Is Student Travel Right for Your Business?
People across all industries are setting their sights on expanding their businesses or pivoting to offer something new to match our ever-changing world. Group travel professionals are no exception! One such area of expansion worth considering is student travel, as the market is seeing fast-moving recovery and schools and educators are itching to get students back out on the road.
So, how do you know if dipping your toes into the student travel realm is right for you? Outside of knowing it's a sector of travel that can be lucrative for your business, valuable for students and just downright fun, there are a number of key considerations to keep in mind.
Ensure you've extensively researched the area you're traveling to, in addition to knowing where the nearest hospital, emergency facility or first-aid station is, at all points along your route. Keep communication clear and easy by ensuring group leaders and chaperones have contact numbers for the rest of the group, along with any emergency numbers.
Be mindful of students with food allergies or sensitivities and dietary restrictions when planning meal options and obtain medical information for everyone in your group. If traveling abroad where a different language is spoken, ensure everyone knows how to communicate if they have an allergy, in addition to knowing how to ask for help or assistance. If a traveler uses crutches, a wheelchair or otherwise needs accommodating, ensure those needs could be met at your intended stops ahead of time.
Help students deter theft by encouraging them to always keep a hand on any bags or backpacks, keep credit and debit cards in sight, and never go to a bank or ATM alone or accept help from a stranger. Of course, have photography rules in place and make students aware of when it's appropriate to use (or put away) smartphones or other electronic devices.
The early bird gets the worm for a reason! Encourage educators and group leaders to get the ball rolling as early as possible. Not only will this process allow for a truly stellar itinerary to fall into place, but you'll also be in a good position should any pivots or adjustments need to happen. Work with the educator ahead of time to determine what the purpose of their trip is (educational, performance, etc.) and what they'd like the takeaways of the trip to be.
With cost being one of the most common barriers preventing students from being able to experience the magic of travel, planning early also allows more time for fundraising opportunities to take place. Keeping costs in mind, be sure to also remind educators of the potential perks that often coincide with traveling in the "off season"—smaller crowds, better availability at top attractions, lower ticket pricing, more customized experiences, etc.
While planning a trip can be exciting, getting a school board to approve of a student trip can be tricky and requires additional planning. Support educators by helping iron out the details that demonstrate preparedness and the benefits of student travel.
Be sure to encourage educators to share the perks of working with a group tour operator when presenting their proposal to the board. This could include safety protocols related to COVID-19 and otherwise, liability insurance and more. Encourage the educator to share the trip itinerary to show exactly what's involved in the trip and what costs cover.
Emphasize that student travel is education in itself! There's nothing like getting to see historic sites, art and live performances in person. And the social benefits truly abound. Allowing students to travel expands their worldview and perspectives, offering them the opportunity to build more compassion and empathy for the people, places and cultures which are different from their own.
In addition to securing trip approval from the school board, educators are tasked with helping parents feel at ease about sending their child off in their care to a sometimes far away destination. The best way this can be done is through educator-parent collaboration.
Encourage educators to bring parents into the fold by including them in the process of planning from the very beginning—host meetings to share information and ask questions; over communicate; propose and discuss fundraising ideas; have a student or parent who has traveled on a similar trip in the past share their experience; address safety concerns and cell phone policies, etc.
Educators also work to source chaperones, a crucial step you could assist with. Work with the educator or group leader to create materials outlining expectations from both parents and students. An ideal chaperone:
- Should have all necessary clearances required by the school.
- Is someone who is reliable and trustworthy, in addition to having a good rapport with students.
- Might have travel experience, a medical background or be bilingual.
- Understands this trip is for the students and isn't a personal vacation.
- Agrees to the clear expectations set before them, including respecting trip rules (ex. no alcohol, meeting at the scheduled times and locations).
Keeping these considerations in mind, delving into the world of student travel can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling endeavor—both for your business and the many students whose lives will be changed for the better, thanks to the gift of travel.
Interested in learning more about what destinations are on the rise for student travel? See which locations—both in the US and abroad—made the cut by checking out SYTA's 2022 Top Destinations to Watch: bit.ly/395by28
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor of Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in the Jul/Aug '22 issue of Groups Today.