Technological advances and modernisation leads to some industries and services becoming less important over time, as consumers adapt to booking travel products online, for example, or using CDs instead of vinyl when listening to music.
Study abroad consultancy is unlikely to be one of those industries that becomes redundant, as firstly, customers value the quality consultancy and unique insight that agents can offer into study abroad options, and secondly, the drive for improving language skills and obtaining qualifications overseas is not likely to diminish in the foreseeable future.
The dynamics of the industry may certainly change. In Korea, for example, there are efforts to turn the country into an attractive destination for higher education (page 4). Asian countries could rival English-speaking destinations one day in terms of attracting students with academic goals. Chinese students, for example - who are a key student market for international education - may be lured by prospects closer to home.
At the moment, they remain crucial for many language schools in English-speaking destinations, which benefit from their desire for English language tuition followed by higher education overseas. One source representing state sector language tuition in the UK says, 'China is an enormous market, where there is an increasing need and desire for an international education' (page 27).
While agencies can remain assured that they provide a service that is crucial to contemporary life, the nature of the market will clearly continue to evolve. The emphasis on serious language learning has grown year on year, and this was conspicuous during 2002, when financial and safety considerations curtailed some study abroad plans, and, in the cautious post-September 11 climate, study abroad was largely viewed as an investment for the future (pages 20-25).
Thailand is a good example of a market where onward education plans shape demand for language tuition. According to our Agency Survey, 85 per cent of respondents' clients chose to take a language course overseas prior to further academic studies (pages 10-11).
Successful, thriving agencies need to be able to advise about all types of educational placement overseas, as well as meet other student expectations. These include detailed knowledge about a study location, impartial advice, last-minute booking facilities and a constant channel of communication (page 17).
As international business exchange increases, agencies may be able to seek opportunities in the executive environment, if they are not already working in this area. In China, the government is advocating English language fluency among business people (page 4), while in Korea, job seekers have serious concerns about their English language ability (page 4).
There have certainly been hardships in the industry this year, but ongoing global development and exchange means that agents can grasp opportunities next year, although poor economic health remains a stumbling block in some Latin American countries (page 24). Language Travel Magazine will aim, as ever, to encourage professional development opportunities and to keep you informed throughout the year about the latest news and market trends, to enable you to harness business potential.