There are clearly challenges ahead for the language travel industry as evidence suggests that the market is still suffering from an antipathy for travel brought about by last September's events. A number of Western European sources in this issue mention that September 11 is continuing to dampen business. In France, language schools point to a slow start to 2002, although one school reports more bookings than usual from the US market (page 35). Meanwhile, in Spain, language travel agents paint a picture of a stagnating market, with hopes for business growth in 2002 pinned on marketing activities (pages 12-13).
All the more reason, then, for agencies to consider seriously attending industry workshops this year, to promote and overhaul their product range to ensure that they represent an innovative and competitive spread of programmes. If an agency's client base contracts, agents need to make sure that they can meet any potential request. Our Agent Questionnaire candidate in this issue underlines this. 'I never tell my clients that I do not have the courses or places that they request,' she says (page 10). Agencies need to keep up to date with study abroad opportunities and workshops are an effective way of achieving this aim. Among the agencies interviewed by Language Travel Magazine , there was a general concensus that, on average, up to five new partnerships are established at every workshop attended (pages 20-24).
Besides offering an opportunity to meet new partners and find out about new courses, workshops are also a good source of news and industry information. With new regulations springing up all the time in this business, keeping up to date with the latest developments can be reason enough to attend a workshop. For example, agents will be interested to know that in New Zealand, a new levy on overseas students' fees is likely to be introduced, the proceeds of which will be used to develop quality initiatives for the industry (page 4). And there are new visa prices in Korea and Russia for students intending to study in the USA (page 10).
In competitive times, price can be a strong influence on the decision-making process, as has been witnessed in the aviation industry. Low-cost airlines are flourishing while many other operators are still calling for state aid or investment to avoid closure in a market that has not yet fully recovered since September 11 (page 6). Schools will be aiming to offer good quality language programmes at a competitive price at workshops this year, aware of the agent's need to deliver value for money to their clients.
Nevertheless, agents also need to acknowledge that sometimes, paying more than the market minimum can bring benefits for the student. Academic preparation programmes, for example, cost more than a straightforward Toefl or Ielts programme, but they are far more effective at realistically preparing students for life in a new academic environment (pages 28-33).
Because choice is important for clients, agents also need to be able to offer basic Toefl or Ielts programmes. In this issue, we profile a selection of Ielts courses in Australia (pages 37-38). Agents should be aware of the culture of forgery growing up around Ielts and Toefl tests (page 5) and advise their clients accordingly. Fake test results could seem like a quick-fix solution to students, but if they have genuine study intentions, they need to realise that progress has to be worked at. For agents and students alike, it is hard work and dedication that leads to success.