Youth travel industry gathers at WYSTC 2014

29, September, 2014

Delegates from the youth travel sector gathered last week in Ireland to discuss trends, marketing techniques and visa policy at the annual World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) 2014, which included a special meeting with agents working on the USA’s J-1 visa programme.

Business meetings taking place at the WYSTC 2014 conference in Dublin, Ireland

Now in its 23rd year and organised by the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation, the conference attracted around 700 delegates – including accommodation providers, schools, service providers and agents – to Dublin’s Convention Centre for three days of meetings, seminars, workshops and networking events.

Robin Lerner, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Private Sector Exchange at Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was one of the high-profile speakers at the event, and delivered an update on the country’s J-1 visa programme and held a breakfast meeting with agents working to send exchange students to the US.

In a private interview with Study Travel Magazine, due to be published in full later this week, DAS Lerner praised the role of agents in the exchange sector and said it was important for her to meet agents and understand their perspectives, “They are the first image of the programme.” She added that she was keen to help establish partnerships and bring various actors, including embassies, sponsors and agents, together.

Elsewhere in a session entitled Why education travel will be the top choice for next generation travellers, Samuel Vetrak, CEO of StudentMarketing, explained that in economic terms an educational traveller is worth 10 leisure travellers, and said that youth travellers are increasingly looking for a tangible experience from their trips. He cited the example of the growing demand for language plus programmes, as opposed to the traditional general language course.

Vetrak also highlighted the integral role that agents play within the sector and the influence they have over the purchasing behaviour of customers. He said that among the sub-generations of youth traveller, both the primary/secondary school-age group and the college student-age group were predominantly likely to book through agents, although young professionals may be more inclined to book directly.

Other seminars at the conference included a keynote talk on the future of travel by Filip Filipov, Head of B2B at Skyscanner, and presentations on engaging millennial travellers, mobile marketing and adapting to the next generation of travellers.

The keynote closing plenary speech at WYSTC 2014 was delivered by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who discussed his life of record-breaking adventures, including the Transglobe Expedition, when he became the first person to reach both Poles by surface travel, and the South Pole Expedition, the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic on foot. “If you want to travel, just aim for it,” was his closing message.

Networking events at the conference included a reception at Trinity College Dublin and the Global Youth Travel Awards, a three-course meal and ceremony recognising performance in 12 categories across the sector, including Extraordinary Experience, Outstanding Volunteering Project, Work Experience and Social Responsibility.

David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, said, “The calibre of nominations this year across all 12 award categories has been truly outstanding. As youth travel blossoms into the tourism industry’s fastest growing segment, it’s important to acknowledge the wealth of talent and innovation from the companies as well as individuals driving this growth.”

At the Trinity College reception, South Africa’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Tokozile Xasa, said she was looking forward to bringing the WYTSC delegation to Cape Town for next year’s event. “This youth travel sector is very important and meaningful for us,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming you to our best establishments.”

WYSTC 2015 will take place from September 22-25.

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