The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Given that young people account for over 20% of international arrivals, and have a strong positive economic and social impact on the destinations they visit, UNWTO has a clear remit to support the youth travel industry where possible.
It was while working at UNWTO between 2008-2012 that I became involved in the Organisation’s work on supporting the youth travel industry. I was working in the Organisation’s Affiliate Members section which brought together all the businesses, industry associations and DMOs and responsible for coordinating market trends reports that would help these members identify and understand growth areas in global tourism.
In June 2011 I was invited to start on a joint report between UNWTO and one of its most long-standing Affiliate Members, the World Youth, Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation. In 2008 both organisations published Youth Travel Matters, the first study of its kind into the economic impact of young travellers.
I had great fun putting together The Power of Youth Travel and learned a huge amount about the youth travel industry in the process. The highly-readable report takes a look at youth travel from an
economic and social perspective and brings in case studies from companies and commentators around the world. It was released at WYSTC September 2011 and is still as relevant and informative as ever.
Following the popularity of this report, the DMOs attending WYSTC agreed that it would be useful to put together a political declaration appealing to national governments to take more notice of the youth travel industry and encourage more young people to travel through their own policies. In 2012, at the invitation of WYSE Travel Confederation I composed the San Diego Declaration, which would lead to the UNWTO’s own Recommendations on Youth Travel being endorsed by all Member States in August 2013.
UNWTO has so many policy areas competing for its attention (crisis management, sustainability, poverty reduction, aviation connectivity… to name just a few). I hope however that in the years to come, the efforts made between WYSE and UNWTO will open the door to more NTOs revisiting their policy on younger visitors and placing them at the heart of their strategic tourism plans.