Over 700 delegates from 63 countries meeting at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in San Diego, USA have called on governments and businesses worldwide to tap into the potential of youth travel in light of its capacity to boost tourism growth and global development, a call supported by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
This recommendation and others were included in the landmark San Diego Declaration, the product of a wide-ranging consultation with the Members of the World Youth Student & Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation as they tweeted, emailed, voted and posted their suggestions in San Diego on the priorities for youth travel in the coming decades.
UNWTO estimates that youth travel generates in excess of US$ 185 billion in international tourism receipts, with much of the growth being led by emerging markets and a resolve by young people in advanced economies to continue travelling despite economic uncertainty.
“20% of the 990 million international tourists traveling the world in 2011 were young people,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the three-day conference. “These young travellers are environmentally-aware and tend to stay longer and interact more closely with the communities they visit than the average tourist. As such, youth travel has emerged as one of the most promising paths towards a more responsible and sustainable tourism sector.”
Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, Espen Falkenhaug was delighted with the Declaration, saying, “Youth travel plays an ever increasing role in driving the positive growth of the travel industry as a whole. We are delighted to join forces with UNWTO to take this vital message to governments on behalf of our members, and the young people whose aspirations they serve. Research continues to show that young travellers contribute economic, cultural and social value to their chosen destination, as well as being enriched by the experience when they return home. Their unique experiences combine to make a huge difference in cultural understanding and our aim is to ensure that the San Diego Declaration will continue to advance these essential interactions.”
Tourism’s contribution to peace and global development is also highlighted in the Declaration which underlines the positive contribution youth travel can make towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, as they frequently seek to discover new cultures, spend money directly with local businesses or participate in volunteer programmes.