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ITB Berlin’s Youth Hall reached a rite of passage this year. Mature, but not old, sophisticated, but certainly not boring – it’s clear the youth travel industry of ITB Berlin’s Hall 4.1 has some collective experience under its belt. More importantly, youth travel is broadening its horizons and nobody is going to stop it.

Twenty educational sessions, hundreds of business appointments, and a stellar networking reception courtesy of WYSE Travel Confederation thrust WYSE members and industry partners to the max, offering an ITB experience not unlike the best of youth travel: high impact with a thirst for more.

ITB Berlin 2017 Youth Hall 4.1 - WYSE Travel Confederation desk

ITB Berlin 2017 Youth Hall 4.1

Destinations in the spotlight

Youth travel’s coming of age was described by Professor Greg Richards, Research Advisor to WYSE Travel Confederation, during the kick-off of WYSE Travel Confederation’s ITB Berlin workshop series “New Horizons: The study of the global youth and student traveller.” Professor Richards explained what we know from the only consistent study on the youth segment of tourism, New Horizons, the cornerstone of WYSE Travel Confederation’s research programme. On average, youth and student travellers stay longer and spend more than typical tourists. Key takeaway? Although cost is an important consideration, don’t assume they are ‘budget travellers – especially as Millennials tap into their Boomer parents’ retirement funds.

The importance of young international visitors was corroborated in presentations by Donna Keren, PhD, Senior Vice President of Research and Analysis for New York City & Company, and Amanda Horan, Business Development Advisor with Fáilte Ireland. Keren started by emphasizing New York City would like all visitors, including young ones, to know that they are welcome. Underlining the potential youth visitors represent for the city, Dr. Keren explained some of the city’s campaigns to welcome young people and offer them the best experiences possible within the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, iconic landmarks and attractions and cultural institutions. What she referred to as ‘multi-modal’ events or opportunities developed out of considerations for the intersection of time and cost, are at the heart of New York City’s strategy to attract and win the (social media) hearts of young people. Free Friday evening date nights at museums, combining art and culture with a chance to socialize, were one example. One of New York City’s biggest strengths as a global metropolitan hub was in line with themes uncovered by Professor Richards and New Horizons- don’t assume what young people want or like or will spend. Think outside of the box, was Dr. Keren’s advice to other destinations looking to attract the youth market…you will be surprised.

Amanda Horan shared a case study outlining the successful development of three signature experiences for the youth visitor, from research phase to trade capacity development. According to Horan, trade platforms such as ITB Berlin and WYSE Travel Confederation’s World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) have been invaluable and yielded significant return on investment for destination Ireland. Ireland’s coordinated efforts to generate business were evident through a networking reception with a special prize draw to attract buyers. WYSE member Bus2Alps took the prize!

Kevin O'Shaugnessy of IndigoConnect presents

Kevin O’Shaugnessy, IndigoConnect

Influence, crankiness, and social responsibility

Bloggers Laurel Robbins and Colm Hanratty shared best practice tips on working with social media influencers and generating high-impact content. Social media content and influence was also discussed by Hugo Urcion of Erasmus Student Network (ESN) as he shared the case of the “Mobility is my lifestyle” campaign, operated in partnership with WYSE members Hostelling International and StudentUniverse. What stood out about the campaign’s objectives was the focus to create and develop the potential of an influencer rather than just work with an existing one.

New directions in payments technology, or the ‘least sexy topic of travel’, was discussed by Kevin O’Shaugnessy of IndigoConnect. Technology service providers Cloudbeds and Mews shared tips with accommodation providers on securing direct bookings and migrating software solutions to the cloud. Stephanie Taylor-Carillo of SANDEMANs New Europe, explained simple, yet effective ways hostels can enhance guest experience using guided tours. For those who fail to meet expectations and are left to face bad reviews or unhappy customers, Jeff Chatterton of Checkmate Public Affairs outlined key tactics to deal with ‘cranky customers’. Harry Douglass of HVS and Professor Greg Richards addressed development and investment issues related to hostels and other forms of youth travel accommodation.

ITB Berlin consistently works to bring social responsibility to the forefront of the industry and this year was no different. On the WYSE Travel Confederation stage, Kelly Galaski presented examples of how G Adventures is helping travellers travel in more sustainable and impact-focused ways. An incredibly important, but widely ignored aspect of tourism, child safety and protection, was discussed by Damien Brosnan of The Code, an organisation teaching businesses of the travel industry to identify and prevent the exploitation of children. The unfortunate example of children being exploited through orphanages with questionable practices to attract voluntourism by keeping children, some with living families, in poor conditions, was discussed. To learn more about resources available to your business to prevent child exploitation through tourism, visit The Code’s website.

New youth travel trends

Panel discussions hosted by WYSE Travel Confederation on the youth hall’s ITB Berlin Stage discussed two areas of opportunity within the youth tourism segment: new communication methods and social media platforms to reach the next generation of travellers and music festivals.

During the discussion “How to talk to Generation Z in Five Emojis or Less” representatives from Destination Canada, TourRadar, What Marketing Company and The Conjoint Marketing Group discussed evolving strategies and tools for capturing the attention of young travellers. Dominic Carter of What Marketing Company underlined the importance of authentic and engaging content, whether short or long-form, for youth.

“Sound Destinations: Music, festivals and the youth visitor” presented WYSE Travel Confederation’s research findings on the Millennial festival traveller and discussed the immense range of opportunities festivals represent for travellers and destinations alike. Rather than focusing solely on economic or environmental impact of festivals, Katja Hermes suggested a consideration for the social and cultural benefits generated by festivals, particularly for young people who prize a unique learning experience.

"How to talk to GenZ in Five emojis or less" panel discussion

“How to talk to GenZ in five emojis or less” panel discussion

Co-exhibiting WYSE members at ITB Berlin 2017 were clearly working for youth travel over the course of three busy days of meetings with potential business partners and youth travel industry colleagues. “Each year, the youth hall at ITB Berlin draws more traffic and the interest in our unique segment of tourism is crystal clear,” said David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation. “Who wouldn’t want to attract visitors that stay longer and spend more and represent significant lifetime value?”

“WYSE is committed to supporting the capacity of the youth and student travel industry and the development of tailored products and services that allow young people to travel safely, affordably and have fun doing so,” said Laura Daly, WYSE Travel Confederation’s Deputy Director. “We are inspired by the success of our members at events like ITB Berlin and aim to support them with more new opportunities each year. Judging by the big names of mainstream tourism that stopped by the WYSE village at ITB this year, youth travel is the go-to place for plugging into tomorrow’s trends.” For those impressed by the power of youth travel at ITB Berlin, we hope to see you at the WYSE signature event for youth and student travel in September this year, the World Youth and Student Travel Conference.