Youth and student travel company, STA Travel, has hit back at claims by one of the UK’s leading businessmen that teenagers are “wasting time” taking foreign gap years.
The accusation came from Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, the largest advertising agency in the world.
He has said gap years are not effective in helping teenagers broaden their horizons because many are “ill organised” and depend on “serendipity,” the Daily Telegraph reported.
Sir Martin, speaking at a global education and skills forum in Dubai, also reportedly said gap years lacked direction and that they need to be “more focused and specific”.
But STA Travel UK country manager Tim Fryer defended the value of gap years as part of a general shift towards responsible travel.
“We are seeing that the importance of a gap year has never been greater, and they’ve never been so meticulously planned,” he said in response to Sir Martin’s comments.
“Our teams in stores throughout the UK are seeing ever-increasing demand for guidance and advice on what to see and do in destinations, as well as help on ensuring that time and budget are used in the best possible way.
“Young people embarking on a gap year want to ensure they’re getting the very most out of it, in terms of both their money, and its potential to broaden horizons, skill set and CV.”
Bookings for volunteering projects are up 27% on this time last year and adventure tour sales are up 20%, according to Fryer.
This indicates that young people are planning ahead more than ever for their on-the-ground time, not just pre-booking flights, he added.
“The boom in volunteering and conservation projects highlights a shift towards responsible travel, as young people usually want to give something back to the communities they visit, as well as learning new skills,” Fryer said.
“Taking part in these kinds of projects allows you to really get under the skin of a country or community, as well as broadening your horizons, meeting new people and opening yourself up to new experiences.
“The job market is still very tough for young people in the UK. More and more are taking the opportunity to head off on a gap year trip to broaden their work and life experience, and boost their CV with overseas work experience.
“Working holiday visas for Australia and New Zealand continue to be one of the most popular options for young travellers as it enables them to work to earn money for further travels, as well as widening their skill set.”
STA Travel also announced it has forged a partnership with Teenage Cancer Trust to raise funds and awareness of the work the charity does to support young people with cancer.
The company will raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust in 2016 through a number of staff and consumer fundraising activities, including giving travellers the opportunity to donate £1 to their booking in store.
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