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Trend alert: Optimistic outlook for educational travel in 2013

Youth travel accounts for 20% of the global travel industry, and so when ICEF Monitor wanted to know more about the sector, one of the first places we turned to was a global youth travel specialist with 30 years of experience: STA Travel.

STA Travel offer flights, accommodation, tours and expeditions in over 60 countries, and sends over 2 million passengers away each year. We recently caught up with their director of business development and ISIC, Mr Adam Cooper, to discuss the synergies between leisure travel and educational travel, as well as current market trends and what factors influence future travel trends.

We also reveal the latest hiring trends at institutions to meet new student demands, and what educators can do to work with travel agencies. Listen to our interview and continue reading below for more information on the latest travel statistics.

Mr Cooper kicks off by explaining where STA’s latest business growth is coming from:

“The work abroad and learning abroad sectors are by far our biggest growing pieces of business… We’re [also] seeing a bigger propensity for volunteer abroad trips.”

STA has seen double digit growth for the last ten years from students in the US who are travelling abroad. Mr Cooper reveals their preferences on a global scale, such as:

  • Latin America and Asia are seeing the biggest increase in interest now;
  • There is a continuing interest in China as a travel destination;
  • Lately, there is a leveling of interest in travelling to the UK;
  • Continental Europe is still growing;
  • Australia is taking a dip, mainly due to currency fluctuations.

Mr Cooper also comments on the latest hiring trends in universities and colleges now, in order to fill the demand for the volunteer abroad sector.

“Schools are now hiring service learning coordinators to source volunteer projects for their students.”

More and more, students are requesting to volunteer abroad either before or after their trip overseas – adding what Mr Cooper calls “bookends” to a study abroad experience.

Global travel trends

Youth travel is known to be a resilient sector of the global travel industry, and 2012 proved to be no exception. Last year, 207 million trips were taken by youth travellers, making up 20% of all global tourism.

The youth travel industry is predicted to double from US $185 billion to US $320 billion by 2020.

And despite lingering economic instability due to the global financial crisis, international tourism as a whole increased robustly over the last year with continuing growth expected throughout 2013, the United Nations recently announced.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals surpassed 1 billion for the first time in history in 2012 – reaching 1.035 billion – up from 996 million in 2011, with demand holding well throughout the year and concluding with a stronger-than-expected fourth quarter.

Emerging economies (+4.1%) regained the lead over advanced economies (+3.6%), with Asia and the Pacific showing the strongest results. Growth is expected to continue in 2013 only slightly below the 2012 level (+3% to +4%) and in line with UNWTO long term forecast.

Mirroring STA Travel’s results, by region, Asia and the Pacific (+7%) was the best performer, while South-East Asia, North Africa (both at +9%) and Central and Eastern Europe (+8%) topped the ranking.

Looking for more trends? Travel intelligence media company, Skift, released a report of their 13 travel trends for 2013:

  1. Everyone wants a Chinese tourist
  2. Ancillary fees are the new normal
  3. Last-minute mobile hotel booking
  4. The rise of price transparency
  5. Travelers are hungry for food tourism
  6. Airports as destinations
  7. Destination branding through movies
  8. Digital maps are one of travel’s key battlegrounds
  9. Personal in-flight entertainment through mobile devices
  10. Affordable design at hotels
  11. Blurring of business and leisure travel
  12. Cementing of the Gulf as the next great global aviation hub
  13. Lure of the last unknown: The rise of Myanmar

And meanwhile, the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index revealed the top 20 destinations in 2012:

  1. London (16.9 million visitors)
  2. Paris (16 million visitors)
  3. Bangkok (12.2 million visitors)
  4. Singapore (11.8 million visitors)
  5. Istanbul (11.6 million visitors)
  6. Hong Kong (11.1 million)
  7. Madrid (9.7 million)
  8. Dubai (8.8 million)
  9. Frankfurt (8.1 million)
  10. Kuala Lumpur (8.1 million)
  11. Seoul (8 million)
  12. Rome (7.8 million)
  13. New York (7.6 million)
  14. Shanghai (7.5 million)
  15. Barcelona (7.3 million)
  16. Milan (7.1 million)
  17. Amsterdam (6.9 million)
  18. Vienna (6.7 million)
  19. Beijing (6.2 million)
  20. Taipei (5.4 million)

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