The importance of investing in younger travelers
The WTM panel highlighted the need to overlook the long-term value of younger tourists despite the difficulties
Countries must view younger travelers as an investment despite new obstacles to growth in this market sector, experts have urged.
A WTM London audience heard how the youngest travelers were the first to return post-Covid and collectively had the most disposable income.
Sally Cope, regional general manager for Tourism Australia, UK and Northern Europe, said Australia has long seen the value of younger travellers, backpackers and those taking work holidays: "It gives people your first travel experience, it's an investment.
She said that before Covid, 250,000 jobs were filled in Australia under the work visa scheme and that only 40,000 of these workers had stayed when the borders were closed. "Our industry realized that."
Spending by extended-stay visitors often exceeded that of luxury travellers, he said, averaging around AUS$10,000. Recognizing this, Australia has extended its work visa program to people up to 35 years of age and for three years. The requirement to perform agricultural work in the second year was eliminated.
“That opens up a whole new audience of digital nomads and those with a mid-career gap.”
Steve Lowy, president of the British Educational Travel Association (BETA), said there were other benefits to communities from youth travel. More than other types, young people ended up staying in more suburban places and shopping locally, spreading the profits, he said.
There were more spin-offs: “I have 1,000 students in London. I would say that 40% of their parents have come to visit them. No marketing needed."
New Zealand-born Andrew Brown, membership and business director of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said his country's attitude towards backpackers was not as positive as Australia's. “They are seen as low-value travelers, but they are not, because they create awareness.” This meant that parents often visited after their children had shown them what there was to see.
The panel advised countries to offer 'landing packages' that would address initial accommodation, banking and security concerns for young visitors. This was a problem now that parents were in constant contact on social media. "Smooth that out and you're going for gold," Brown said.
He praised Portugal's traveler employment plan. "Portugal looked at the gap in the market that they didn't have yet." He added that Canada was also proactive, with 35 youth work abroad schemes, while the UK had six.