Youth Group Travel Scheme

Public support for proposed Youth Group Travel Scheme

The British Educational Travel Association (BETA) commissioned an opinion poll to investigate whether the general public would support the UK government introducing the Youth Group Travel Scheme

The scheme is part of a proposal by the Tourism Alliance and its associated members to Rebuild Britain’s Tourism Industry and support the Government in achieving its Tourism Recovery Plan targets which are to:

  • Recover domestic overnight trip volume and spend to 2019 levels by the end of 2022 and inbound visitor numbers and spend by the end of 2023 – both at least a year faster than independent forecasts predict

The new 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 6 weeks to take part in group educational tours, school exchanges, English Language courses and organised cultural educational visits without the need to present an EU passport or visa.

Commenting on the Deltapoll results Emma English, Executive Director of BETA said

We are delighted to be able to reassure the government through this opinion poll  that the general public is behind us with this proposal. With any doubts about public opinion removed, the government can go ahead and rescue tourism organisations  (40% of which believe they may fail this year with that figure rising to 75% for educational tourism organisations) by introducing the Youth Group Travel Scheme 1.5 million EU school children can continue to visit the UK, driving much needed economic recovery and valuable soft power.

Key findings:

Deltapoll interviewed a representative sample of 1,515 GB adults aged 18+ online between 25-27th January 2022. You can view the results of the poll here which indicates that the general public would not object to such a scheme.

  • Approximately 2/3rds of the public support the non- acceptance of EU ID cards, but approximately the same percentage believe it is right to exempt school children on an educational visit, with the majority also supporting a scheme which allows EU resident, non- EU citizens under 18 to travel to the UK with their classmates and teacher.
  • Approximately 2/3rds of the public would support a government decision to allow Biometric EU ID cards

We 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.