Trends Report - Today’s Teens Are Into Africa And Volunteering

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A Teen Trends Study of 5,700 travel blogs by Family Travel Forum Consulting finds volunteer vacations up 20% and travel to Africa-Middle East up 48%. FTFc concludes that the recession is responsible for the 7% rise in (cheap) parent-led family vacations and the 9% fall in (expensive) study abroad programs since its 2008 study.

Family Vacations Were Up 7% and Many Were Road Trips

In the current economy, we believe there is a clear opportunity – and a real need – to engage teens in American-based service projects, and we hope travel companies and teen tour operators make more opportunities available to this age group.

Family Travel Forum Consulting (FTFc) released findings today from FTF's third annual Teen Travel Writing Scholarship competition entered by more than 5,700 teens, ages 13-18, in American middle schools and high schools. Results showed that:

-- 48% of teen applicants have traveled outside the United States by their 18th birthday.
-- 29% of teens who vacationed with family traveled outside the U.S. and Canada
-- 8 out of 10 teens seeking cultural enrichment joined study abroad programs while nearly 20% studied U.S. history and culture within their own country.
-- Africa-Middle East saw the largest increase in outbound teen travel -- 48% -- as 4.3% of the 2009 applicants wrote about the region compared with just 2.9% in 2007.

In keeping with a rising trend in volunteer vacations among all ages, stories of service projects were up 20% year-over-year, and comprised 12% of all travel blogs submitted.
-- Two-thirds of teen participants in church and volunteer programs served outside the U.S.
Of that group:
-- 44% volunteered in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
-- Nearly 11% volunteered their services in Africa or the Middle East.
Notes FTFc analyst Kyle McCarthy, "In the current economy, we believe there is a clear opportunity – and a real need – to engage teens in American-based service projects, and we hope travel companies and teen tour operators make more opportunities available to this age group."

FTFc found the current recession had impacted teen travels:
-- Heritage travel by teens to "discover roots" was down from 9% to just 5%, probably due to the high cost of long haul air travel.
-- 58% of teens wrote about family vacations, often daycations taken with parents and siblings.
-- Guided tours with peers was down 9% over 2008, perhaps due to the relatively high cost of teen tours and study abroad programs. In contrast, service trips, many of them subsidized by faith-based organizations, were up 2%.
-- Popular topics included family road trips; guided trips to see colleges or participate in academic/leadership programs; and the Obama Presidential Inauguration.
-- Hot destinations for 2009 applicants included Colorado, Germany, and Haiti, while the most notable decrease was in blogs about New Orleans.

Family Travel Forum's site for those who dream of travel Before I Get Old, http://www.travelBIGO.com , hosts the company's annual teen scholarship and awards cash stipends to writers of the most popular travel journals. For the complete report, visit FTFc Teen Travel Trends to download a PDF version.

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Kyle McCarthy
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