Knowledge is key
Although the language travel industry is a sister industry to mainstream tourism, the direction in which it is moving is different to its bigger and older sibling. While Internet sales and speedy booking processes - with an emphasis on self-selection rather than recommendation - are increasingly sought after by the mainstream travel consumer, there appears to be an increasing expectation for a language travel agent to impart personal knowledge and advice.
Agents themselves vouch for this, with some agents suggesting that they are likely to no longer attend workshops - the traditional meeting point for agents and schools - if additional fam trips to visit institutions are not part of the package (pages 22-23). Some agencies claim to only promote schools that have been visited personally by a member of staff at their agency (pages 26-30).
And in a survey of students using an agency for their school placement, the main reasons given for using the agency were convenience and reputation, which meant that students could trust their advice (page 28). The difference between a holiday and an educational experience is that clients hope for a more long-term benefit from the latter. There is also a lot more to consider when making a selection, from the quality of accommodation to teaching standards, nationality mix, activities, etc.
Trends seen in the mainstream travel industry are nevertheless seen to some extent in our industry. One-third of the students canvassed said they would not use an agency's service again, some of whom said it was because they now knew about the process. But a notable 63 per cent said they would use an agency again, underlining that for agencies providing a good service, they can be assured of repeat business.
To be a perfect agency, or even a good agency, businesses need to be aware of emerging trends. One agent in this issue notes that they respond to the shifts in interest in the market and "do not insist on courses that have lost favour" (page 11). The market is not as changeable as it may sound, however, as our Korea Agency Survey reveals that general and intensive courses are still the most popular (pages 16-17). But subtle trends do emerge and some types of courses do take off, such as parent-and-child programmes (page 10). We provide a guide to Spanish and dance courses in this issue (page 41) to keep you up-to-date with one niche programme, as part of our regular Spotlight articles on interesting and marketable products.