Tourism conference hears positive message from government on youth travel solutions
12 October 2023

Tourism Policy conference hears positive message from government on youth travel solutions

Susan Young, our external relations manager attended the Tourism Policy Conference in September where the tourism minister John Whittingdale shared some positive updates. 

The Minister and civil servants gave updates on the UK-France youth group travel agreement and talked about reducing industry staff shortages by expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme.

'Good progress' on UK-France group travel agreement but no dates confirmed

In March, the government announced an agreement between the UK and France to make travel easier for school groups.

Speaking at the Tourism Policy conference, Minister John Whittingdale said: "We are optimistic we are making good progress." Laura Backhouse, head of tourism at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said she would "put it higher up the list in terms of likelihood of progress." Both speakers emphasised that they were reliant on other departments to do the work.

Philippa Rouse, director of migration and citizenship at the Home Office, spoke about the UK-France agreement in more detail later at the conference. She described it as a work in progress with no exact dates at present. She also confirmed that the Home Office is keen to come to agreements with other countries.

In her speech, she said: "The prime minister and President Macron agreed in March they would look for new ways to facilitate school children on trips. We are now working with the French to operationalise those arrangements and would absolutely consider similar arrangements with other countries if they wanted to do so."

"We need to make some minor legislative changes, make sure that works at [border] controls. There are some real practicalities about processing school groups. We want to get this working for the French and are very much in the space of wanting reciprocal arrangements, making sure these arrangements are possible with these countries dependent on negotiations with other countries."

Expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme

We understand the government is working hard with an number of their counter-parts in other countries to secure new youth mobility arrangements that would allow young people up to 30 years of age to work and study in the UK for up to two years.

Huan Japes, our membership director who leads on our campaigning and lobbying said "We look forward to hearing soon how these agreements are progressing with both EU and non-EU countries. Ideally these new agreements should have high caps (or even no cap) so that as many young people as possible - including British citizens wanting to experience work and study in another country - can take advantage. We urge the government to conclude their active negotiations soon so that legislative delays are avoided. In addition, the government should look at increasing the available places for youth mobility schemes in countries such as Japan and South Korea which are significantly over-subscribed."

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