April 2005 issue

Travel News
Agency News
Agency Survey
Special Report
Market Report
Course Guide
Regional Focus

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US market evolves

Agencies based in the USA still cater for a high proportion of clients learning a language for pleasure only, although college-aged clients are tipped to increase in number. With a high euro exchange rate, Latin American countries are also forecast to prosper as chosen destinations.

Key points
The total number of students placed by seven of the eight agencies in our survey was 2,615

Individual agencies placed between 24 and 1,000 students on language courses per year

Average business growth was 23 per cent in 2004

The average length of stay was six weeks per student

Agencies only represented on average 33 schools around the world

The 19-to-24 year old age group is tipped to be the growth sector, as financial aid for study abroad increases

Learning a Chinese language is a new growth market, according to this issue's survey

Only two of the agencies canvassed charged a handling fee to clients

Top destinations Most popular courses
1. Spain 19%
2. Costa Rica 12%
2. China 12%
4. France 8%
5. Mexico 7%
5. Guatemala 7%
7. Japan 3%
7. Chile 3%
7. Italy 3%
10. Other 26%
1. Intensive 28%
2. General 26%
3. Summer vac. 11%
3. One-to-one 11%
5. Other 8%
6. Junior 7%
7. Work exp. 6%
8. Uni. foundation 3%

Reasons for language travel Top languages
1. Pleasure 28%
2. Studies overseas 20%
2. Studies at home 20%
4. Current work 19%
5. Other 13%
1. Spanish 55%
2. Other 17%
3. Chinese 12%
4. French 9%
5. Italian 4%
6. Japanese 3%

How do agencies recruit students? How do agencies find new schools to represent?
1. Website 51%
2. WofM 21%
3. Seminars 5%
4. Mailshots 2%
5. Other 21%
1. Internet 29%
2. LTM/ETM 17%
3. Fairs/expos 14%
4. Workshops 13%
5. Other 27%

Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
Acpet 0%
English Australia 0%

Capls 16%
CLC 0%

Souffle 33%
L'Office 0%
Unosel 16%

MEI~Relsa 0%

Asils 33%
Italian in Italy 16%

Feltom 0%

New Zealand
Appel 0%
Crels NZ 0%
Education NZ 0%
Fiels/English NZ 0%

Aeple 16%

Fedele 83%

ABLS 50%
English UK 16%
British Council 66%

Eaquals 33%

Accet 33%
CEA 50%

Ialc 83%

Market growth
Growth was steady for the most part among US study abroad agencies last year, although one agency reporting a growth rate of 150 per cent meant the overall figure of 23 per cent growth is higher than expected. Disregarding this result, the figure of five per cent growth seems more realistic across all other agency business. Three agencies indicated that there had been no change in student booking patterns in 2004 compared with 2003. College-aged students were earmarked as likely to fuel increased bookings next year, as financial aid for study abroad becomes more commonplace.

Language and destination trends
China as a language travel destination is gaining ground across the US client base and this year, it was in third position as most popular destination, following Spain and Costa Rica. Spanish remained the most popular language to learn among US clients, followed by Chinese, French and Italian. After France, in number-four position, other countries mentioned as typical study destinations included Guatemala, Mexico, Chile and Ecuador.

Student and course trends
Twenty-eight per cent of students were reported to be learning a language for pleasure only, which is a high result for this category, when compared with some other markets. For example, in Mexico, just six per cent of overall clients were learning a language for pleasure (see Language Travel Magazine, March 2005, page 14). Further studies at home and overseas represented the motivation for 20 per cent of US students, while current work motivated 19 per cent of students. At US$328, the average spend per week on tuition and accommodation remained similar to the US$333 noted in our previous survey (see Language Travel Magazine, February 2004, page 12). One-to-one courses rose in popularity this year, to be chosen by 11 per cent of clients overall.

Agency business
As was the case last year, an agency's website was the chief source of new business (51 per cent), followed by word-of-mouth recommendation (21 per cent). No clients were recruited via press advertising or TV and radio. Agencies used the Internet to find 29 per cent of new school partners too, while Language Travel Magazine and Education Travel Magazine helped initiate 17 per cent of new school partnerships. Forty-nine per cent of agency clients requested an accredited school, and 84 per cent of bookings were made by individual students; 12 per cent by groups and four per cent by executive-level clients.

Looking ahead
A number of agencies agreed that, with the current high value of the euro compared with the dollar, European destinations such as Spain and France will lose out to Latin American study options in 2005. One agency also highlighted increasing demand for Chinese and Japanese courses, as Asian languages become more popular to study.

Economic overview

The year-end performance of the US economy was the best in five years in 2004, although the economy did slow down as the year moved into the final quarter. GDP growth stood at 4.4% for 2004, improving on the 3% growth registered in 2003.

The unemployment rate remained constant for the latter half of last year at 5.4%.

Consumer spending rose by 3.8% for 2004 - the strongest growth since 2000.

Economists forecast solid growth in 2005, although it may be at a slower rate than in 2004. Current forecasts suggest growth of between 3.5% and 3.8%.

Sources: The Canadian Press, US Bureau of Labor Statistics

US agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Costa Rica: AEC, various; Intercultura, Heredia; Universidad Veritas, San Jose. In China: New Oriental Chinese School, Beijing. In Ecuador: Academia de Espanol Quito, Quito. In France: Eurocentres, Amboise; Institut Parisien, Paris; Institut de Francais, Villefranche-sur-Mer. In Ghana: Dagbe Cultural Institute & Arts Center, Kopeyia. In Guadeloupe: Media Langues Caraibes, St Anne. In Italy: Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, Florence. In Japan: Mayumi Japanese Language School, Tokyo. In Mexico: Solexico, Oaxaca; Spanish Language Institute, Cuernavaca. In Spain: Clic-International House, Seville; Enforex, Madrid; Eureka, Madrid; Open, various.

Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Adelante, LLC; Alliance Abroad Group; Language Link; Global Exchange Center; Cultural & Academic Travel Organisation (Cato); Learning Destinations; ISLS; NRCSA.

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