Looking back at the business year in this issue, there is a sense of optimism and opportunity, as many agencies speak of a heightened sense of competition but one which they feel confident facing. A lot of study destinations report that student numbers were up this year and diversification seems to have been the name of the game for providers, with new programmes and accommodation facilities all under scrutiny.
Work & Travel has once again been a dynamic business sector with more companies moving into this domain and agencies reporting strong appeal for studying and working overseas. University partnerships continue to be important for the language teaching industry and Asia is increasingly positioning itself as a competitor in providing tertiary education services for the international market. Takeovers, mergers and acquisitions were also a feature of the year (pages 22-26).
In newer agency industries, such as in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, we talk to agencies about the market for student fairs and how agencies have been crucial in developing this business angle and thus helping build the study abroad travel sector (pages 28-29). We also find out about the ongoing involvement of agencies in organising student fairs - a different and innovative business angle.
As our industry matures, it is inevitable that takeovers happen and smaller players are bought out by larger more homogenous rivals. It is likely that bigger companies will continue to emerge owning a number of organisations in the travel and education sectors, and large companies will include international education and adventure programmes in their wider remit. One achievement of the Aspect/Kaplan merger is a wider product range for their clients, from test preparation and language training to higher education (page 6).
Nevertheless, in a market that focuses on youth and student travel, no company can afford to rely on its strong brand name(s) without re-assessing services - whatever the size. In Germany, innovation continues in the well established executive training sector (page 33).
Strategic partnerships - from agencies working together to organise student fairs to two big companies pooling expertise and resources - are indicative of the evolutionary process and the competitive playing field.