Introduce a Youth Group Travel Scheme for EU under 18’s

Introduce a Youth Group Travel Scheme for EU under 18’s

The British Educational Travel Association (BETA) alongside the Tourism Alliance, English UK and other associations, propose that the UK Government introduce a scheme that allows students under 18 to enter the UK on a single travel document in order to boost educational travel from Europe

The latest statistics published by the British Educational Travel Association (BETA) show that the youth, student and educational travel market collectively contributes £28.6 billion to the UK economy with 14.6m youth and student travellers visiting or studying in the UK each year. Not only do these visitors support over 265,000 UK jobs in the education sector, they are also important for the UK’s future economic growth as former students are more likely to undertake trade with, and invest in, the UK when they return home and enter business.

Within this overall figure, around 550,000 students come to the UK for short periods of a few weeks to study English as a language and almost 1 million more as part of organised educational school trips to visit historical and cultural attractions. While these visitors comprise less than 4% of the total number of visitors to the UK, the £3.2bn that they spend in the country constitutes over 11% of the UK’s total annual tourism earnings.

The EU was the biggest source market for educational travel to the UK with students travelling to the UK on their ID cards as part of organised groups accompanied by teachers or guardians. However, since the requirement for all visitors to the UK to have full passports was introduced on 1 October 2021, this market has collapsed because many EU students do not have full passports and most European parents will not go to the trouble and expense of obtaining passports for their children just to go on a school trip to the UK. The extent of the problem is highlighted by a survey English UK undertook in 2019 which found that 65% of English language schools in the UK had more than half of their European students travelling with ID cards.

As a result, English UK are now only expecting 100,000 English Language Students to visit the UK in 2022 visitors, with the school groups that used to come here now travelling to competitor English Language School countries within the EU travel area such as Ireland and Malta.

While it is still possible for student groups to use an old 1961 Council of Europe’s group passport scheme to enter the UK using just National ID cards, there are significant problems with this approach in that only 17 EU countries have signed up to this scheme and only two countries actually issue collective passports because they have not previously been necessary. Also, the Home Office has stated that it intends to remove the collective passport entry route in future which means that it is difficult to encourage the other 15 EU countries to put systems in place to issue collective passports.

A Youth Group Travellers Scheme is therefore needed to rebuild the UK’s educational travel sector. Such a scheme would allow supervised groups of EU nationals and residents under the age of 18 to travel to the UK for a period of up to six weeks to take part in group educational tours, school immersions, English Language Courses and organised cultural and educational visits aimed at youth and student groups.

Additional Revenue Generated: £1bn 

Introducing a Youth Group Travel Scheme comes at negligible risk to the UK’s immigration policy as the scheme is only open to supervised student groups, which are not a security or economic threat.

The successful introduction of such a scheme would not just save the educational travel industry, it has the potential to generate over £1bn per annum in additional revenue and, over time, will significantly enhance the UK’s soft power.

26 May 2022