The Youth Travel Charter highlights the main guiding principles and objectives for international youth travel in simple terms and offers pragmatic recommendations for each. The Youth Travel Charter is intended to be a document that will encourage dialogue and learning among all stakeholders of international youth travel.  


Who is the Youth Travel Charter for?

The Youth Travel Charter has been developed as a tool to help civil society and governments to prioritise young people as travellers. The Youth Travel Charter makes the case that young travellers are a strategic segment of international travel and tourism and that civil society should invest in this segment known as youth travel.

Civil society and government stakeholders include, but are not limited to, the following policy makers, decision makers, influencers and lobbyists:

  • National tourism boards
  • National educational boards
  • National and local governments
  • Cities and city authorities
  • International associations, societies, and institutions
  • Academics
  • Journalists
  • All parties within the travel and tourism supply chain

The Background to the Youth Travel Charter

In the San Diego Declaration on Youth, Student and Educational Travel ratified on 21 September 2012, WYSE Travel Confederation together with relevant stakeholders called for action in facilitating the advancement of international youth travel and the industry that supports it via a series of recommendations. These recommendations focussed on encouraging partnerships, alliances, and cooperation between WYSE Travel Confederation members, the broader travel and tourism industry and governments around the world.

Following a review of the San Diego Declaration in Montreal in September 2017 members of WYSE Travel Confederation and other parties consulted agreed that an updated advocacy piece was required to:

  • gain further backing and mobilise the industry towards action on all relevant recommendations
  • address new issues
  • outline the steps that stakeholders should take to develop and advance youth travel

The Youth Travel Charter is the result of:

  • a consultation process with WYSE Travel Confederation members at large 
  • the debate of ideas and current issues by a working group of select individuals representing various perspectives from the youth travel industry
  • a review by the Management Board of WYSE Travel Confederation


Working group: Montréal 2017


Working group: Amsterdam 2019

The Youth Travel Charter is a set of guiding principles and the first in a series of thought leadership pieces and best practice toolkits that WYSE Travel Confederation will share with stakeholders.

Who are Youth Travellers?

The primary segment of travellers considered for the purposes of the Youth Travel Charter is youth between the ages of 18 and 35.

At present, this segment can be categorised into two generational cohorts that share similarities while also having their own unique characteristics. However, based on decades at the centre of the industry serving youth travellers, it is possible for WYSE Travel Confederation to identify defining characteristics of youth travel that transcend time and place. Whether a university student backpacking through the summer of 1970, a digital nomad working remotely throughout the year 2018, an exchange student or intern abroad for a semester in 1992, or countless other international youth-tailored travel experiences, immersive experiences offering the opportunity for cultural exchange and learning have been the common threads running through generations of young international travellers. 

The generational cohort born between the early 1980s and 2000s is known as the millennials or generation Y. A younger cohort born from the early 2000s is known as generation Z. Millennials and generation z are young, yet influential travellers interested in immersive experiences and ‘living like a local’ while travelling. This can translate to spending directly with local businesses and making close contact with local residents and culture. In an era of wireless internet, user-generated content, smartphones, and digital photography, the search for new and unique experiences takes young travellers to places that travellers from other age segments may not reach, lending power to youth travellers to help establish up-and-coming destinations and locations off the beaten tourist track.


Why is Youth Travel Important?

Travel is a way for young people to learn, both formally and informally. Travel can become a life-long pursuit of learning and exploration, so young travellers represent a major opportunity for destinations and the travel and tourism industry. Yet surprisingly, many destinations do not start with youth when it comes to big picture strategy.

The millennial generation is set to become the largest living generation, overtaking baby boomers during 2019. Millennials represent current and near-term economic value that should not be ignored:

  • More than 25% of the world’s population is currently between 15 and 29 years old
  • Global travel expenditure to USD 6.8 trillion annually
  • More than 23% of the over 1 billion international travellers annually are aged between 15 and 29
  • By 2020 youth travel expenditure will top USD 400 billion

Together with their economic power, youth are agents of change and have the potential to be industry disruptors. They are influential consumers, shaping the end-to-end experience through real-time digital expectations and have the power to vote with their feet when it comes to authenticity, sustainability, ethics, and other decisions they face as consumers.  Youth bring vibrance to destinations and this vibrance in turn draws other visitors, making previously unknown destinations more attractive and accessible. Where youth go, others follow. Where youth have been, is often a place to return later in life.

The tendency of youth travel to shape mainstream tourism should not be overlooked – not by governments, travel agents, city authorities, academic institutions, tourism operators, visitor bureaus, marketers, nor local communities. However, youth travel doesn’t just happen; it is facilitated by international mobility schemes that are centred around purposes of cultural exchange between people. Such schemes are underpinned by policies that prioritise mobility. Youth travel mobility and the benefits it can deliver are developed and facilitated by integrated, destination-specific strategies that connect all stakeholders in delivering opportunities to young people.

The Youth Travel Charter outlines the principles of international youth travel and examples for destinations to consider in their youth tourism strategies.