Getting off the well-worn tourist path has always been a tenet of independent youth and student travel. Backpackers, international exchange students, gap year students and working holidaymakers have traditionally been travellers who go deeper into the local fabric of the communities that they visit. The economic and social benefits of these travel experiences can be considered purposeful and responsible ways to travel, but has COVID-19 changed what constitutes responsible travel?
Vaccination programmes across the world progress at different rates and it is not certain that vaccination will stop transmission of the Coronavirus. Economic recession will likely continue to deepen before it improves – especially in places that are highly dependent on international tourism. Given all this and other factors, will it be responsible to go off the beaten path as a traveller?
Opinions are mixed in the youth travel community, according to WYSE Travel Confederation’s most recent COVID-19 Travel Business Impact Survey . Thirty-three percent of respondents question whether visiting less touristed areas is responsible given COVID-19. Twenty-six percent said that it is not responsible to visit to less touristed areas, while the remaining 41% believe it is.
When it comes to advising travellers on visiting less touristed areas once travel resumes, 44% reported that they will do so. Thirty-two percent said they do not intend to advise this and 24% are unsure.
Opinions on the responsibility of visiting less touristed areas are mixed by world region. Travel and tourism businesses in Africa and Latin America were more likely to have said that travel to less touristed areas is responsible travel.
As travel restrictions ease, all travel and tourism businesses will need to carefully consider the risks and benefits that travel off-the-beaten path represents for destinations and the communities in those destinations. The UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism is a resource that businesses can review as part of this process towards responsible travel and tourism.
WYSE Travel Confederation
If your business would benefit from unique business insights on the youth travel market, industry representation for common interests and new trading opportunities with international partners, we invite you to discover the resources of the global trade association for organisations serving young travellers, WYSE Travel Confederation.
 Data for this report were collected between 2 and 14 February 2021 by WYSE Travel Confederation, the global association for youth, student and educational travel organisations, via web-based questionnaire in English. The February 2021 survey was the eighth in the series, attracting 379 responses from 61 countries. Three-hundred and forty-seven responses were retained for analysis. Respondents included organisations specialised in youth travel products as well as those representing mainstream travel products, members and non-members of the association.
All respondents were asked about the impact that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has had on their business in travel. Questions related to change in demand, business outlook, main concerns and actions taken in response to COVID-19 have been repeated across surveys.
Youth travel specialists, defined as those organisations with over half their main business in the youth market (ages 15 to 30), have consistently made up 60% or more of respondents over the course of the survey series.