[MACHESTER, United Kingdom] – Tourism dependent areas like the Caribbean and the Pacific should increase their outreach to the “huge potential of the little-known” youth travel market, urged a development expert.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the World Youth and Student Travel Conference, Lelei LeLaulu, co-chairman of the Innovation for Sustainable Development Center, said, “this market is worth an estimated US$136 billion a year or around 18% of worldwide international tourism receipts.”
“Furthermore, the youth market was the most resilient travel market during the recession, with no major company collapses,” asserted LeLaulu, who is also a director of the Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx).
Tapping into this market, as well as integrating young people into the tourism development process, was critical, he added. “The youth and student traveler today is your repeat visitor of tomorrow,” said LeLaulu, who pointed out the youth segment was “the strongest sector of travel industry and no companies collapsed during a year when banks, airlines and major firms struggled or failed.”
LeLaulu, a featured speaker at the World Youth and Student Travel Conference in Manchester this week as well as the 18th Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) in Saint Lucia in December, says that youth tourism represents the fastest growing sector of the travel industry. “Contrary to popular opinion, young travelers stay longer and they spend their money with locally-owned businesses and communities which reduces tourism leakages,” said LeLaulu, who added that the lion’s share of young travelers shape their world view along their travels contributing to peace and international understanding.
“How many times have we heard people say, ‘Children are the future’? I don’t think that’s just something everyone says. I think there’s some real truth to that statement,” argues 16 year-old Sarah Munn, a student in Saint Lucia and youth traveler who wants young people to be fully integrated into the sector.
“Young people need to be constantly aware of what we can do to help tourism flourish. We will be future job-holders who will help fuel tourism forward. Whether we become fishermen, store owners or hoteliers, we will have a positive impact on tourism. We can all contribute, and we should, because the entire community, country and region will benefit,” she added.
Munn along with several young people across the Caribbean and North America will converge on Saint Lucia, December 3 to 7, 2009 for CMEx along with reporters, editors, and development specialists to explore tourism resilience as well as the theme “Multicultural Marketing: A Climate for Change.”
Underlying the provocative presentations and lively discussion is how tourism can improve the health, wealth, education, environment and culture of destinations in a “climate-friendly fashion”, as delegates examine how to “climate proof” Caribbean tourism as well as build resilience into today’s recessionary environment.
The upcoming CMEx meeting is supported by American Eagle, Association of Caribbean Media Workers, the Barbara Pyle Foundation, Bay Gardens Resorts, Calabash Cove Resort and Spa, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust, Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, CaribWorldNews, Coco Palm, Community Benefit Development, Counterpart International, Caribbean Broadcasting Union, Marketplace Excellence, Ruder Finn, Sensible Development Corporation, and the SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. Foundation.