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Meet the new Cultural Exchange Sector Panellists
WYSE News | March 11, 2024

We are pleased to welcome Darya Modestova and Rumyana Sotirova to the Cultural Exchange Panel, effective 1 January 2024. Both have extensive experience in the sector and we look forward to a successful three-year tenure.

Hi Darya and welcome to the Cultural Exchange Panel and Board! We have a few questions to get to know you better. We’ve heard you’re pretty tech-savvy; so how do you perceive the role of tech in shaping the future of youth travel?

Technology has always fascinated me; it’s amazing how quickly it changes and shapes our daily lives. When I was a student, I didn’t have the chance to use FaceTime, for example. Whilst I could stay connected via mobile, it was very different from what we have today.

I believe technological development is making travel much easier for youth in many ways. Travel apps help enhance the travel experience, but at the same time, travellers may start to have higher expectations for their destinations than before.

Technology is a tool, and it’s up to us how we choose to use it and how it affects our lives. It’s not just a facilitator, but a transformative force in youth travel. It makes travel more accessible, enriching and safe. For youth travellers, this could mean a more seamless, engaging and fulfilling experience abroad.

Absolutely. Real-time updates and the possibility of finding your community at the touch of a finger are entirely transformative for travellers. With your strong background in cultural exchange, how do you envision contributing to the success of WYSE?

Providing WYSE members with up-to-date research and insights into the trends and patterns of youth travel is essential – and advocacy and policy influence are also critical components. I will work towards influencing policies that support youth travel and cultural exchange, such as advocating for more youth-friendly visa policies and international cooperation.

Crucial to removing boundaries for young people. So what trend do you think will impact your business the most this year?

The creation of communities and a shift towards more authentic travel experiences. Travellers are seeking to immerse themselves in the daily life of the locals, moving away from tourist-centric activities. This shift allows for more genuine cultural exchanges. For our business, this means designing programmes that facilitate these authentic experiences: partnering with local communities, artisans and cultural practitioners to create interactions that are not just educational, but also deeply engaging and respectful of the local culture.

There’s also a focus on building global communities of like-minded individuals who share their experiences and learnings even after their travels, using digital platforms to stay connected.

The drive towards creating communities and seeking authentic travel experiences is not just a trend, but a paradigm shift in the cultural exchange and travel industry.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


Darya Modestova

Cultural Exchange Panel Chair
Global Friends

Rumuana Medhandzhieva

Rumyana Sotirova

USIT Colours Bulgaria

Hi Rumyana, welcome to the Cultural Exchange Panel! With your background in student travel and cultural exchange, we’re interested to know what you’re looking to bring to WYSE?

One of my top priorities will be to meet with my colleagues from the youth travel and cultural exchange sector in Bulgaria and to talk with them about benefits of becoming a WYSE member and to share my experience from participating in WYSTC and WETM events.

I am keen to participate in different panels and focus groups for youth travel to share my knowledge, experience and insights from the market situation in Bulgaria. I am also interested in mentoring first-time participants at WYSTC, to ensure they have the best experience possible.

We’re glad you’ve seen first-hand the benefits of participating in WYSE’s events. You mention sharing your knowledge and insights; could you give us insight into a trend that you think will impact your business this year?

In the cultural exchange sector, the trends are usually driven by variety of external and internal factors with changing predominance, and often are predefined at least a year prior. For this year, the trend that will probably impact my business the most is the changing perspective of young adults towards cultural exchange. We can see strong demand for culturally-rich experiences, with plenty of travel opportunities and higher motivation for gaining language proficiency and cross-cultural competence.

A bi-product of the pandemic and a stronger awareness of sustainable and fair travel, perhaps. How do you feel the cultural exchange industry has adapted over the years in Bulgaria?

I’ve witnessed the cultural exchange industry in Bulgaria transforming and maturing over the past two decades. At the beginning, probably one of the biggest challenges was building the right expectation and perception of cultural exchange programmes and educating potential participants that this is not a money-making programme. The sector experienced different crises through the years, and although the Bulgarian market is highly competitive, in times of hardship, all agencies worked together to safeguard the programmes and keep them in a good health.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about: community and coming together to weather the storms. So finally, you‘ve attended a few editions of WYSTC; can you tell us what its best-kept secret is?

The power of the social events. Besides the meetings, seminars and sessions, the social events are extremely valuable. Even during the coffee breaks, you can build relationships with people; people who may be your competitors, or from a different sector, or from your sector but operating in other markets. These informal conversations could bring you new business ideas, give you a better perspective on how your sector is developing globally, and as very often is the case, make you new friends. The social events are the key bonding factor for building and strengthening the WYSTC community.

We couldn’t agree more: the secret is making the most of all those moments!

Cultural Exchange Panel

The Cultural Exchange sector within WYSE Travel Confederation represents a diverse range of youth travel programmes with the main goal of introducing participants to a new culture through travel experiences. This includes experiences such as au-pairing, camp counselling, internships, working holiday, traineeships, volunteering, and other culture-focused experiences.

The Cultural Exchange Sector Panel provides support to organisations producing and/or selling such programmes, and facilitates their success and growth.

WYSE Travel Confederation Cultural Exchange Sector Panels