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Youth travel conference examines Asia – Pacific market potential

At this year’s World Youth and Student Travel Conference, set to open next week in Melbourne, Australia on 11 October, attending organisations and guest speakers will examine the potentially exploding market in the…

At this year’s World Youth and Student Travel Conference, set to open next week in Melbourne, Australia on 11 October, attending organisations and guest speakers will examine the potentially exploding market in the Asia-Pacific region for youth travel. The new market however are young westerners discovering new eastern destinations, but the potential for young easterners heading west!

Some 450 of the world’s leading organisations providing of youth, student and education travel services will descend on Melbourne next week for WYSTC. The yearly conference, which is the signature event for the Federation of Youth Travel Organisations and the International Student Travel Confederation, developed out of the annual general meetings of these two organisations has traditionally been a western affair. After all, its two founders are European–based, with both originally created over fifty years ago to foster international understanding by promoting and developing youth and student travel and education exchange in a post-war Europe.

What makes this year’s conference so intriguing and important to the industry is that this new emerging Asia Pacific youth market is still in it infancy just as the industry was in post war Europe. And that, as WYSTC organisers FIYTO and ISTC cement their merger at this year’s conference with the inauguration of the new World Youth Student Educational Travel Confederation, will this new org take the lead and develop, as its founders did fifty years ago in Europe, the industry here in the Asia Pacific region.

While this year’s WYSTC host – Australia, has over the past 25 years developed into and will always be, an industry leader, it is the country’s neighbours that hold such great potential. A look at population statistics and recent travel trends bares this out. The under 25-age segment for example currently represents around 46% of the total Asia Pacific population [1] – or a market in excess of 1.8 billion young people! As the number of youth in Europe continues to fall steadily the opposite is happening here in the East.

And importantly, they are consuming…everything from designer clothes to the latest technological gizmos and of course travel, the latter being spurred to some degree by the rise of the low fare air carriers throughout the region.

When you couple a large local youth population with rapidly increasing levels of disposable incomes and new mechanisms for flying regionally from one destination to another at ever reducing rates, you have a potential bonanza.

Take Thailand as an example….in 2004 there were 1.6 million international visitors to the Kingdom of Thailand aged under 25 years, with more than two-thirds of those coming from Asia Pacific origin markets!

Young and in our own backyard!

So, why the rest of the world worries about the ageing population and what that means for their businesses, next week’s WYSTC participants will look to the ever growing potential here in the Asia-Pacific region.

To help WYSTC attendees take advantage of this burgeoning market, the conference has brought in leading regional and industry experts to conduct seminars, including; Tony Wheeler (Lonely Planet founder); Peter de Jong (PATA CEO); Robert Daly (American Director – John Hopkins University Nanjing); David Jones (World Youth Student Educational Travel Confederation secretary general), and many more.

Additionally, nearly one third of the WYSTC attending organisations will come from the region, with 15 just from Taiwan and China – two new power destinations due to the demand for Mandarin language learning.

The conference will kick off Wednesday, 11October, with the opening presentation by Mrs. Terry Bracks.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.