The growing importance of the youth sector for group travel was the subject for an inspirational summer seminar. Speakers from English UK, the British Educational Travel Association (BETA) and Equity Travel shared their expert knowledge with 30 GTBF delegates about how the sector is growing, and how destinations and attractions can best work with it to grow their market share.
Steve Lowy is a BETA board member and he highlighted the value that youth travel, defined as that by travellers aged 11 to 35 years, brings to Britain. It contributes around £20 billion to the economy each year, and by 2020 there will be an estimated 300 million youth trips annually as travel from countries such as Africa and Russia is added into the mix. These statistics were highlighted in last year’s BETA report, ‘Britain’s Shining Opportunity’, which also revealed other trends including that over 80% of young travellers said they would come back to the UK within five years, and the influence that advertising through social media rather than traditional travel agents had on youth travel plans.
English UK is the world’s leading language teaching association. Its 470+ member centres are all accredited to the highest standards, ensuring the best teaching and care for students. Andrew Hjort, a director of the association, is principal at Melton College in York. During his presentation, Andrew pointed out that language teaching is a big contributor to the UK’s tourism industry, adding around £2.5 billion a year, but as it can be difficult to qualify, the importance of language schools is often overlooked. Young people stay longer in the UK and tend to spend more than a business traveller who may only be in the UK for a few nights he pointed out. Their spend is more diverse as well, and some students from wealthy families come with a considerable budget. Andrew talked about the different types of students within the schools, which ranged from adult learners to junior groups, and the importance of cultural visits and tours within each programme, which allow students to use their new language skills on visits to attractions and learn about Britain. He cited York Minster, which has integrated scientific material within its educational package as this added relevance to the student’s visit, which a spiritual emphasis alone did not provide. His wide ranging advice (see the adjoining Expert View for more detail) emphasised the potential of the youth market for attractions that were able to work with language schools and tailor their marketing to particular needs.
Equity are specialists in youth travel working with both uniformed and school groups, and the presentation from Carron Porritt gave a tour operator’s view of how to work with the youth market. Equity’s mission, Carron explained, is to deliver fantastic learning experiences for young people that inspire them in the classroom and everyday life. As a topical project, along with the Institute of Education, Equity has been selected to run the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The £5.3 million programme is designed to provide the opportunity for a minimum of two students and one teacher from every state-funded secondary school in England to visit battlefields on the Western Front between 2014 and 2019. The battlefield tours are a key part of the Government’s plans to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
Carron shared with the delegates how the project has been working, and how it can be tailored for different groups. She also explained how this project is leading to new ways of working with schools. The key is to research and understand the needs of the curriculum, to keep abreast of any changes and to develop tour programmes that schools can tap into. The itinerary should include lesson plans to help the teacher and provide an exciting visit that children will want to do. Carron also outlined how residential stays away benefited children, giving them confidence, helping with their attitude to learning and improving their behaviour.
A lively Q & A session followed the presentations and it was obvious a lot had been learnt during the afternoon!
Val Baynton, Contributing Editor