Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Do you have an online booking system on your website? How has this helped develop your business?
Peter Rupp, Biku Languages, Switzerland
“We introduced an online booking system in 2006 when we completely overhauled our website. It seemed appropriate to launch this tool that enables people to book easily and rapidly from home or their workplace online. For us as a counselling agent, it is an invaluable asset in as far as clients can, for example, fill in the online booking form while on the phone with us, send it, wait for us to read it and then discuss and clarify any uncertainty related with the booking. It saves time and eliminates misunderstandings. It happens rarely that we receive an unexpected booking “out of the blue” via the online booking system. As we are not active in the mass market, we do not feature big chain schools in our programme, but rather stick to the personalised top end of market, most of our bookings are a result of intensive counselling work. The online booking system is more of a service to our clients but to ourselves too, as it facilitates our work in terms of administration and also saves time.”
Meredith Butler, Language Link, USA
“Language Link implemented our online booking system seven years ago. It has helped us maintain a constant presence with our clients with 24-hour booking and information in regard to programme availability, pricing and dates. Clients feel they are able to access up-to-date information no matter in which country or time zone they live, and they are able to access the latest information and register at their convenience. The online booking system has expanded our international client base greatly. Since its implementation, we have seen a surge in European clients. We are currently working on allowing our clients access to RSS feeds [that alert readers to updated content] to experience podcast language lessons and virtual tours of the programmes. We feel that technology is a useful and vital tool which allows our clients to travel to any of our destinations at their convenience.”
Hani Sayyaf, Managing Director, Dar Alfikr Institution, Syria
“We are applying an Internet booking system in the coming months. It is in progress. I think paying via the Internet would be useful for students who wish to study abroad or who are coming from outside of Syria and wish to study at our institute, but for others, local students, who want to take classes at our institute, most prefer to pay in cash.”
Henry Caro, Learning, Colombia
“We don’t have an online booking system on our website yet, but we are working on this project as a part of a new website we will launch from next January. In our agency it will be a big help, taking into consideration we are a leading agency not only in our city (Barranquilla) but also in other important cities in the north of Colombia. As we have clients in places that are quite far away (five hours by car), it will help us to offer a better service. As a part of this project, our first task has been the design of a unique enrolment form that we will use to send the specific student information directly to the schools we are working with. We will include this option in our new web site, taking into account one survey we recently undertook, which pointed out that 84 per cent of our potential clients approved the use of this new tool. The principal people who are interested in an online booking system are from small cities that we often visit and mainly young people under the age of 25 years.”
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 Professionals UK in the UK nominates Answer English in the UK. Karen Bowring, Managing Director of the company explains her decision.
“I would like to nominate Answer English (AE). James Herbertson at AE and his team are a fast -moving and flexible agency and they turn their resources to where the demand is very quickly. They provide excellent accommodation services outside of the host family sector and are a great partner to link up with to prepare packages such as English and work experience with accommodation in a student house/residence which is very popular in the European market.
They feel like a student one-stop shop, pointing students in the right direction for work experience, getting a foothold on London life, sorting their accommodation and of course getting them the best English courses around. They also do these great conversation exchange evenings, where they mix students from [other agencies] eg Spanish Express learning Spanish, with Spanish students learning English. I love small vibrant agencies like this one! But I don’t think it will be small for long!”
On the move
Chamber College Language School in Malta has appointed James Drury as its Business Development Manager. Mr Drury has over nine years’ experience in the tourism sector as well as the English language industry, having spent a year in the UK. Chamber College also has a new Leisure Manager Alex Camilleri (right). With extensive operational management background in the hotel industry, Mr Camilleri has worked in Malta, UK and New Zealand. He has spent the last seven years in the ELT industry heading up the leisure department at IELS (ex LAL).
Justin Mastoyo is the new Principal at Geos Christchurch in New Zealand. Mr Mastayo originally started working at Geos in the accounts department in 2001 before becoming Registrar. He has lived in Hong Kong where he gained his Celtyl qualification. “In my new role, I hope to provide an enjoyable and beneficial learning experience” he said. “We have staff from many different backgrounds and many of us were English students ourselves at one point in our lives.”
Nicole Williams is the new Marketing Manager for Hawthorn-Melbourne in Australia. She has a background in media sales and marketing and started her working life at a national newspaper in India, before moving to Dubai and then to Australia. She plans to strengthen Hawthorn-Melbourne’s ties with key agents globally and growing certain key students markets within the Indian subcontinent.
Study Group has recently appointed Kim Eklund as Regional Director for Europe. Previously, Mr Eklund has been working for Study Group in Shanghai, China, as Deputy Director and in this new role he will relocate to Istanbul. Mr Eklund looks forward to this exciting new position and will make every effort to build on Study Group’s current success, in partnership with agents.
Eric Squires joins Bell Bedgebury International School (BBIS) in the UK as Head. He previously worked at International College, Sherborne School where he was Director of Studies and, before this, was Principal of Bellerbys College, Cambridge. He has extensive experience in the education sector and has worked in the UK and overseas in a number of senior positions.
Italian in Italy is working more closely with fellow association, Asils. Giuseppina Foti, Chairperson of the association, answers our questions.
Full name: Italian in Italy Associazione Nazionale di Scuole di Lingua e Cultura Italiana
Year established: 1997
Number of members: 25
Type of members: Private Italian language schools and also schools of design, fashion, art, music, communication, cooking.
Association’s main role: to promote Italian private language schools internationally and Italy as a leading destination, to defend Italian language prestige and lobby for the interests of industry, to encourage and assist Italian language course providers.
Government recognition: yes
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: yes
Italian in Italy
Via Tibullo 10
00193 Rome, Italy
Tel: +390668307796 Fax: +39066869758
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
We participated in many workshops and events. Last year Italian in Italy, in joint cooperation with Asils, has started a fruitful debate with the Ministry of Public Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to represent the best interests of Italian language schools. We organised a conference with Asils about “Breaking down the barriers for the diffusion of the Italian Education System”. We are still working in cooperation with the Ministry of Education towards creating a register for all privately accredited Italian language schools.
Are you aware of any visa difficulties faced by students wanting to study Italian in Italy?
In Italy the visa regime has not changed much in the last years. Italian embassies abroad still ask the students requiring a visa to have at least a certified A2/B1 Italian language competence [level] in order to receive the visa. At present visas for study are only issued for the following reasons: enrolment at Italian universities, novitiater/religious studies, post compulsory school, technical, vocational and training courses and scholarship programmes.
What main challenges are your members currently facing when it comes to recruiting new students?
In terms of business, the last four years have been very difficult. The Italian market has been affected by the current economic climate. A high visa denial rate in many countries is still a concern for Italian schools. Our challenge is to recruit many new students from China as well as India.
What marketing activities is Italian in Italy planning for the near future?
We will promote the Italian in Italy association through a wider range of media. We will be offering some fam trips for agents and travel writers in Rome, Torino and Ascoli Piceno. We will also be attending language fairs and restructuring our website. We are going to have our next workshop in May 2009 from the 8th to the 10th.
Liberty Living acquires Unite accommodation
Student accommodation provider, Liberty Living, based in the UK, has acquired nine student accommodation blocks from Unite at a cost of UK£152 million (US$270 million).
Liberty Living is the asset manager for Brandeaux Student Accommodation Funds, the oldest students accommodation fund in the UK. Charles Marshall, Chief Executive of Liberty Living said that the company had plans to expand in the future. “[Brandeaux Student Accommodation Funds] has been investing in student accommodation since 1999 and now has a portfolio of 15,000 beds in 18 cities in the UK. We anticipate that the Funds will continue to invest in student accommodation in line with investment demand from investors which for Brandeaux has been strong in recent years.”
Marshall added that the company owned and operated the accommodation and that high quality service was important. “We spend a large effort on refining the operating model and training and motivating our staff,” he said. “This we hope gives the Liberty Living brand valuable identity.”
Foreigners take Korean language test
More foreigners are sitting the state-run Korean proficiency test as the trend to study and work in the country continues. According to statistics from the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 150,000 people from 31 countries applied to sit the test this year, compared with just 72,292 in the previous year.
Students can take the test in Korea or in any of the 31 countries that currently administer it and Turkey, Laos and Indonesia all held the test for the first time this year. Korean language learning is the most popular among Chinese citizens with 64,309 of them registering to take the Korean proficiency test this year, while 6,282 Japanese citizens also applied to take the test and 1,205 Taiwanese and 897 Vietnamese.
Shin Kang-tak, an official at the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, said, “A growing number of foreigners are showing greater interest in Korean language tests. I think the Korean culture wave also played some role. This indicates that we can invite more foreign students.”
Iasis covers for airline failure
After the recent spate of airline failures, the International Association of Student Insurance Services (Iasis) has teamed up with insurance provider International Passenger Protection (IPP) to launch a new product that covers for airline failure.
Normal travel insurance policies do not cover clients for airline failures but the new product, called the scheduled airline failure policy, covers customers for before and during their flight. The insurance package protects clients against the financial failure of an airline and covers the rebooking of a ticket in the event of a collapse before the trip or while they are away.
Michael Ward at Iasis said that the new policy was a “hot topic” at WYSTC in New York this year due to “25 airlines collapsing in the first six months of 2008 compared with five during the whole of 2007”. He added that 200,000 people were affected by the recent collapse of tour operator XL. Although some clients were covered by paying on credit card and the Customer Credit Act, he said up to 85 per cent of UK clients were now interested in such a clause.
Mini hamburgers were the US-themed canapés at the WYSTC opening party in Brooklyn, New York, USA. The venue was a hit with delegates this year, with exciting Manhattan literally on their doorstep. Above right, cocktails in Manhattan are enjoyed by, from left to right: Meritxell Morera, Sabatica, Spain; Jayne Hatak, Fern English Academy, New Zealand; Janine Wegman, Activity International, Netherlands and Tamsin Plaxton, Tamwood International College, Canada.
The second ICEF Higher Education Workshop was held in Antwerp, Belgium, this year and above are some photos of the delegates enjoying socialising as well as working hard. Bottom left, Steffan Tabel from the International University of Applied Sciences in Germany talks business with Ingrid Evert from Estonia.
Lisa Barrett of the Centre for Macquarie English won the EA/John Gallagher Award this year at the English Australia Conference (top left), recognising her contribution to the industry. Record numbers of members attended the conference in Canberra and EA booked tables at the National Press Club (top right) so that delegates could hear Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education speak.
• SmintAir, a smoker friendly airline, is planning to operate flights between Düsseldorf in Germany and Tokyo in Japan, and looking to introduce cutting-edge technology, spacious seating, no economy class and the right to smoke while onboard. The carrier, which has lobbied against the smoking ban, aims to appeal to business travellers who can’t survive a 12-hour flight without having a cigar or cigarette. A similar attempt by another charter airline in the USA to launch an airline was unsuccessful.
• American Airlines plans to add a new route to its list of services this winter. The carrier, which intends to grow its presence in the South America region, will add a thrice-weekly service from Miami to Belo Horizonte in the south of Brazil. The airline is also set to increase the number of flights to other popular destinations, including four weekly nonstop flights from New York to Rio de Janerio and a fourth daily nonstop flight between Miami and Sao Paulo. Peter J Dolara, American Airlines’ Senior Vice President, said, “Brazil is a popular destination, particularly during the winter travel season, so we’re pleased to add more flights to our schedule”.
• The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has unveiled a new 193,500 metre squared terminal at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York. The 26-gate terminus, which cost an estimated $800 million to implement, is equipped to handle up to 20 million passengers per year. Port Authority Executive Director, Chris Ward, said, “Kennedy Airport’s remarkable 60-year history as the gateway to the world adds an important new chapter with the debut of terminal five. We’re proud to have invested in a facility that will play such a critical role in accommodating future growth in air travel,” he said.
• Jet Airways, India’s second largest international airline after Air India, has announced an expansion of its codeshare agreement with Brussels Airlines. The cooperative agreement will now include Paris and Manchester and according to officials, passengers will now benefit from “seamless connectivity” between India and Western Europe. Jet Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, said, “Jet Airways now offers its passengers enhanced connectivity on the India-Europe sector, via its world-class, passenger-friendly hub in Brussels.” Jet Airways currently flies to Brussels on a daily basis from three separate gateways in India including Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. With this new codeshare the airline will be granted permission to fly on to destinations such as Madrid, Barcelona, Lyon, Berlin Tempelhof, Paris and Manchester, via its main European hub.
• A new travel website, which looks to assist passengers who have missed their flight, was launched recently by Teleticket Travel the flight consolidator. According to the website, one in eight passengers misses their flight every year and the most common reasons included mis-reading documents, flight schedule changes and denied permission due to an incorrect or expired passport. By logging on to missedaflight.com, panic stricken passengers can complete and submit an online form which includes details of the flight that was missed and relevant contact information. In turn, the missedaflight.com team will endeavour to prepare a list of alternatives before calling the aggrieved passenger to talk through the options and book another flight.
• PromPeru Peru’s national tourist board and the Oneworld airline alliance have joined forces to promote tourism to the Latin American country. The alliance aims to appeal to the 150 or so countries it serves by encouraging holidaymakers to holiday there. PromPeru’s Director of Tourism, Mara Seminario, said, “PromPeru is thrilled to work with the Oneworld alliance, which connects international travellers to the world’s greatest tourism destinations.” He continued, “Last year, Peru received a record number of visitors, after promoting the country’s amazing culture, heritage, biodiversity, and cuisine throughout the world. The [marketing partnership with the] Oneworld alliance will lead to sustained tourism growth in Peru for the years to come.”