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Domestic Student Travel Barometer Update

May 17, 2021

The Student Travel Business Barometer is a collaboration between SYTA and research partner BONARD, surveying the health and activity of the student travel industry.

The barometer was created before COVID, and has remained a valuable resource in tracking and forecasting the industry’s recovery. Recently, the barometer was updated with data collected from January to March 2021, surveying 96 tour operators who cumulatively move more than 1.2 million students.

Key results were reviewed in a recent presentation by Patrik Pavlacic, head of research at BONARD.

“I think it’s really important to talk about our objective, which is to use the market
research component as a vehicle, bringing the industry together, connecting continents and organizations, and equipping stakeholders with relevant and reliable data to advocate on behalf of the industry,” Pavlacic said. “We aim to empower individual businesses involved in student group travel by creating platforms that lead to increased engagement, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.”

Here are just some of the Student Travel Business Barometer’s key findings on domestic travel, and the full report will be available on soon.

  1. The predicted industry development for domestic travel in 2020 was 7% growth. However, due to COVID-19, there was instead a 90% decline.
  2. In reaction to the pandemic, only 6% of groups traveled as planned in 2020, while 65% cancelled outright and the rest postponed to future years.
  3. Last year saw a decrease in average trip length — dropping from 5.1 days to 3.8 days — and an increase in average group size, from 56 students to 67 students.
  4. Average price for the trips that actually occurred last year was $853. That includes transportation, food, etc.
  5. Respondents expect to see 1-day trips become far more popular than they were in 2019, with a slight bump in multi-day trips within the same state/city. However, multi-day interstate trips are less likely to happen than they were in 2019.
  6. On average, the industry expects to see an average of a 14% recovery in business in 2021. By 2022, a 66% recovery is expected. In 2023, respondents expect to see an average of 92% recovery in business.

Latest Trends

  1. Groups are avoiding overcrowding with nature and outdoor locations/activities.
  2. They’re partnering with vendors in new destinations, fewer pre-packaged tours.
  3. Operators are using more customer engagement campaigns and shifting to pro-active marketing where possible.
  4. Newsletters, video meetings, virtual tours and online advertising are all becoming more popular.
  5. There’s a clear focus on safety and technology everywhere in the industry.
  6. We will be witnessing a gradual recovery rather than a swift return.