The WorldBrain team has been spending a significant amount of time trying to accurately determine the total number of travelers in the educational travel market. We’ve scoured the internet for numbers, searched every study abroad database we can find, asked around, and come to the conclusion that to accurately determine the size of this particular market, you have to do some deeper digging into the numbers and use your best judgment. Nothing is conclusive. Let’s take a look…
Defining the ‘Educational Travel’ Market
‘Educational travel’ is a somewhat vague term because all travel is arguably educational. Anytime you step out of your front door and go to a place you’ve never been before – a new country, a new town, a new city – you are learning more about yourself and the world around you. Therefore, we will narrow our focus a bit. Our addressable market includes elementary, middle school, high school, college and university students and their educators taking trips both domestically and abroad. Typically there is a 1:10, 1:8 and sometimes 1:6 ratio of educator to students for these trips. This is where it gets a bit more complex. Educational travel encompasses a variety of different types of trips: short-term trips (2 days – 3 weeks); study or immersion tours (1-3 months); semester programs (4-5 months); long-term travel (6 months -1 year). Combining these separate markets into clean, accurate numbers of students and educators traveling comes next.
100,000 or 8,000,000 Students Abroad?
The Institute for International Education’s
survey is widely regarded as the top source for the study abroad market. IIE puts the number of international students enrolled at US institutions at 723,277, an increase of 32% since 2001, and the number of US students studying abroad at 270,604 for a total of 993,881. Unfortunately, these numbers do not address our total addressable market. These numbers only include students studying in the United States and US students going abroad for
; just a fraction of the market we are looking for. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
estimates 3.7 million students studied outside their home country in 2009. Bob Gooddard in “Making a Difference: Australian International Education” states that the number of international students will triple to 8 million by 2025. These numbers sound
, but the study abroad and educational travel market encompasses far more than just studying for academic credit.
The Association of Language Travel Organisations “Global Directions in Language Travel” claims that 74% of language travel tours were 4 weeks or less in duration in 2009.”Open Doors” puts the percentage of trips eight weeks or less at 56.6%. Our conclusion is that the vast majority of educational travel abroad is for non-degree programs and short-term stays. Many schools don’t offer academic credit for internship programs and many faculty-led short-term tours don’t necessarily translate to “academic credit” programs.
160 Million Students Studying and Traveling Abroad?!
Looking for more accurate estimates, the WYSE Travel Confederation stood out. WYSE found in 2008 that youth travelers (ages 16-29) account for 20% of all international arrivals . Their estimate on the number of youth travelers per year: 160 million! Now that’s more like it! The only problem is that these numbers are now four years old, in a market that is growing around 5% a year. Also, if our addressable market includes elementary and middle school students (roughly ages 12 and older) taking trips within their own country, the numbers get even bigger!
Help WorldBrain Out!
We want to make sure our picture of the study abroad and educational travel market are as accurate as possible. Which numbers do you think are right? If you know of a resource we are missing, please let us know!