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SYTA 2023 Student Travel Business Barometer: Preliminary Results Show Student Group Travel Sector Exceeded 2019 Volumes

March 12, 2024

In 2023, the U.S. youth group travel sector has not only recovered but also surpassed its 2019 volumes, according to preliminary data from the Student Travel Business Barometer.

These data are based on input from 40 U.S. tour operators. The year 2023 marked a significant upturn for the sector, with these operators reaching 138% of their 2019 volumes. Notably, the majority of trips conducted were new bookings, generating new revenue.

Looking ahead to 2024, expectations for in-country travel volumes should maintain similar levels to 2023, with a modest 1% increase anticipated. However, there is a pronounced interest in out-of-country travel, with operators forecasting a 45% increase in out-of-country travel compared to 2023.This change could sound a warning for U.S. destinations that student and teacher interest in U.S travel is wavering. As student groups focused more on exploring domestic destinations in the last two years, 2024 will be a year when students will return and explore destinations outside the U.S.

The data from 2023 reflects a return to pre-pandemic norms. The average duration of in-country trips was 4.3 days, and the typical group size comprised 70 students. This shows the popularity of multi–day trips, and as in-country trips often use motorcoaches, trips usually consist of 1 to 2 buses.

Educational group trips emerged as the top choice for student groups, accounting for 54% of travelers. Conversely, performance arts and music trips experienced a slower recovery, attracting 31% of travelers. This slower pace is attributed to the longer preparation times required for music performances. Nonetheless, a strong rebound of these trips is anticipated in 2024.

In 2023, the preferred in-country destination was Washington D.C., chosen by 35% of travelers, followed by New York and Orlando, with 19% and 15% of travelers, respectively. Beyond these destinations, Nashville, Los Angeles, Chicago, Williamsburg, Boston, St. Louis, and New Orleans rounded out the top 10 within the US.

While out-of-country travel in 2021 and 2022 often explored beyond traditional Tier 1 cities in popular destinations, 2023 saw a return to the preference for major cities such as London, Paris, and Rome. This trend is expected to continue into 2024, though interest in new destinations like Greece, Slovenia, Austria, and Iceland is emerging, especially when looking for budget-friendly destinations.

Additionally, 2023 revealed other trends linked to sector-wide price increases. Travelers increasingly sought accommodations in more remote and rural areas or shortened their trips by one to two days. A significant shift in customer behavior was the trend of booking trips two to three months earlier than in previous years, reflecting adaptability and changing preferences in the youth group travel sector.

In conclusion, the preliminary results of the SYTA Student Travel Business Barometer show that the U.S. student and youth group travel sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience and growth, surpassing its pre-pandemic performance in 2019. The sector’s robust recovery in 2023, coupled with optimistic projections for 2024, highlights a strong demand for both in-country and out-of-country travel among youth groups. The 2023 Barometer will be available in June 2024.


About SYTA: The Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) is a non-profit, international professional trade association dedicated to promoting safe and professional student and youth travel. With a mission to foster integrity and professionalism among travel service providers, SYTA serves as the preeminent resource and advocate for student and youth travel.

BONARD is a reputable market research provider with 15 years of experience in the student travel industry. Leveraging evidence-based solutions, BONARD assists governments, destinations, and individual providers in developing tailored strategies and policies. With leading researchers who are members of ESOMAR World Research, BONARD is committed to delivering reliable market insights. Learn more about BONARD at

For more information about the report, please contact:

Carylann Assante, SYTA CEO, [email protected]

Ivana Bartosik, BONARD’s International Education Director: [email protected]