“Nobody got hurt and we got to the event in time.” Peter de Jong shares his memories of WYSTC 1992
Tell us, how was Brazil chosen as the host country for the very first World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in 1992?
At the time Brazil was an emerging ‘power house’ due to STB’s active involvement in FIYTO and ISTC and its phenomenal growth (student tickets, cards, insurance). We already had a few smaller events in Latin America, but never a truly major, global event. We also knew that STB had the management capability to pull off a successful event.
What was your role at the time?
I served as FIYTO’s Director General at the time. FIYTO had a long history of successful global trade fairs and conferences that annually rotated internationally. The FIYTO Conference had become a ‘must do’ trade fair for all FIYTO and ISTC members and for any new operator aspiring to join our community. ISTC was the successful organiser of smaller, specialist student travel product conferences, primarily for its own membership.
Since FIYTO had a dedicated and experienced conference staff unit, and since the FIYTO Conference was central to our existence, it was decided that FIYTO would organise the event, in close consultation with ISTC, whose Director, Roger Charles, who was comfortable with our ‘leading the dance’ administratively.
We chose the name World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) and formed a supervising board composed of senior executives from both organisations. As FIYTO’s Director General, I had final management responsibility.
What was so special about WYSTC?
I think the host city and country, Rio in Brazil, made it special. Not many members had been there and all were curious. Prior to joining FIYTO, I had spent five years in Brazil as a travel industry consultant and had established a close working relationship with José Carlos Hauer Santos, Jr., the owner and Director of STB. I felt absolutely confident that, with his support, we could pull off a stellar event that would be long remembered by all.
What is your favourite memory from WYSTC 1992?
I have many cherished memories: our events at the Scala theatre and the Samba School; outdoor lunches around the hotel pools and one of the transfer buses catching fire on the way to an event- nobody got hurt and we got to the event in time.
But the greatest memory was simply the success of the inaugural WYSTC event- the first of many, as it turns out. Everyone left happy and both organisations were very satisfied. We felt we had established a new tradition and we knew we had more closely linked youth travel (FIYTO) and student travel (ISTC), which ultimately led to the merger of both organisations.
Do you think it required much more effort to organize an event like WYSTC back then compared to today?
While we had outgrown the stencil machine by then (remember those?) we were barely in the era of good photo copiers and faxes; no internet communications yet. The work load was tremendous, communications were slow and difficult and the WYSTC team and the local STB team had to work harmoniously, and long hours, to get things done. Problem solving became an art form.
Is there anyone in particular that served as a mentor to you at that time or people that were instrumental to ensuring the success of WYSTC 1992?
Many individuals were critically important. Without José Carlos and Christina Bicalho’s leadership, we could not have done it. On the FIYTO side, I was lucky to have Jean-Marc Mignon and Jack Coronna in my corner; they were always supportive and never intrusive.
If you were to organize WYSTC today, what do you think the most important changes would be?
Meetings today need to be shorter. Few members and executives can afford to spend an entire week away from the office. Delegates are more self-reliant and largely manage their own attendance online.
WYSTC has changed over the years, but trade remains central to the event. Given digital communications and technology nowadays, do you think that an event like WYSTC is still needed to connect players in the industry?
A focused, short, affordable annual trade event in an easily accessible venue, that possesses all necessary infra-structure, is still relevant today.
Do you think being a member of a travel trade association is as important now as it was 25 or 30 years ago?
As long as WYSTC and the associations add value to their members and attendees, and as long as they draw the right mix of old and new buyers and sellers to their event, WYSTC remains as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.
Brazil is facing a variety of political, economic and social challenges…do you think these types of issues deter young travellers from visiting not only Brazil but any other destination with problems in the public eye?
Brazil is a multi-faceted, complex country. It is struggling to address the pervasive issue of corruption on all levels. As a true Brazilophile, I want to believe that the country will overcome these difficult issues. Young travellers are not easily intimidated; they will continue to visit places that the traditional adult tourist may temporarily avoid.
Are you still in the travel business?
Yes, I serve as Senior Partner of TTSI, Travel and Tourism Strategies, Inc.
Are there any other memories of WYSTC that you would like to share?
The beauty of WYSTC was –and remains– that each event is unique, because of the global rotation process. It is important to bring strong elements of the host country culture and the host country student travel milieu into the event. That way, we’ll have lasting memories of each WYSTC.
For me, WYSTC 1992 became the first of a series of incredible events that I was fortunate to organise. I remain thankful to the Boards of FIYTO and ISTC, who provided the confidence and support to initiate this new concept, and to José Carlos Hauer Santos and his brilliant team for their amazing execution of the first, and perhaps most memorable, WYSTC ever.
Last but not least, I pay homage to the many veteran WYSTC staff who, year after year, flew to far-flung places to work long, arduous hours – often in windowless rooms – to ensure everyone’s smooth attendance, timely meeting agendas and minutes, attractive trade fair booths and who were always prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that every delegate felt special and important.
WYSE Travel Confederation would like to thank Peter de Jong for recognizing, 25 years ago, the potential for a truly unique event that would bring youth and student travel closer together and provide the foundation for global growth.
Peter de Jong served for 10 years as Director General of the Federation of International Youth Travel Organisations (FIYTO) in Copenhagen. From 2001 to 2008 he served as President and CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), providing visionary leadership to enhance the growth, value and quality of the Pacific Asia travel and tourism industry. In late 2008 he founded Travel and Tourism Strategies, Inc. (TTSI) and serves as its Senior Partner.
FIYTO was the Federation of International Youth Travel Organisations and ISTC was the International Student Travel Confederation. FIYTO and ISTC merged to form WYSE Travel Confederation.