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Travel Trends

Helping others is top itinerary for today’s US teens

Nelson Alcantara  Dec 05, 2008

US teenagers are setting a new trend in tourism--voluntourism, the results of a scholarship contest have revealed.

According to Family Travel Forum (FTF), a family vacation media company, results of the teen scholarship reveal that more than 10 percent of US teens who applied for the second annual scholarship traveled with the sole purpose of helping others.

Claiming that it has verified the rising trend, FTF said that it found that the 32 percent of scholarship applicants who wrote about escorted cultural or teen tours also participated in at least one day of community service at their destination.

"The 15 percent increase in teen voluntourism seen since last year may be due to a heightened awareness of our interconnected world, from the environment to Darfur to President-elect Obama's campaign for change," says FTF editor Kyle McCarthy.

According to FTF, the students' own words suggest that community service provides much more than padding resumes for college applications. “Of the 10 percent of teens who vacationed in the Caribbean and Mexico with their families, most wrote about their positive interaction with the local community, rather than beach time or reggae lessons.”

The vacation media company added: “Compelling stories of teen service ranged from comforting AIDS babies at a mission hospital in Mali to house building in the Lower Ninth Ward, in settings as varied as a Mumbai mall under terrorist attack, a cruise ship, and a Chinese home stay with a hostess whose English name was Harry Potter.

“Despite the weakness in the US dollar that affected leisure travel overall, 51.4 percent of the 2008 applicants traveled outside North America, up more than 8 percent since 2007. Regions benefiting from the largest year-over-year change were Europe (20.8 percent vs. 17 percent), Asia (10 percent vs. 6 percent), and Central and South America (6 percent up from 4 percent last year.)

“And while the sacrifice of relatives who funded these trips was a recurring theme in the essays submitted, in fact more than 63 percent of the trips were with family (9 percent more than in 2007), proving that the educational and bonding aspects of vacationing together remain a priority for parents, even in recessionary times.”

FTF said its scholarship attracts a demographic that's valued for their spending power: applicants between 13 and 18 years of age; attending American public, private or home schools; US Department of Defense schools; or International-American programs.

United Nations World Tourism Organization’s study called “2008 Youth Travel Matters” revealed that, 20 percent of all international arrivals are young independent travelers whose travel expenditures have risen 40 percent since 2002.

Helping others is top itinerary for today’s US teens
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