More young people are travelling abroad to learn a language, gain work experience and study, allowing them to stay longer at destinations and spend more than the average tourist, according to a global study on the youth travel sector.

Young travellers represent 20% of the international tourism market, accounting for £138 billion of the £692 billion tourism spend in 2012, as reported in the World Youth Student & Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation’s New Horizons III report, which updates previous research into the youth travel market conducted in 2002 and 2007.

The latest research reveals that over 1/3 of young travellers polled were travelling for language learning or study purposes, with another 16% citing work experience as their motivation. Holidays as a reason to travel dropped from 75% in 2007 to just under 50%.

“With young people travelling further, staying away for longer, spending more, keeping in touch more and integrating with overseas communities on a scale not seen before, the industry is becoming far broader than ever before,” said David Chapman Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation.

The average total spend in 2012/13 – up by 40% since 2007 – amounted to just under €3,000. Despite holidays still being the main reason for travel, the biggest spenders are considered to be travellers learning a language or studying abroad, shelling out on average €3,500 and €3,640 respectively, states the report.

Among the 34,000 young travellers surveyed from 137 countries, the top three countries of origin included Germany, US and Canada, followed by China which accounted for 7.4% of respondents.

Over half of the respondees – predominantly female – were aged 20 to 25, while the 30-plus group accounted for 17% of those surveyed, an increase since 2002. These travellers make an average of 10 inter-regional trips during their lifetime, building what the report calls a “travel career” allowing them to visit more distant regions as they get older.

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