||The year 2003 was characterised by difficulties stemming from the conflict in Iraq and economic issues, according to the Swiss agencies that took part in our Agency Survey. But hopes for 2004 remain high.
|The total number of students placed by the nine agencies in our survey was 4,036
Individual agencies placed between 28 and 1,600 students on language courses in 2003
Average growth of combined agency business in 2003 was eight per cent
Average length of stay for Swiss students was six weeks
Commission rates varied from 20 to 25 per cent, averaging out at 23 per cent
Five of our respondents charged students a handling fee from US$30 to US$45
At US$538 per week, average spend on tuition and accommodation was quite high
Forty-seven per cent of clients found out about their agency through word-of-mouth
||Most popular courses
New Zealand 9%
Latin America 4%
Exam prep. 24%
Lang. + work 7%
Summer vac. 4%
Business lang. 3%
Language + 3%
|Reasons for language travel
|Studies at home 44%
Current work 29%
Pleasure only 18%
Studies overseas 2%
||Host family 86%
Private apartment 4%
|Age range of clients
||How do agencies find new schools to represent?
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 38%
Education NZ 38%
British Council 75%
Only two of the nine agencies that took part in our Agency Survey on Switzerland reported an increase in their business in 2003, while three said that their bookings had remained the same and a further three reported a decline in business. One agency declined to comment. Overall, percentage growth varied between a decrease of 30 per cent and growth of 117 per cent. Among businesses that experienced a decline in business in 2003, the most common explanation given was the situation in Iraq and a corresponding decline in students going to study in the USA. Economic factors also played a part in the decline, according to one agency.
The language travel market in Switzerland is dominated by students in the 19-to-24 age group, which accounted for 45 per cent of overall agency business. This corresponds with the reasons given by students for their travel abroad trip, as agencies reported that further studies at home was the motivation behind 44 per cent of students' travel plans. September was the most popular time to travel, with 18 per cent of placements occuring during this time, followed by March and April, which accounted for 13 per cent and 10 per cent of placements respectively. Our respondents relied heavily on word-of-mouth and their website to recruit students, with 70 per cent of business coming via these channels.
Course and destination trends
English was by far the most popular language with Swiss students with 77 per cent of students learning this language compared with nine per cent each learning Spanish and French and three per cent learning Italian. The USA has become less popular as a destination for language students, and, attracting just three per cent of the market, it did not make it into the top five destination choices for Swiss language travellers. Australia was the number-one choice for students, followed by the UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Accounting for 85 per cent of bookings, individuals made up the vast majority of agency business, while group bookings accounted for 11 per cent of business and four per cent of bookings were for business clients. Swiss students are less likely to change their minds about where to study following consultation with an agent than in some other student markets, with just 13 per cent changing their minds about the country, 16 per cent about the city and 26 per cent about the school they wanted to study in. An average of 31 per cent of students requested accredited schools when deciding where to study.
Forecast for 2004
Over 70 per cent of agents who gave an opinion felt that student numbers would increase in 2004 or were already increasing. One agency also predicted an increase in student demand for longer-term placements and exam preparation courses.
Switzerland experienced a sluggish economy at the beginning of 2003, although it picked up in the second half of the year. Overall, GDP for the year declined by 0.5%, bolstered by a slight growth at the end of the year due to increases in exports and capital spending.
Despite higher unemployment, private consumption rose by 0.9% in 2003 showing a similar rise to the previous year. Expenditure on food, housing and healthcare increased while purchases of consumer durables and luxury goods dropped.
The Federal Government is expecting a budget deficit of CHF3.5 billion (US$2.7 billion) for 2004, which will make it the fourth year running that a deficit has been posted. GDP growth is expected to rebound this year, reaching 1.6%.
Source: Swiss National bank, The Economist
Swiss agents named a range of language programmes they work with, in Australia: International House, Brisbane, QLD; Milner International College, Perth, WA; Perth International College of English, Perth, WA; Phoenix Academy, Fremantle, WA; Sydney English Language Centre, Sydney, NSW. In Bolivia: Escuela Runawasi, Cochabamba. In Ecuador: Experimento Ecuador, Quito. In France: ILA, Montpellier; Langues Sans Frontières, Montpellier. In New Zealand: Dominion School of English, various; Garden City School, Christchurch. In the UK: English Language Centre, York; Intuition Languages, London; The English Language Centre, Bristol; Sidmouth International School, Sidmouth. Worldwide: Eurocentres; Language Studies International.
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Canada Live, Edulink.ch, Experiment in International Living in Switzerland, Live & Study, Lingua Service, Meridian Language, Ozeania Reisen, STA Travel, The New Language Institute.