In a 2008 report by UNWTO and WYSE Travel Confederation, the importance of youth travel was demonstrated in the outcomes it can deliver, including learning, cultural exchange and understanding, career development and self-development. The most significant tourism sectors identified as being able to deliver such qualities to youth travellers include: educational, volunteer, and adventure (Reisinger, 2013).
Across the youth travel - and particularly school expedition sector - these benefits are also echoed by organisations and tour operators that sell these ideas of transformation and personal growth as part of the package (Magrizos et al. 2021).
To date, there have been no notable studies investigating the long-term impacts of school expeditions on travellers – despite companies within the sector, frequently making uncorroborated claims suggesting them to be part of the experience.
This study therefore sought to support wider research on youth tourism and address gaps in knowledge around the long-term impacts on youth and student travellers– both in terms of their own selves, but also in their subsequent attitudes towards responsible travel and sustainable behaviours.
This research can contribute to making expeditions more valuable, transformational experiences, ensuring sustainability is at the forefront of both the programme and the travellers’ minds. In doing so, it can support how the industry adapts to the responsible tourism agenda going forward, and how it impacts young people, in how they will carry these changes with them into their future lives.