Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How might the new UK visa system affect bookings?
Jan Passoff, Star Travel, Russia
“I do not think that an additional charge [that schools may pass on to clients for using the system] will change anything for the client. The schools have different extra charges for high season, for accommodation selection, etc. But the market has currently changed in Russia in connection with biometrics and people from remote areas hardly choose the UK now because they have to travel a long way to the visa centre without knowing if the visa will be granted or not. [They will know under the new system which starts next year]. Those clients for whom money is critical consider the UK an expensive destination and will go to Malta or somewhere else where everything is cheaper. But still the interest to the UK is high. It is also connected with the fact that previously there were no problems getting UK visas and all other countries were problematic.”
Ana Beatriz Senra Faulhaber, Executive Director, CP4 Cursos no Exterior, Brazil
“Every new system generates an initial impact, mainly when that means an increase in prices of the accredited schools to cover expenses to enable visa access. We have not received the 2009 fees yet and do not know how to calculate the total impact on the final price. The UK has always been known as one of the most expensive destinations, but it is also still well known to be ‘the’ place to learn not only the English language but also about the diversity of cultural aspects that involves learning and experiencing studying abroad. Brazil is known as a market where clients are price-sensitive and, nowadays, students are not only more informed because of the advanced technology but also because they are comparing all costs involved on a trip. We cannot forget that visas have always been a concern to clients. Hopefully, the new system will be more transparent allowing students to know their real possibilities to get a visa.”
Tatsu Hoshino, Execu-tive Director, Global Partners Education Network, Japan
“I do not think the new visa system will affect bookings much from Japan. First of all, studying in the UK is rather expensive to us so an additional UK£10 (US$20) does not make much difference anyway. Secondly, we do not have many problems entering the UK so far so the new visa system [will not affect us]. On the other hand, quality linked visa issuance may have a good effect. Lately we see some [visa factory] schools in the UK and they are harming the reputation of the UK because their delivery is not satisfactory. This is surely not good for the entire language school industry in the UK. I expect the new visa system would drive away these schools in the long run.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Language Travel Magazine, we ask a different language teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month, English Language School in Sydney (Elsis) in Australia nominates Bridge Blue in Australia. Greg Newton, Marketing Director of the school, explains this decision.
“In the last year we have hosted well over 1,000 international students, with Bridge Blue delivering about 35 per cent of these. Bridge Blue offers a complete range of student services and support with the utmost integrity.
While participating in international events such as fairs and seminars over the years, we have found that there is a noticeable amount of passion and charisma put in by all Bridge Blue staff that captures the attention of the students. They follow through with a professional counselling process that always results in 100 per cent success and satisfaction for their students.
Our student feedback surveys always reflect positive results from the students that we receive from Bridge Blue and this is also proven by the extra work put into understanding their student needs at all international offices right through to their head office in Sydney.
Bridge Blue is managed by various nationalities and professional backgrounds worldwide with over 20 offices internationally.”
On the move
The Language Centre at the University of the Arts in London, UK, welcomes Hannah Cox as its new Marketing Coordinator. Ms Cox will be looking after and developing agent relationships in a variety of markets, as well as working on promotional materials. She brings teaching and marketing experience to the role she has worked as Senior Teacher and also Marketing Coordinator at St Giles in the UK, and most recently at the London School of Commerce.
Robin Summers has joined Alenea Consulting to head up its new recruitment division, Alenea Recruiting in the UK. With a background in teacher training, school management and academic direction in the UK and abroad, Mr Summers plans to grow Alenea’s bespoke recruitment service and develop the brand as a frontline conduit for EFL related vacancies at all levels.
D’Overbroeck’s College, Oxford, UK, has a new Marketing Coordinator, Rebecca Rue. She already has valuable experience of working in the accommodation department, and she is now working part-time in the marketing department for both d’Overbroeck’s Independent Sixth Form and d’Overbroeck’s International Study Centre. Ms Rue will be the first port of call for overseas agents at the college.
Zannah Lewis has joined International House Bangkok, Thailand, as Marketing Manager. With a degree in modern languages and a background in journalism, marketing and teaching, Miss Lewis brings a wealth of experience to the IH Bangkok team. She will be working with Managing Director, Danny Willcocks, in the introduction of the English language holidays in Thailand package.
Cork Language Centre International in Cork, Ireland, is delighted welcome Jodi Lynch as General Manager. With a background in business development and management, as well as over 10 years in EFL, Ms Lynch has a strong track record of providing strategic leadership and expertise in operational management.
Lisa Fitzgerald is now Director of UK Operations for Shane Global, based in London, having previously been employed by Kaplan as the English Program Coordinator for its UK school. She says she is looking forward to a positive and prosperous 2008.
Working with other tourism bodies and the government has been on the agenda at Eltasa. Gavin Eyre at the association answers our questions.
Full name: English Language Travel Association of South Africa
Year established: 2003
Number of members: 7
Type of members: English language schools in South Africa. Associate membership is now also an option.
Association's main role: to encourage quality and professionalism in the industry and undertake marketing activities overseas.
Government recognition: no
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: yes
Meryl van der Merwe, Secretary,
Po Box 51120, V&A Waterfront,
Cape Town 8002, South Africa
Tel: +27 214190494
Fax: +27 214190725
What has Eltasa been up to in the last year?
We have had a busy year as an organisation and have continued our regular meetings. All members are committed to the organisation. Some of the activities we have been doing include destination marketing: we continue to market South Africa as a good EFL destination. We are also conducting joint marketing of our members at various shows and advertising in Brazil, Turkey and South Korea.
How is Eltasa working with other tourism-sector associations?
We now have representation at the Southern African Tourism Service Association (Satsa) under edu-tourism and are recognised as a contributor to SA Tourism. We are also working closer with Backpacking South Africa (BSA) in promoting South Africa as a youth/student travel destination.
Are there plans for accreditation of ELT centres in South Africa?
Yes, we are at present in discussions with the Department of Education and some of our South African Embassies about this.
What plans do you have for the coming 12 months?
We are now part of a new confederation: South African Youth Student Education and Travel Confederation (SAYSETC). Eltasa is the Edu-SA contingent of the newly formed organisation. We want to grow membership, re-define and develop our collaboration with universities, technical colleges and further education establishments. We plan to continue marketing in new markets whilst sustaining [activity] in our already popular markets. And to grow membership under the SAYSETC banner.
How do you see business developing for Eltasa members and South Africa in general?
We expect to maintain good growth levels over the next year. Our recognition within the country is growing nicely and we expect to have positive outcomes from our discussions at government and provincial levels.
Interglobal expands operations in Asia
InterGlobal, the international private medical insurer with headquarters in the UK, has expanded its operations in Asia by opening a new office in Vietnam. The company has teamed up with local finance-insurance group, BaoViet, to sell its insurance plans through offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Unite Group's expansion plans in UK
InterGlobal currently has nine offices worldwide and the new partnership with BaoViet represents its fifth joint-venture in Asia. The insurance products will mostly be targeted at foreign nationals and corporations based in Vietnam.
Tony Valin, General Manager BaoViet- InterGlobal, commented, “Our experience in developing international private medical insurance plans coupled with BaoViet’s local expertise means we can offer strong products to expats and corporations in this rapidly expanding market.”
Founded in 1998, InterGlobal provides international health insurance for expatriates, frequent travellers and individual business people from over 160 countries.
The UK student accommodation provider, Unite Group, plans to open 3,843 new beds in the second half of 2008 and already claims to have reservations for 77 per cent of its rooms for the 2008/2009 academic year. Unite is the UK’s largest student accommodation with a broad portfolio of properties around the country.
The company has recently sold four of its student residences for UK£54 million (US$106 million) in a leaseback arrangement.
The properties in Bristol, Portsmouth, Coventry and London, representing nearly 1,000 bed spaces, were sold to Morley’s Lime Property Fund and Rainlodge in June but will continue to be managed by Unite Group under long-term agreements with universities. The company will retain a long-term responsibility for management costs and have a share in net income.
Unite also recently sold a further five properties that did not fit in with the company’s strategic plan to individual purchasers for UK£6.5 million (US$12.7 million).
ETS launches English test in China
Educational Testing Service (ETS), the USA-based company which administers the Toefl test worldwide, is developing a new English test for Chinese high school students in collaboration with the Beijing Assess Huikai Educational Science & Technology Development Company.
The Achievement Leveling Testing System (Alts) Level five is set to launch in December and a pilot version of the test has been operational since the spring. ETS has designed the test and is responsible for development, scoring and data analysis of Alts. The test will be used as part of a new assessment system used to measure the English proficiency of students in high schools in China.
Dave Hobson, Group Executive Director of ETS’s Global Division, said, “This collaboration expands ETS’s presence in China where there is a very high potential for improving English language learning. The relationship builds on the core capabilities of each organisation to design, develop and deliver superior learning assessments.”
Bell International recently held a conference, Changing Lives in a Changing World, at its Bell Bedgebury International School and welcomed Bell staff, agent partners and industry professionals to the event. Left: David Pottinger, Chief Executive of the Bell Educational Trust, delivers a speech. Right: a group of delegates enjoy their dinner prepared at the school and take part in a language quiz.
The New Zealand Embassy in Washington, DC, USA, took the chance to promote its study offerings during the recent Nafsa conference, which welcomed 9,500 delegates from the international education community to the city. A traditional Maori war dance was performed on the steps of the Embassy and a raffle was held for a return flight to New Zealand. For a full report of the conference, see page 8.
Seven thousand pounds was raised for charity by fun runners who attended the annual Oxford Fun Run, organised by Oxford English Centre (OEC) in the UK. With a special event for language schools in the city and a fancy dress prize sponsored by Hothouse Media, fun was had by all. Left: Graham Simpson of OEC tends the barbecue in a fetching apron.
The Houses of Parliament were the exciting backdrop to English UK's parliamentary reception held in May, where MPs mingled with English UK members and others. Left: Alex Perkins (left) and Dean Jones of LAL Torbay. Above l-r: Jane Dancaster, Wimbledon School of English; Mark Walmsley, UK Visas; Judy Loren, Excel English; and Tony Millns, English UK.
• Australia has improved visa services for citizens of Poland, Romania and Bulgaria electronic applications for tourist visas to Australia can now processed in minutes online. This means standard Australian visa services for all European Union nationals. Andrew Metcalfe of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said, “This service allows people from eligible countries to use the Internet to apply for a visa at any time from anywhere in the world.”
• Ryanair has announced 14 new routes across Europe, including five new UK services. Routes include Bournemouth to Milan and Paris and Glasgow to Faro, Malaga and Tenerife. The carrier will also charter flights from four new airports including Lille in France and Agadir, Nador and Tangier in Morocco. Bridget Dowling, Sales and Marketing Manager at Ryanair said, “Over 60 million passengers will save over UK£6 billion (US$11.8 billion) by choosing Ryanair’s guaranteed lowest fares over our high fare competitors this year.” However, it is not all about expansion the carrier also announced its decision to ground 20 flights this winter to save on unnecessary fuel expenditure.
• Disruptions during the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay and a possible political boycott of the Games by President Sarkozy have reportedly led to Chinese tour operators not selling package tours to France, although no official advice has been confirmed.Maison de la France, the French tourism promotion agency, said its office in Beijing was trying, along with the French ambassador in China, to clarify the situation. France is the most popular European destination for Chinese, with an estimated 700,000 flocking to the country last year. Philippe Yao, Director of the China Comfort Travel Agency in France said, “It is a catastrophic year for Chinese tourism in France” and that the agency had experienced several cancellations. He also implied that any boycott would have “serious economic consequences”.
• A survey conducted by LateRooms.com, the online hotel search engine, has revealed Brits are geographically dyslexic. The survey of 1,000 British adults found that 71 per cent could not identify Croatia, 45 per cent could not locate Switzerland and 15 per cent were hard pushed to pinpoint Spain on a map. Some of the respondents had not even heard of several countries, with more than one in 10 surmising that Iceland was in fact part of North America and not Europe and 13 per cent believeing that Moldova was somewhere in Asia, South America or Africa.
• Australia’s leading low-cost carrier, Jetstar, has confirmed a new Gold Coast-Japan link up. The airline anticipates that daily flights between Osaka and the Gold Coast will commence in October. Meanwhile, flights from Brisbane to Japan have been abandoned in favour of the newer route. “The reason why we have done this is very straightforward,” said Jetstar’s Simon Westaway. “It’s market driven. Over 75 per cent of the Japanese customers who fly on this route, their end destination is the Gold Coast.” The move was welcomed by Gold Coast Airport’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Donovan, who enthused that the announcement was “symbolic of the future of tourism on the Gold Coast”.
• Car rental company, Hertz, has turned its attentions to scooters, with the announcement that visitors to London, Paris and the French Riviera can now hire scooters to travel around, even by the day. “Scooters provide a fun, convenient and easy mode of transport for the adventurous and young at heart,” said Michel Taride at Hertz, adding that the company aims to cater for every type of traveller.
• Air Europa, the Spanish carrier based in Palma, Majorca, intends to branch into the long-haul sector, offering flights from Madrid to South American cities such as Buenos Aires in Argentina, Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, Caracas in Venezuela, Cancun in Mexico, Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic and Havana in Cuba.