WYSTC gathers as youth travel share grows

30 September, 2015

Delegates gathered at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) 2015 event in Cape Town, South Africa, last week to discuss issues such as visa restrictions on youth mobility, changing student demands, and the growing importance of youth travel within the larger travel industry.

David Chapman, Executive Director of Wyse Travel Confederation delivers the welcome address at the WYSTC 2015 conference in Cape Town

The 24th annual conference, hosted by the World Youth and Student Exchange (Wyse) Travel Confederation, gathered around 400 participants from companies across the youth travel sector, including educators and agencies, for the four-day event held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

David Chapman, Executive Director of Wyse Travel Confederation, announced results of new research, conducted in association with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), estimating that the youth travel market now represents 23 per cent of all international arrivals.

“Youth and student travellers are pursuing knowledge and skill-building activities through travel,” said Chapman. “Educational travel experiences are usually for an extended period and offer deeper value to both traveller and host destination when compared to more traditional types of leisure travel.”

Addressing delegates at the opening plenary, Carlos Vogeler, Director-Executive Secretary of Members Relations for the UNWTO, said that increasing market share came despite an ageing travel-age population, and that youth travel had not only increased, but diversified due to travellers from emerging economies.

In one of the key panel discussions of the conference, industry experts considered whether student visa policy was keeping up with globalisation. Callum Kennedy, Partner of Kennedy Mears Consultants Ltd and Chair of the British Education Travel Association, outlined the context of stricter immigration policy in the UK and suggested bilateral agreements on certain visa streams would become increasingly common.

Gavin Eyre, Managing Director of International House Cape Town and Chair of the South Africa Youth Travel Confederation (SAYTC), explained the “considerable losses” that have been caused in South Africa’s EFL following changes in visa policy introduced last year. Other recent complications, he said, included the requirement of under-18s to produce an unabridged birth certificate in order to obtain a travel visa, and the introduction of biometric testing before all embassies were fully equipped.

Sharon Wu, Vice President, International Relations and Operations at China Service Center for Educational Exchange (CSCEE), explained the logistical barriers that Chinese students face in travelling to several countries, and said that South African plans for four biometric test centres in China was insufficient. She commented that some bilateral arrangements, such as President Obama’s announcement of a 10-year visa for Chinese students, were positive signs.

Another session focussed on the travel experiences, plans and demands of a panel of South African and international students, covering topics such as scepticism of review sites, travel safety, whether social media can be a limiting experience in travel, and the role of educational institutions in introducing study abroad options.

Other sessions at the WYSTC Conference included an update on the US J-1 visa programme, delivered by Robin Lerner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, an introduction to South Africa’s EFL sector from Johannes Kraus, Director of Kurus English and Chair of language school association Education South Africa, and workshops on themes such as ethical tourism and the challenges of marketing educational programmes in developing markets.

At the welcome address, Chapman commended South Africa Tourism and the city of Cape Town for recognising the importance of youth travel, and thanked the SAYTC for its hard work in making the event possible.

Derek Hanekom, South Africa Minister for Tourism, said at the opening plenary, “Thank you for holding this event in Africa for the first time. We are delighted to share how tourism is developing.” He also praised gathered providers and agents for facilitating youth travel.

It was also announced during the conference that Wyse TC has been elected to join the UNWTO Affiliate Members Board for a second time. “Our accession to the Affiliate Members Board is of great importance for the global youth, student and educational travel industry as a whole, and what better time for us to be re-elected than during this prosperous stage in the growth of youth travel?” said Chapman.

Belgrade, Serbia, was announced as the host nation for the WYSTC 2016 conference, to be held from September 20-23.

Matthew Knott
News Editor


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