The language travel industry has traditionally been largely the preserve of those with a particular personal interest in the business. The first language schools were often set up and run by individuals who were personally involved in language travel and many of these schools have continued to be run by their owners or passed down to family members over the years. However, the face of language travel is changing and chain groups, mergers and take-overs are now commonplace.
It is perhaps a sign of the maturing face of language travel, and its potential in the business world, that it is finally being noticed by investors from other business sectors. The news that Cambridge Education Group has been taken over by Palamon Partners, whose Chief Executive Officer was previously Director of Capital One Europe (page 7), is surely a sign that the future growth of the language travel industry is being acknowledged. Indeed, a partner at Palamon identified the “tremendous growth potential of the sector” as a reason for the investment.
The expected growth of an industry, however, is only part of the story, particularly for a sector that relies entirely on the ability of students to be able to travel freely between countries. Government regulations and policies also have a role to play and in this issue we focus on visas in our Special Report, which gives an overview of recent developments (page 28). Overall, the outlook for many language travel destinations is good, with governments increasingly trying to simplify and regulate the visa issuing process. One country that is still suffering due to its visa regulations, however, is Italy and the school association in this country faces an ongoing struggle to keep visa issues for language students on the government agenda.
Malta is one country that is expecting enrolments from language students to increase in the future due to the introduction of a long-term student visa (page 37). Accessibility can also affect the ability of a country to compete effectively with rival study abroad destinations and Malta will surely benefit from the business decision by low-cost carrier Ryanair to introduce a number of new European routes from October this year (page 8).
If the language travel industry is to reach its full potential, the different forces of business and government policy must work together. The financial and experiential input of venture capitalists at this time can only increase the opportunity for this to occur.