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Contents - April 2004


Special Report
The Internet and agents
The threat of direct bookings - students enrolling directly via a school's website - has been a source of concern for agents since the Internet became a modern day reference tool. Many are still unimpressed by the level of attention language centres pay to online enrolments and feel that schools are slow to reward agencies for online enrolments that may be from their clients. Amy Baker reveals current thinking on the issue, and discovers that the issue of price can be important.


Direction
An open market
Exclusive agreements between language schools and their agents are uncommon, although there are advocates of such arrangements. Most schools and agencies in the industry, however, prefer relationships based on consistent quality service, as Jane Vernon Smith finds out.



Destination
Spanish sights
Travelling to Spain is often an eye-opening experience for language students experiencing the Spanish culture for the first time. Different regions within the country offer a range of experiences and students are often suprised to discover that beautiful beaches are just one attraction among many.



Opinion

Added value
Agents play an established and integral role in the language travel marketplace, yet the question needs to be asked: just how much do language training centres appreciate the work of their agents in counselling and orientating their students?

While some schools stress that 'our agents are the most important link between us and our students', and others attest that any future market growth should be enjoyed by schools that 'sustain solid relationships with agents that are promoting quality institutions and delivering satisfied clients', there are clearly different approaches towards maintaining agents in the recruitment process.

Practices regarding the issue of agents and direct bookings vary widely among language schools . At one end of the scale, some schools acknowledge that they encourage as many direct bookings as possible, while at the other end, some school managers claim to do as much as they can to incorporate agents in the booking process.

One Italian agent makes the point that price is a fundamental factor in whether a student might choose to book directly with a school or not. If students do not realise that agents can better prepare them and accurately counsel them for their study trip overseas - as well as arranging additional requirements such as the flight and visa - then they might choose not to pay service fees charged by an agency.

If schools are serious about the benefits that their agencies can offer them – providing well-oriented students and coordinating flight times with the school, for example – then they need to address the pricing issue in collaboration with their agents, enabling them to work with the same net price, where possible.

Agents, for their part, need to promote their advantages to clients as much as possible, to ensure students realise that booking via an agency can make their life easier and, as one Swiss agent points out, give them an easier communication channel should something go wrong with their trip.

Working through national agency associations is one way that agents try to spread the message to consumers that they not only offer a professional counselling service, but also know the best way to arrange extras such as flights, visa and accommodation options. In Belgium, three companies have formed a national associaton and are keen to promote this message in the marketplace.

National associations have other advantages, as they can establish dialogue with schools on a global level, via association-to-association discussion about industry issues, which is something that Korean association, Kosa, recently attempted.

On the schools' side, national associations are merging to cross-sector groups representing the broadest range of interests possible within one association. English UK is launching in May while the new direction of the Canada Language Council is to include as many language schools as possible within its remit. This grass-roots activity should facilitate even easier channels of communication between agents and schools and build on the strong and profitable relationships that already exist between many individual players in the industry.

As our Feedback survey of UK tertiary institutions reveals, there are some sectors of the educator industry that might benefit from closer collaboration with agencies and a greater understanding of the added value - and business - that they can offer.


Opinion
Added value
Agents play an established and integral role in the language travel marketplace, yet the question needs to be asked: just how much do language training centres appreciate the work of their agents in counselling and orientating their students?

News
Canada Language Council evolves
Insurance costs hit UK language school hard
2002 verdict: good sales overall
Karl Badde, Founder of ICEF, dies
English UK plans high profile launch

Travel News
Landmark ruling for low-cost sector
Low-cost boom in Asia
2003 sees negative growth for air travel
Growth for Eastern
European airlines

Agency News
Kosa tries to tackle industry issue
Official launch of Belgian agent association
Chilean and Argentinean agents visit NZ

Agency Survey
China slows down
Following healthy growth in demand for language courses in 2002, agencies in China reported stagnant stagnation in the marketplace in 2003, despite continued strong demand for further education overseas.

Feedback
UK tertiary sector
English language learning in the UK's university sector attracts a slightly different range of student nationalities, compared with the private sector. And many of the students at these institutions choose their language school because a friend or relative has previously studied there.

City Focus
San Francisco
Well known for its
'alternative' atmosphere, San Francisco has lots to offer the adventurous language traveller. Schools in the city report that students are able to mix easily with the local population and a wealth of free-time activities mean that they never get bored. Bethan Norris finds out more.

Course Guide
French and culture


Profile
Jersey
and the Channel Islands
The seven inhabited Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou and Lithou lie within an archipelago of reefs and islands off the north coast of Normandy, France, in the English Channel.

Status
Status: Canada 2003
The Status survey is a venture by Language Travel Magazine that aims to gather specific market data about all of the main language teaching markets in the world. Through our initiative, it is now possible to compare world market statistics. 



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