Youth Travel and Facebook in emergencies

Mass global tourism is still a relatively new phenomenon.  Prior to the 20th century mass global travel was usually military in nature.  Travel and tourism did exist but were usually the preserve of the pilgrim or the post Renaissance super rich of Europe whose children finished their preparation for ‘cultured’ adult life by embarking o a ‘Grane Tour’ of Europe. This involved visiting the Renaissance cultural centres of Western Europe. Later, for the more adventurous the Otterman world  was an exotic add-on.

Construction of large ocean liners in the early decades of the 20th century soon permitted reliable inter-continental travel on a scale and of a standard not previously experienced.  Travel at this time was still a luxury, something for the cashed up elites of the developed world. By the 1950s when young Australians embarked on their Grande Tour of Europe they did so as back loads on migrant ships retracing the voyage back to Genoa or Southampton.  In these times the subsidised passage of migrants did something to off set the cost of travel from the antipodes to Europe, but such travel was still relatively expensive and globally speaking, for all but privileged few.

Not until the era of wide-bodied jets in the 1970s was it apparent that the cashed up developed world was on the cusp of a new economical era of global travel.  The rest is plain for anyone to see.  Now global air travel is a huge industry. In October 2009 he world’s airlines had 299.9 million seats available

Also in the face of the global economic down turn world air travel was still showing positive growth of 1.04% compared with October 2008 although the level

Growth is strong in the Middle East, with 12 percent more flights; Latin America, with 54 percent international and 48 percent domestic capacity growth; and Africa, with a 9 percent increase in flights.

Importance of the Youth Travel Market
Youth travel is no longer a pastime for European elites, but a far more widely accessible option for legions of backpackers.  Youth and Backpacker Hostels have mushroomed, globally. Youth travel represents 20% of all international arrivals, is one of the tourism industry’s fastest growing sectors. It also observes that today’s young travellers stay longer and spend overall more than mainstream tourists. Since 2002, the average spend per trip has increased by 40% to €1,915 in 2007.

Although growth slacked and fell a little this year flatter the trend seems set to continue . In September the World Youth, Student and Educational Travel Confederation reported that the basic expectation of the youth travel industry is that the recovery will start in early or mid-2010. Demand is expected to decline at about the same rate over the period September-October 2009.

A currently strong Australian dollar means that departures are now further ahead of arrivals than they have ever been, and there is little sign of the Aussie dollar flagging.  Such a strong dollar presents young Australians with attractive options for travel to some of the traditional destinations in Europe.  Anecdotal evidence suggests they are availing themselves of the opportunity. With the HSC finished for another year the expectation is that many will take their Gap Year in Europe during 2010.

Gap Year and learning languages
The majority of world tourism authorities identify youth and student central to the future of their tourism industries. Gap Year Travel and learning languages are a new and significant part of the Youth Travel market.  Japan has enjoyed a strong demand from the market for language related travel with Spain a close second.

Demand has driven the youth accommodation industry to a worldwide upgrade with Developments in social networking and increased global concerns for environmental issues and sustainable tourism has been an element in increasing both competition and professionalism in this sector. 50% of youth accommodation suppliers have recently invested in improving their capacity and facilities.

The Reality on the Ground
When a friend’s daughter embarked on a tour of Spain this month the cultural opportunities inherent in such a trip were taken for granted.  While not a ‘Grand Tour’ of old, the richness and diversity on offer in Spain left us all feeling it was an excellent choice.  Facebook kept us up to date.  Her entire extended family and friends network were able to follow her daily encounters.

Moving into the newly renovated Hostel seemed like a great idea they everything from small rooms with private bathrooms to dormitories with shared bathrooms (from 2 to 14 beds). Our rooms are comfortable, modern and clean.  This was definitely one of the new wave of up market backpackers with stacks of entertainment on site and apparently excellent security with new swipe card security lockers. Sadly we were wrong.

Early Sunday morning my friend was woken by an SMS message.  It was her daughter’s friend who’d been up late on Facebook and encountered a desperate plea from Madrid.  Eight young travelers had just lost their valuable, lifted from the security lockers at the Hostel.  It seems someone simply swiped a key card through the system, opened the lockers and walked off with eight backpacks full of clothes, electronic gear, cameras , cash and seven US passports.  Fortunately my friend’s daughter had her passport, her iPod and €125 with her.

Hostel management were either unable or unwilling to help.  The theft was reported to the police.  Just after my friend’s daughter had left the police station she was punched in the back of the head as she walked along the footpath.  Turning she took another punch in the face and her iPod was taken.

Five hours and much lost sleep later the young woman had received emergency funds from Australia and been booked into a more reputable hotel in another part of Madrid. Naturally we’re all relieved that she’s not serious injured, safely accommodated and ready to jet out to London on Monday.

There’s much more to emerge here, so stay tuned.

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