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

Published Bernice on Monday, October 23, 2023 11:00 AM

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Susan Young, who serves as English UK's external relations manager, attended the Tourism Policy Conference in September, where the tourism minister John Whittingdale delivered some encouraging updates.

During the conference, both the Minister and civil servants provided insights into the UK-France youth group travel agreement and discussed strategies for mitigating staff shortages within the industry, particularly by expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme.

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

In March, the government unveiled an agreement designed to streamline travel for school groups between the UK and France.

Minister John Whittingdale, speaking at the Tourism Policy Conference, expressed optimism about the progress made thus far, stating, "We are optimistic we are making good progress." Laura Backhouse, head of tourism at the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, echoed this sentiment, indicating a strong likelihood of progress. However, both speakers underscored their dependence on other government departments to complete the work.

At the conference, Philippa Rouse, director of migration and citizenship at the Home Office, offered a more detailed overview of the UK-France agreement. She described it as a work in progress with no specific dates set at the moment. Additionally, she confirmed the Home Office's interest in establishing similar agreements with other countries.

In her remarks, 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 operationalize those arrangements and would absolutely consider similar agreements with other countries if they are interested."

"We need to make some minor legislative changes and ensure these work at border controls. There are practical considerations to address concerning processing school groups. Our goal is to make this work for the French and we are eager to establish reciprocal arrangements, provided negotiations with other countries are successful."

Expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme

It's our understanding that the government is actively collaborating with counterparts in several other countries to secure new youth mobility arrangements. These arrangements would permit individuals up to 30 years of age to work and study in the UK for up to two years.

Huan Japes, English UK's membership director, who leads English UK's campaigning and lobbying efforts, expressed anticipation about the progress of these agreements with both EU and non-EU countries. Ideally, these agreements should feature high caps or even no caps, allowing as many young people as possible, including British citizens looking to gain work and study experience in other countries, to take advantage of them. English UK urges the government to conclude their ongoing negotiations promptly to avoid delays in implementing the necessary legislation. Furthermore, the government should explore opportunities to expand the available slots for youth mobility schemes in countries such as Japan and South Korea, which have experienced significant demand.


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