The topic of student and youth travel will be on the lips of over 900 people in Whistler this weekend.
The Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) is holding its 11 th annual conference at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler from Friday, Sept. 8 to Tuesday, Sept. 11. The event brings together tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, airlines, and other organizations associated with student and youth travel.
Issues discussed will include safety and security, the educational needs of student, and the impact of Internet marketing on younger travelers.
Students and youths, or those under the age of 26, make up an area of the travel industry that has seen significant growth in recent years. In fact, SYTA’s conference attendance has grown steadily year after year, with its first conference in 1997 seeing only 65 attendees.
Executive director of the travel organization, Mike Palmer, went as far as to describe the youth and travel market as “exploding” in the past 10 years, with more young people traveling than ever before.
He said that almost 23 per cent of all travel dollars spent in Canada came from student and youth travelers, and a survey conducted by SYTA this year showed that 12 to 18 year olds spend almost $10 billion on traveling expenditures.
Even in Whistler, student and youth travelers seem to account for a significant proportion of business. Tourism Whistler reported that 12 per cent of the people who visited Whistler last winter were aged 18 to 24.
“Student travel is a large portion of travel today,” said Palmer. “And it really feeds future businesses — because students or youths are likely to come back again. You know, later with the parents, and then again as they continue to travel independently.
“So you are talking really about 60 to 70 years of travel expenditure yet to come. So it is really advisable to get kids interested in your service now when they are young,” he said.
Whistler was chosen for this year’s conference because of its appeal among delegates, as well as Tourism Whistler’s “terrific” proposal to the organization.
Palmer added that since the decision was made three years ago, there has been a huge buzz among attendees about coming to the resort town.
“A large proportion of the delegates have never been to Whistler before. And this conference really gives Whistler an opportunity to showcase themselves and really up its visibility, especially at a time when the Olympics are approaching,” said Palmer.
Palmer added that the theme “Reach for the Peak” was chosen because it ties together the beauty of the mountains with some of the goals of conference planners to really challenge tour operators to strive for their best.
SYTA holds conferences at different locations across North America every year. However, this is the first time the conference will be held in the “Pacific Northwest”, for Americans, or the “Pacific Southwest”, for those in Canada.
SYTA is a non-profit, professional trade association formed in 1997. It has been very active in Washington D.C., helping to introduce exceptions to the passport requirements for students traveling to and from Canada.