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Africa Travel Magazine Serves the Youth Market
Think Young! Think Big! Think Africa!

All around the world, millions of young travelers are taking to the road. Many of us eternal youngsters have that same urge. Any mountain top, raging river, seascape or sand dune will do. In our editorial group's numerous and lengthy visits to Africa, the continent's appeal to the young traveler has not escaped our watchful eyes. Today , thanks to the internet's universal appeal and ATA's influential and far-reaching Web Site, Africa Travel Magazine plans to produce a Travel Guide to Africa for the Youth Market. Like our other Adventure Travel and Air Tourism publications, it will feature a Supermap of routes and air gateways.

GenEx Revealed. A Web Site that focuses on the Youth Market, offering a world of low cost travel packages, services. key links and useful tips. Much more information to come on this page.

Miracle Corners: Read what award-winning ATA member Eddie Bergan (left and above) and his friends from New York University are doing at Tanzania's Miracle Corners

Young Eagles: If, like many of us, you spent part of your teenage years as an air cadet or reserve airman, you'll know the thrill and pride of accomplishment that a small group from Canada's Fraser Valley experienced in the skies over Abbotsford Airport. They were all part of the EAA Aviation Foundation's "Young Eagles" program, whose mission is to provide a motivational aviation experience, focusing on a demonstration flight in an airplane. Continued

Global Youth Travel is on the rise
PATA News Release

Global youth travel is on the rise as costs fall, the Internet makes booking easy and young people take time off to travel after either finishing school or college, or between college years. They are setting out to explore different cultures and places, perhaps learn a different language, do some au-pair work and tuck some travel experience under their belt before taking on the working and family responsibilities of adulthood.

These young people are the targets of groupings like the Federation of International Youth Travel Organizations (FIYTO) and the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) which met in Dusseldorf, Germany, in September 2000 for their joint annual bash called the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC). Also at the WYSTC were a number of smaller groupings affiliated with FIYTO and/or ISTC, like the International Au Pair Association and Association of Language Travel Organizations.

Altogether, the WYSTC brings together accommodation centers, adventure travel companies, au pair agencies, home-stay organizations, educational travel groups, theme parks and restaurants, student travel bureaux, youth hostel associations and many others with an interest in the promotion of youth travel. It is the only conference of its kind anywhere.

Mr. Jack Coronna, the immediate past president of FIYTO, estimates that the youth market comprises 20 percent of mainstream tourism. In 1999, the 353 members of FIYTO served 16 million young travelers, generating an estimated turnover of US$8 billion and selling over seven million air and surface transport tickets. FIYTO member organizations also employ about 28,000 full-time staff and another 70,000 people on a part-time or seasonal basis. They own and manage about 600,000 beds in hotels, hostels, holiday and accommodation centers.

Born in 1951, mainly to bond erstwhile trans-Atlantic wartime enemies, FIYTO's aim has been to promote educational, cultural and social travel among young people. To the travel trade, international and government organizations, FIYTO campaigns for the special identity of young travelers and their right to affordable travel and travel-related services.

The other organization, ISTC, groups together associations serving primarily the student travel market, like those providing air tickets and insurance services. One of its most important functions is the issuance and administration of the International Student Identity Card (ISIC - more about this below). Though there is considerable overlap between the membership and philosophies of FIYTO and ISTC, they have been kept separate because their cultures are essentially different.

Growth in the youth market has not been free of problems. The young are proficient Internet users, which means that many established companies that once specialized in handling their travel arrangements risk redundancy. Young people are also prone to security and health risks because of their love for adventure and a desire to visit off-the-beaten-track places.

While the industry wants the young to travel because it improves their prospects of getting jobs, many countries impose strict visa and work permit restrictions, even though many young people bring language and other qualifications that few local citizens could match.

The surprising lack of interest from the PATA region

So far, the youth market is dominated by travelers from the industrialized countries. From the PATA region, this includes the USA, Australia and Japan. But a huge future potential lies in wait, especially when considering the emerging markets of India and China (PRC). Add to that Korea (ROK), Chinese Taipei and the economically-recovering countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and handling youth travel becomes a major growth opportunity. Sadly, it is one that most PATA countries have not yet taken seriously.

Before FIYTO and ISTC merged their annual conferences into the WYSTC in 1992, FIYTO had convened in Asia several times, including Pattaya and Beijing. Indeed, the last annual WYSTC took place as recently as September 1999 in Bangkok. In spite of that, interest from Asia has been slow to take off. At the WYSTC 2000 in Dusseldorf, total delegate turnout from Asia was less than 50 out of a total attendance of nearly 800.

Only the Japanese are beginning to show considerable interest in line with the growth in Japanese youth travel worldwide. The Tourism Authority of Thailand took up half a booth to maintain the profile in the aftermath of the 1999 Bangkok conference and distribute supporting material. But the lone Thai seller was a small Bangkok youth hostel which took advantage of a special opportunity for smaller exhibitors to take a table top for only US$100.

One regular Asian buyer/seller at the WYSTC is Mr. D. Ramchand, Chief Executive of MSL Travel, Malaysia. He set up MSL Travel in 1975 and became a member of FIYTO in 1987. He has attended most of the FIYTO conventions since then, and all the WYSTCs.

Mr. Ramchand believes Asian governments need to institutionalize youth travel. He says that in the industrialized countries, students and youth travel discounts are part of the system, along with special rates for pensioners and handicapped people. In Pacific Asia, he says, none of the major Southeast or South Asian countries have such facilities.

Mr. Ramchand says serving Malaysian students going abroad and student/youth inbound business makes up about 60 percent of his total business. As a licensee of the ISIC card in Malaysia, Mr. Ramchand turns out 12,000 cards a year. Expanding awareness of the ISIC card and gaining acceptance is an on-going process. The card delivers 50 percent discounts on Air Asia, 25 percent on Pelangi Air and 20 percent discounts on airport coach transfers from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the city.

He says Asian governments need to make a start by first clearly identifying what youth travel is. In Europe "youth" is defined as being under 26 but in India it is under 30 and in Malaysia under 40, which would comprise 40 percent of the population. He says efforts have been made to set up a Pacific Asia chapter of FIYTO, but it has not worked out. He suggests that youth and student travel groups need to raise their profile at regional and international travel shows such as the PATA Mart and ASEAN Tourism Forum.