STTA founded the Young Change Makers (STTA-YCM) Programme in 2017, during the year that marked the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. As a response to the rallying call  for industry to accelerate uptake of sustainable tourism values, STTA’ pledge was to mentor emerging African sustainable tourism leaders.

The primary objective of the STTA-YCM programme is to cultivate young critical thinkers by equipping them with sustainability knowledge and skills and enabling them to provide innovative ideas and address current challenges faced by the tourism and conservation industries in Africa.

The STTA-YCM Programme originated as a seminar-based activity that actively involved Higher Education (HE) and TVET institutions and their students enrolled in degrees, diplomas, or certificates in tourism, hospitality, and wildlife management. This involvement took place through structured Inter-University seminars from 2017 to 2019. The primary objective was to generate new ideas through a series of forums, not only to enhance students’ knowledge and skills but also to actively contribute to national, regional, and global discussions on sustainable travel and tourism. Another key objective was to build new competencies in sustainable travel and tourism.

Youth development initiatives are many and in great demand, with a tendency to frame these under some form of change makers programmes primarily focused on fostering leadership and good governance (i.e. …), whilst STTA YCM programme focuses on youth skills development and enhancing employability in tourism. This is achieved by targeting TVET and University students in Kenya.

Supported through public, private and Civil Service Organisations (CSO) sectors partnerships providing knowledge and skills development support (in kind) and/or financial and material support, the STTA-YCM programme includes several activities 

Who the youth mentorship program works with:


Private sector


Non Government Organizations

Public sector

Tourism professionals

Programme Pillars

The STTA-YCM programme is based on four core pillars.

Peer to Peer Knowledge Exchange – Engaging and promoting knowledge exchange among TVET and higher education institutions, the tourism sector, and students on contemporary sustainable tourism development issues in Kenya and globally.

Motivation and Mentorship – Designing incentives and platforms to foster youth participation and capacity building for sustainable tourism development in Kenya and globally.

Creativity and Idea Generation – Encouraging and nurturing innovative problem-solving thinking among youth for sustainable tourism development.

Recognition and Reward – Identifying, recognizing and rewarding students who are actively engaged in championing sustainable tourism in Kenya. 

Programme Activities and Outcomes


Inter-University Seminars are aimed at mentoring the next generation of sustainable tourism leaders through a structured inter-university extension learning program that exposes students to the range and complexity of the sustainable tourism discourse, practical learning from industry experts, and mentorship. Students participate in monthly inter-university seminars hosted by STTA in partnership with knowledge partners such as TVET insitutions and universities. Student presentations on a selected topic are facilitated, followed by panel discussions led by academics and practitioners. A summary report is prepared for each seminar. At the conclusion of the year, all reports are compiled into a single annual report.
Bootcamps are aimed at engaging students in field based experiential learning activities. This involves STTA designing a self-funded travel package for students to visit a particular tourism site for a number of days, in Kenya and other locations in East Africa. During the visits, students gain insights into the operations of these tourism sites and actively contribute to co-creating solutions for any sustainability challenges or problems encountered by the sites. Examples of such tourism sites include wildlife conservation areas, community-based tourism enterprises, and lodges, among others.
Essay Writing is aimed at supporting students through mentorship in academic research and writing, focusing on exploring and discussing sustainable tourism topics, which are informed by discussions at inter-university seminars. The essays by students undergo assessment for quality assurance by the STTA team, with the top-performing essays being featured in the program’s annual report.
Sustainability Audits and Responsible Travel Blogging are aimed at mentoring students to become sustainability assessors through the STTA Utalii Bora initiative by receiving a stipend to visit selected sites in their regions. The initiative provides students with an opportunity to analyze a tourism facility for sustainability and assign a score based on criteria developed by STTA. After approval by STTA, student reviews are published on the Utalii Bora blog.
Problem Solving Internships are aimed at exposing students to industry problems identified by the program’s knowledge partners. They are tasked with developing concepts to address these problems and those students who present the most strategic and feasible concepts are given the opportunity to implement their solutions through an internship/placement.
Rising Stars Scheme is aimed at identifying, recognising and rewarding Sustainable Tourism Champions. These are exceptional students who actively participate in the YCM program’s activities and demonstrate a commitment to championing sustainable tourism. These Rising Stars are further engaged in more intense and rigors type of mentorship specific to their skills and development interests and given first priority for further study programmes and emerging placements and job opportunities. Upon completion of the mentorship program, these students provide mentorship to their peers.


Enhanced Youth Knowledge and Employability Skills (SDG 4 – Quality Education) – One of the objectives of the YCM is to promote and nurture new competencies in sustainable development and management of tourism. The monthly inter-university seminars arm students with real time happenings in the industry, through research and mentorship by industry partners which are more practical. Students are exposed to new knowledge and can use this to explore innovative career paths in sustainable tourism. The problem solving internships, audit, and blogging enhance students’ employability through skills development adding value and enhancing the quality of the TVET/HE programme they are enrolled on.

Enhanced Industry Operations and Workforce (SDG8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG9 – Industry Innovation and Infrastructures , SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production) – The STTA-YCM program provides students with opportunities to connect directly with leading tourism industry players, be exposed to issues associated with the industry and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, increasing their employability (SDG8) and the impact of their knowledge about responsible tourism consumption and production influencing industry practice once they secure employment (SDG12). The STTA-YCM initiative is in itself an innovative infrastructure that helps bridging the gap between TVET/HE curricula and industry needs through a coordinated approach (SDG9).

Enhanced TVET/Higher Education and Industry Collaborations and Partnerships to accelerate youth contribution to a more sustainable travel and tourism sector (SDG17 – Partnerships for the Goal) – The STTA-YCM initiative is a ground breaking tipartite partnership between academia, industry (public/private) and ecosystem players with a common goal, that of proactively contributing to the sustainable tourism development in Kenya and beyond. This partnership is critical for curriculum development, the implementation of innovative learning and skills development practices and the promotion of needs informed policy (educational and industry related) reviews towards a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry.

Benefits For Young Change Makers

Students participating in the YCM have several opportunities:

  • Skills and competency in sustainable development tourism

  • Enhanced chances for employability

  • Opportunities for furthering studies in sustainable tourism
    Travel experiences during sustainability audits

  • Opportunities to be published

  • Research opportunities

Annual Impact Reports

How to Participate


Participate in both on-line and physical seminars

Research and make presentations at inter university seminars

Report/summary writing

Participate in at least 3 of activities each year

Student 2024 Membership Registration is Now Open


Be an Accredited Institution by the Commission for Universities Education or TVETA accredited

Have been in operation for at least 5Years with a Campus

Host at least one seminar a year,

Mobilize students to attend seminars & participate in the YCM programs

Support students to attend seminars hosted by other universities

Encourage faculty members to research and participate in seminars

Public/Private Sector

Actively practising sustainable tourism in their operations Contributing to youth mentoring and development Delivering keynote addresses at inter-university seminars Sponsoring sustainability assessments under the Utalii Bora program Providing (where possible) internship opportunities for young change makers Seminar sponsorship Inkind support