CLARKSTON, Mich. --
As the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA) heads into its
Ninth Annual SYTA Conference at the Cook Convention Center in
Memphis Sept. 16 to 20, the student travel industry is reeling from
the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, which
is a favorite destination for student travel groups.
is up 15% over that of 2004, with 750 registrants from the
associations membership of tour operators, destination marketing
organizations, hotels and attractions. But the issues raised by the
New Orleans disaster loom over the SYTA conference with particular
immediacy because of the proximity of the host city to the site of
All the hotels in
Memphis are sold out as people have moved in from New Orleans, said
Michael Palmer, SYTAs executive director. Were going to dedicate a
good portion of our fundraising activities to contribute to relief
efforts on the Gulf Coast.
SYTA plans to lend
some support from its charitable arm, the SYTA Youth Foundation,
which will organize activities such as a golf outing and a Run,
Walk, Slumber fundraiser at the conference.
According to Palmer,
the disaster in New Orleans also has intensified the security
concerns that are among the major issues of student travel
associations and the suppliers who serve them.
Safety and security
are always the number one issue relating to student travel, even
before 9/11 and its even more the case today, said Palmer. There is
concern from school boards over liability issues. Were seeing more
restrictions on travel. Some school boards are saying they will
allow only domestic travel, some only within the state, some only
during non-school hours.
Whether the changes
will amount to a net loss to the industry remains to be seen,
Palmer said. Were still seeing increases from our member companies,
said Palmer. While the industry is not seeing the 20% growth rates
of our heyday in the 1990s, its still seeing healthy growth. We had
a 13.7% median increase in revenue in 2004 over 2003. Thats three
to four times the Travel Industry Association average for all
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].