Washington has long been a leading destination for student travel as the U.S. seat of government. Orlando is the second most visited destination for youth groups. Special student ed. programs apply structured lessons in math, science, English, social studies and history while students enjoy the amusement activities of the park. One example is the incorporation of a physics workshop when learning about the workings of various rides and roller coasters.

New York City has its own long list of attractions but one of the most popular activities for youth groups is to participate in theater and performing arts workshops. Los Angeles has many options for student groups, ranging from grad night programs to in-depth learning experiences. It is also a popular region for youth curriculum and sports competitions. Boston’s historic role in the American Revolution is its key draw for student groups and Chicago’s geographic location and diversity of attractions make it an appealing destination.

Almost one-third of North Americas population is school age and according to a National Tour Association study, numbers will continue to grow to 71 million school age students, grades one through 16, by 2006. The travel industry had traditionally folded youth leisure travel characteristics into other market segment demographics, such as into family travel. Now the number of young people who participate in youth-based travel programs is large and growing to a level that permits youth travel to be recognized on its own.

The largest and most cohesive category in this market is one that offers curriculum-based activities and themes. Most of these types of trips are organized by educational institutions that see the exposure to various destinations, competition and performance opportunities, and other activities as means of offering valuable and meaningful learning experiences. And these experiences cannot be provided in a classroom setting. Teachers and school administrators fold these travel-educational experiences into a curriculum plan as part of the regular class work or as extracurricular activities. Funding for these programs often requires special fundraising efforts that involve the students and parent booster clubs. This is particularly seen with public schools, which by mandate must make approved curriculum programs available to all class members, regardless of the individuals financial means.

Elementary school programs are often day field trips, but at junior high level, multi-day programs come into play. There are a number of tour companies that specialize in planning and operating multi-day trips for students. Most offer a variety of itinerary plans which meet a school’s curriculum requirements, include activities that are age appropriate to the grade(s) traveling and take steps to insure the safety and security of the students.

Youth sports are also on the rise. The National Council of Youth Sports represents thousands of youth sports groups and its most recently completed membership survey shows a major jump in the youth sports community, which now numbers more than 52 million youth participating in organized youth sports programs. Even adjusting for duplicate athletes, this represents a 20% increase over the previous study four years earlier.

New venues are being created for the youth performance market. The SMART organization has developed a series of new special events, such as a school choir festival in Nashville, a music festival in Pigeon Forge and a new parade in Myrtle Beach. More events are being developed for New Orleans and Louisville. Details are outlined in a brochure that has been mailed to 20,000 school directors. New destinations are being planned for the coming years.

The Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) surveyed its members to determine the most desirable destinations for student trips. The polling results were ranked by its most frequently booked destinations, with the top five in the U.S. being Washington, D.C.; Orlando, New York City, greater Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. The top Canadian destinations are the city pairs of Quebec-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal.

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