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Youth Tourism Trends

STAY (Safe Travel Accommodation for Youth) WYSE Association, the global trade body for the youth travel accommodation sector, has launched its seventh annual survey on youth travel accommodation trends. By Laura Daly.

The new industry report is based on a survey of 2,231 Youth Travel Accommodation (YTA) operations across 100 countries and includes findings across all aspects affecting the industry, from the average size and rates of properties to the social media habits and booking styles of their guests.

Trends

One of the report’s most significant findings concerned the changes to booking trends, with lead times coming down since the organisation’s previous report. Half of bookings are now made between one and three weeks in advance compared to the previous figure of 36% while the figures for bookings made less than a week in advance remain stable at less than one fifth. At the same time, fewer bookings are now made between one and three months in advance with these figures down from a third to 22%. However, the report indicates a close relationship between the length of stay and the lead time for bookings with those making shorter stays also tending to have much shorter booking lead times.

Accommodation

As might be expected, city centre establishments tend to be double (just over 20 rooms) the size of their rural counterparts, with an average of 10 rooms. Student residences, meanwhile, have an average of 140 rooms. Whilst properties tend to be 40% larger in North America than in Western Europe with 35 rooms, the region actually has the lowest number of beds per room worldwide, with just 4.8 compared to Western Europe’s 7.1. Conversely, just 38% of these North American rooms have en-suite facilities, which is considerably lower than the global average of two thirds.

Demographics

When it comes to guests, the main age targeted by youth travel accommodation (YTA) operators is 25-34 years (61%). However, 10% of YTA properties are now aimed at the flashpacker market aged 35 or older, with bed and breakfast operators most likely to make up this market. Business travellers, meanwhile, make up 11% of guests and groups account for 17% of business.

Bookings

In terms of revenue, third party websites are playing an increasingly important role in this sector, with 29% of hostel bookings now being made via these channels. However, the global average revenue per available bed in 2013 remains €23.50 (approx. ZAR333.85) and the average bed occupancy rate is unchanged at 59%. When it comes to technology, it is perhaps unsurprising that the 28% of respondents who have developed mobile applications or ensured their sites are mobile-friendly report the largest number of bookings via mobile sources.

Regarding third party booking channels, Hostelworld is the most important for hostels and, with its recently-acquired Hostelbookers site also in the top three, now holds a significant market share in this industry. Booking.com has also seen significant growth in this arena.

David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, said: “With a third of young travellers now using their smart phones when planning their holiday and lead times shrinking as online booking becomes easier, it’s increasingly important that the youth travel accommodation sector keeps up with the consumer’s technological demands.

“Whilst we are finding that our members are increasingly spurred to be active on social media channels, just a third of our respondents indicate that they are active on social media of which 90% of these use Facebook and 43% Twitter. Our survey therefore suggests that the future of our industry will depend on smaller establishments embracing this trend as much as the larger operations.”

The full report is free for STAY WYSE members and a free executive summary of its findings can also be downloaded at: www.staywyse.org/research or from the UNWTO website.

About STAY: The Safe Travel Accommodation for Youth (STAY) WYSE Association is one of the WYSE Travel Confederation’s sector associations. Formed in 2006, its focus is to provide support and representation for the US$34 billion / year youth traveller accommodation industry.

Annual Conference: Set to be the youth travel industry’s biggest ever event, the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) will be taking place in Dublin from 23-26 September 2014.

Visit www.wystc.org to register or find out more.