||Italy's language travel market experienced negative growth in 2002 with world events and the country's own economic performance last year stifling growth.
|The total number of students placed by the 13 agencies in our survey was 2,630
Individual agencies placed between 10 and 500 students on language courses per year
Student numbers decreased by an average of 5.2 per cent
Average length of stay for Italian students was 2.6 weeks
Commission rates ranged from 15 to 25 per cent, averaging out at 20 per cent
The average spend on tuition and accommodation per week was US$490
68 per cent of Italian students took a language course in the months of July and August
||Most popular courses
New Zealand 2%
Summer vac. 20%
Language plus work 9%
Exam prep. 4%
Academic prep. 2%
|Reasons for language travel
||Age range of clients
|Studies at home 48%
Current work 31%
Studies overseas 8%
||How do agencies find new schools to represent?
|Host families 60%
Private apartment 6%
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 33%
Education NZ 33%
British Council 100%
In last year's Italy Agency Survey, agents were concerned about the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the downturn in the world economy on the Italian language travel market (see Language Travel Magazine, March 2002, pages 10-11). This year's results confirmed that, for many agencies, the rather downbeat forecasts for 2002 became reality. Forty-six per cent of respondents said their student numbers had decreased by between 10 and 21 per cent in 2002. They put this down to uncertainty in the international market, fear of flying and terrorism and competition at home. A further 15 per cent of respondents said their numbers had stagnated at 2001 levels, although one added that although numbers had decreased, student weeks were up on the previous year. Twenty three per cent of agents said their student numbers had increased in 2002. Across all agency businesses, student numbers were down by just over five per cent.
Executives and professionals appear to be playing a greater role in the market, and most agents said that clients already in employment and newly graduated students were increasingly looking at language travel to enhance their career prospects. An average of 13 per cent of agency bookings were for executive clients, and over-30 year olds accounted for 11 per cent of students. Learning a language for work purposes was the second most important motivating factor for taking a language travel course. The most prevalent reason was for the students' studies at home. This corresponds with the fact that 51 per cent of clients were aged between 16 and 24, with 25-to-30 year olds accounting for a further 31 per cent of students.
Language and destination trends
English was the most popular language choice in the Italian market, accounting for an average of 87 per cent of bookings, while Spanish was in second place with seven per cent. Demand for German and French was similar, accounting for three per cent of bookings each. In terms of destinations, the UK was the most popular, followed by Ireland and the USA.
Word-of-mouth recommendations continued to play an important role in the Italian market, accounting for an average of 54 per cent of business. However, agency websites played a greater role this year, with 85 per cent of agencies having websites, compared with only 44 per cent in last year's survey. Sixty-nine per cent of agents charged a handling fee of between e40 (US$43) and e100 (US$108).
Forecast for 2003
Many agents are confident about 2003 and one mentioned that those who have postponed their travel plans for two years will not wait any longer and are likely to take their courses this year. But the economy is still struggling and is not expected to pick up until the second half of the year. In addition, agents forecast that the proliferation of web-based operations will intensify competition in the market.
Italy's economic performance in 2002 was rather unimpressive, with real GDP growth in the third quarter of 2002 up by only 0.5% compared with the previous year.
Industrial production fell by 0.5% in September 2002 and Confindustria, the employer trade group, reported that output dropped by a further 0.3% in October, despite the fact that factory orders had increased by 0.5% in September.
By the third quarter of 2002, the unemployment rate was at 8.7% and further redundancies, most notably by auto manufacturer, Fiat, weakened the employment picture for the end of the year.
Economists believe that the inflation rate, which reached 2.8% last year, will gradually go back to 1.7% during 2003.
Source: Business Week Online; Dresdner Bank
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Ageoviaggi; ALP; AP Education; Coming; Easy Language; English Language Consultancy Service (British Chamber of Commerce); English Solutions; International House Campobasso; Language Data Bank; Meridiano Viaggi e Turismo StudioLingue; STI Travels; Study Centre; WEP Italy.
Italian agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Australia: Australian Centre for Languages, Sydney, NSW; HHH Language College, Brisbane, QLD. In Canada: Pacific Language Institute, Toronto, ONT; Tamwood International College, Vancouver, BC. In Ireland: Emerald Cultural Institute, Dublin; Geos English Academy, Dublin; Horner School of English, Dublin; Language and Activity Holidays, Cork; Language Centre of Ireland, Dublin. In the UK: Angloschool, London; Bell School of English, various; Cambridge Academy of English, Cambridge; Central School of English, London; Chichester College, Chichester; Embassy CES, Brighton; Frances King School of English, London; Henley College, Coventry; Intuition, London; London School of English, London; Pilgrims Language Courses, Canterbury; Regent Language Training, Brighton; Select School of English, Cambridge; Stafford House School of English, Canterbury; Swan School of English, Oxford. In the USA: Converse International School of Languages, San Francisco, CA; The Language Academy, Fort Lauderdale, FL; University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA. Worldwide: Anglo Continental; Aspect/ILA; Eurocentres; Language Studies International; St Giles; Sprachcaffe.