is not comprehensive, education travel is thought to represent about 40% of all youth travel journeys. The definition of educational travel varies between sector and country but generally includes trips with language components or development training.
“There will be a respective increase of all sectors of youth travel,” said Vetrak, predicting the industry as a whole would grow from US$185 billion to US$320bn by 2020. “We’re talking about doubling the industry which brings a huge opportunity for brands who are there or are coming there.”
To meet the demand, global tour operators are likely to increase their presence in the market while private equity firms start to show more interest. In the education segment, tour operators are already said to be adding school trips or educational travel to their portfolio.
There have also been twice the amount of mergers and buyouts noticed in educational travel in the last two years compared to previous years.
“I’m not a fortune teller but based on what we know it’s very likely that big brands outside of youth travel will continue to enter the industry either via buyouts or establishing their brands,” Vetrak said.
“There will be more mergers and acquisitions and destination market shares will alter, expand and vary.”
“There will be more mergers and acquisitions and destination market shares will alter, expand and vary”
Vetrak also predicts a big rise in experiential travel—trips to experience or explore a destination. Youth travellers are said to travel more frequently to less mainstream destinations, spend more money and stay longer.
The conclusions are based on data from 600 industry sources as there is no complete global measurement of the industry yet. StudentMarketing is working with United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to establish clear definitions of types of youth travel which are essential to formalising data collection.