There is massive scope for growth of the youth travel sector in South Africa, which currently only attracts 2% of the world’s travellers under the age of 34, according to data from South African Tourism (SAT).

Youth travel is one of the fastest-growing segments globally, representing 23% of global international travellers, according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO).

Pointing to  a recent South African Tourism report highlighting statistics for 2018, Jabulani Debedu, Senior Cconsultant: Strategic Development and Advisory at BDO South Africa, highlighted that youth travellers accounted for 57% of international tourists (10.5 million tourists) that visited South Africa and 49% of total domestic trips (17.7 million).

Excluding African tourists, youth travel accounts for 46% of total overseas tourists to South Africa, he added. “It is worth considering youth travel as a key driver towards achieving our President’s audacious foreign tourist arrivals target of 21 million by 2030,” wrote Debedu, in a recent BDO blog post.

Deputy chairman of the South African Youth Travel Confederation (SAYTC),Tim Louw, agreed that this sector had huge growth potential, pointing out that tourism bodies such as South African Tourism should be able to push a message on a global stage within their ad budget and via their networks that South Africa is an affordable, and thus prime, destination for inbound youth travel.

“While the responsibility does not solely rely on SA Tourism, we have yet to see a message that endorses our Youth Tourism which is in turn affordable travel,” said Louw, commenting that the onus was currently solely on the product owner to market their product.

“This is why SAYTC is such an important part of youth tourism, as it promotes it on behalf of its members.”

He said South Africa offered a number of unique, affordable experiences that appealed to youth travellers, including free walking tours in Cape Town, cycling tours in Soweto and slackpacking from village to village on the Wild Coast.

The WYSE Travel Confederation highlighted on its website that the global youth travel market currently represents 304 million travellers generating revenue of US$308 billion.