||A difficult economic climate has led to a reassessment by some Japanese language travel agencies of their businesses to specialise in certain market sectors in order to differentiate themselves from the competition.
|• The total number of students placed by the 11 agencies in our survey was 6,335
• Individual agencies placed between six and 4,500 students on language courses each year
• Average business growth was 1.2 per cent
• The average length of stay for Japanese students was 14.7 weeks
• Overall, 79 per cent of Japanese students stayed with host families when studying overseas
• 27 per cent of Japanese students take a language course for their studies overseas
• 44 per cent of the agencies in our survey charged a handling fee, of between 5,000 yen (US$54) and 31,500 yen (US$343)
||Most popular courses
|1. USA 23%
2. Australia 21%
3. UK 13%
4. Canada 12%
5. Malta 10%
6. New Zealand 5%
7. France 4%
8. Germany 3%
8. Italy 3%
10. Ireland 2%
||1. General 37%
2. Intensive 30%
3. Summer vacation 9%
4. Academic/exam prep. 8%
5. Business 2%
5. Junior 2%
5. Language + work 2%
|Reasons for language travel
||Average percentage agency business
|1. Studies overseas 27%
2. Pleasure 26%
3. Future work 21%
4. Current work 12%
5. Studies at home 11%
||1. Language progr. 69%
2. Higher education 17%
3. Work & travel 6%
4. Internships 4%
5. Volunteer 1%
|How do agencies recruit students?
||How do agencies find new business partners?
|1. Website 36%
2. Word-of-mouth 27%
3. Seminars to students 11%
4. E/online 7%
5. Advertising in press 6%
6. Mail shots 1%
||1. Internet 28%
2. Workshops 19%
3. LTM/ETM 11%
4. Lang. fairs & expos 10%
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 50%
Languages Canada 50%
Groupement FLE 10%
Italian in Italy 10%
English NZ 60%
English UK 70%
British Council 80%
Quality English 50%
For the second consecutive year, the Japanese language travel market experienced negative growth, hampered again by adverse economic conditions. Among the 11 agencies that took part in this issue’s survey, one agency reported a drop of 28 per cent in their student weeks, while 45 per cent said that their number of student weeks had stagnated at last year’s levels. Just 27 per cent of respondents said student weeks had increased by around 20 per cent, although one agency did post a 200 per cent increase. Excluding this figure, which distorts the overall picture, student weeks dropped by 1.2 per cent, following a fall of 3.3 per cent in our previous report (see LTM, July 2009, pages 30-31).
Language and destination trends
English remained the top choice for language travellers in Japan, accounting for 87 per cent of agency bookings. Other language choices of note included French and Italian, which made up just over four per cent of bookings each. Turning to the main destinations for Japanese language travellers, the USA was once again in top position this year with 23 per cent, having fallen to third place in last year’s survey. In second position was last year’s leader, Australia, with 21 per cent, followed by the UK, whose share had slipped from 19 per cent to 13 per cent. One agent noted that UK visa issues were still of concern for clients which may have an adverse effect on the UK’s standing in our next survey.
Student and course trends
Last year’s survey of the Japanese market revealed a drop in demand from students who were learning a language in preparation for their overseas studies. This year again the proportion of students learning a language for their studies overseas fell by 10 percentage points compared with last year’s findings. Interestingly, learning a language for pleasure was the second most important motivating factor this year, with 26 per cent of clients taking a language course for this reason compared with only 13 per cent previously. However, this figure has been inflated somewhat by two specialist agencies, both of which said that over 80 per cent of clients learnt a language for pleasure only.
The Japanese agency business is becoming more a market of specialists, borne out by the findings of this issue’s survey in which 63 per cent of agencies focused only on English language programmes, one agency dealt only with French, German and Italian courses, and another specialised in language learning trips to Malta. One agency reported that they used to be a “supermarket” type agency, offering a wide range of locations and language choices, but is now focusing on university placements in the USA. The reasons behind this move are the intense competition in the Japanese agency market and the fact that Japanese students are more likely to book language courses directly via the school than they are university placements.
Cracks in the Japanese market have been evident for some time, with the collapse of Gateway21 agency in 2008, followed by the bankruptcy of the Japanese-owned Geos group this year. Forecasts for 2010 remain cautious, with much resting on the continued strength of the yen and growth of the economy.
• The global financial crisis and a collapse in domestic demand caused the Japanese economy to shrink by five per cent in 2009.
• In July 2009 unemployment reached a post-war high of 5.7 per cent, according to the Japan Times.
• Japan’s economy grew less than forecast in the first quarter of 2010 as an export-led recovery failed to encourage consumer spending. Levels of public debt remain extremely high, close to 200 per cent of GDP.
Source: Bloomberg.com; Reuters.com; Japan Today
Japanese agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Australia: International College of Queensland Australia, Brisbane, QLD. In Canada: English School of Canada, Toronto, ONT; ILAC, various. In France: Accent Francais, Montpellier; Ecole Perl, Paris. In Germany: did deutsch-institut, various. In Ireland: Centre of English Studies, Dublin; Emerald Cultural Institute, Dublin. In Italy: Dilit International House, Rome. In Malta: Chamber College, Gzira; European School of English, St Julian’s. In the UK: Central School of English, London; The English Language School, Bristol; Regent, various; Wimbledon School of English, London. In the USA: New York Film Academy, New York, NY. International: EC; ELS Language Centers; Embassy CES; Eurocentres.
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in this survey: Angelus Overseas Study; Bridge ELS; Britain Reservation Centre; Deow Co.; Global Study Japan; Kaleido Ryugaku Service; Little Europe; My Inc, My Ryugaku Center; Ryugaku Journal Inc.; RyugakuSite.com; SHC Collaboration.