Contents - December 2003

Special Report
Weathering the storm
The past year has been another difficult year for operators in the industry, as economic, political and social factors all combined to create a lack of confidence in or financial ability to study abroad. However, agents assert that students who delayed their plans will book next year instead, while one good factor to come out of 2003 was a continuing drive towards quality and quality standards in the industry. Amy Baker looks back at the challenges and achievements of 2003.

The specialists
Speaking to agency clients can reveal interesting insights into how an agency should be run and what sort of treatment clients expect when booking a language course. As Gillian Evans discovers when she talks to students around the world, they are happy to use an agency again and again, providing that the information provided is complete and informative and any extra charges required by the agency are not considered to be exorbitant.

City Focus
Bournemouth's buzz
Bournemouth has many advantages over other areas of the UK for students learning English, including seven miles of sandy beaches, mild weather and a lively nightlife. Language schools in the area are keen to point out the appeal of Bournemouth's diverse entertainment options, which encompass all age groups and span all seasons. Gillian Evans finds out what makes this town so popular with language students who return year after year.


Tough times
One of the exciting things about working in the international education industry is that the marketplace is always evolving. Student demand changes over time and popular types of programme and destinations emerge, for one reason or another. This can of course be exciting, forcing schools and agencies to remain dynamic and customer-oriented. However, some market trends develop because of external pressures, which can exert a negative effect on the market.

Without doubt, 2003 has been a year in which unforeseen events such as the sudden outbreak of the Sars virus and the war in Iraq, alongside economic difficulties in various countries around the world, have had a severely dampening effect on demand for study abroad (pages 20-26).

As a commodity, language travel is considered to be expendable in times of difficulty or when fears about security exist, despite the fact that it is seen as an integral part of a child's education in some countries, as in Brazil, for example, according to one agent who shares his views on the challenges of the year (page 22).

But what may negatively affect one destination usually means gains for another. For example, another Brazilian agent points to the growing popularity of South Africa this year among their clientele, as price sensitivity has fuelled interest in more affordable language travel destinations - for those who still planned to travel this year (page 22).

Being able to provide a full range of options to suit all enquiring clients is one of the cornerstones of being a professional consultant. Even within every study destination, there is a great range of locations for students to choose from, which good agencies should reflect in their brochure range. In this issue, we profile two very different aspects of the UK - popular Bournemouth (pages 34-36), and Scotland, which lays claim to some lesser-known language travel locations (page 31).

Each type of quality school will have appeal for a different type of customer. And while a student using an agency expects to be counselled well and have an appropriate school for their needs recommended to them, an agency's service does not stop there. Language Travel Magazine interviewed a range of students and found out about their opinions about the level of service of the agency they used. Typical expectations included full information about the school, course and location, a value-for-money service, as well as in-depth information about cultural aspects of that country and tips on living there (page 15).

One good thing to have come out of the difficult 2003 experienced by all was the continued drive among some governments and export promotion bodies to enhance their country's quality status and work with agents to build up business. New Zealand, as usual, was up there among the best contenders for agent-friendly export promotion body.

We report on Education New Zealand's efforts to bring highly targeted and specialised groups of agents into the country, to allow them to get to know a range of providers in New Zealand, as well as the country itself (page 8). Given the USA's current problems with its unwieldy visa system (page 4), such efforts from a US export promotion body would be welcomed in these tough times.

Tough times
One of the exciting things about working in the international education industry is that the marketplace is always evolving. Student demand changes over time and popular types of programme and destinations emerge, for one reason or another.

Visa crunch in the USA
Students on the up in Australia
English to be key in UK citizenship
Germany emphasises its cool
Student access to health care in NZ denied
Australia speeds up visa queue for Chinese

Travel News
Major European merger
United and Air China link up
Virgin Blue
expands to NZ
Swiss hooks up with BA

Agency News
NZ works closely with key agents
Gwea launches
its own show
Dear Language Travel Magazine

Agency Survey
Korea's slowdown
Korean agents reported mixed results last year that resulted in stagnant student numbers overall. This contrasted with the performance of recent years, when healthy increases in the number of Korean students travelling overseas to learn a language have been recorded.

Malta feedback
Although students who choose to study in Malta tend to be relatively young, their motives for learning English have become more serious, which has, in turn, bumped up the average length of stay.

Market Report
Slow year for France
Many French language teaching schools rely quite heavily on the US market, and they all agree that 2003 was hit by a slowdown in US student intake, given France's oppostition to the war in Iraq. A recesion in Europe did not help business either, so other markets dwindled. However, schools are largely positive about a boost in fortunes next year, with one school representative commenting that the US and Japanese markets are back on track.

Course Guide
Exam prep in the USA
For international students wanting to study at a US university, exam preparation courses can ensure a succesful application. Many exam preparation courses are offered by universities themselves.

Scotland encompasses a wide variety of different regions, from the industrialised central lowlands in the south, where three-quarters of the Scottish population live, to the Shetland islands on the north coast, which are populated by isolated communities who brave the harsh conditions of island life at the most northerly point of the British Isles.

Status: USA 2002
The Status survey is a venture by Language Travel Magazine, in collaboration with the Association of Language Travel Organisations (Alto), which gathers specific market data about all of the main language teaching markets in the world.