How do we perceive and categorize travelers within the hospitality industry? Most industry veterans would argue that there are three segments. First is the typical business/corporate traveler who stays one to two nights during the week; this may include government or contract demand. Second is meeting and group demand, which typically books in advance and reserves a block of over ten rooms; such demand is often related to corporate meetings, SMERFE (social, military, ethnic, religious, fraternal, and educational) events, and local youth sporting groups.
Third is the leisure segment. According to industry experts, leisure travelers typically book accommodations for the weekend or holiday periods. Motivated to visit a market based on locational attributes, such as beaches, amusement parks, museums, and activities including golf, leisure demand is more often than not perceived as families vacationing together.
However, there is a noteworthy subcategory of the leisure segment that comprises travelers who don’t exactly fit the above description: youth travelers. Contrary to family vacationers, youth travelers journey with the intent of exploration. Due to the evolution of telecommunications, social media, and travel infrastructure, destinations abroad have become more accessible and affordable, creating opportunities for today’s youth that didn’t exist for their parents at a similar age.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this niche market represents approximately 20% of international tourist arrivals and approximately 18% of worldwide international tourism receipts. As a result of this segment’s growing importance, an increasing number of government campaigns and national tourism administrations are targeting youth travelers. In their 2008 Youth Travel Matters report, the UNTWO stated that governments “are now taking a more active role in developing youth travel policies, products, and marketing campaigns” as opposed to 2005 when the UNWTO found that only 33% of the 151 countries and territories they surveyed collected statistics on youth/student travel.
Governments from countries such as Australia and South Africa have targeted this segment since the early part of this decade, whereas France and the UK launched more recent online youth travel campaigns in 2008/2009.
In an effort to further explore this niche market, we will examine who youth travelers are (their age, intent, and preferences) and quantify their significance. Due to limited reliable data on the youth travel segment, much of this article will focus on the summary findings of the “Youth Travel Matters” study published by the UNWTO.
Download the UNWTO report “Youth Travel Matters”.
HVS is the world’s leading consulting and services organization focused on the hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming, and leisure industries. Established in 1980 by President and CEO Steve Rushmore, MAI, FRICS, CHA, the company offers a comprehensive scope of services and specialized industry expertise to help you enhance the economic returns and value of your hospitality assets.