In a business founded on communication, it seems evident that agencies and schools working in the language travel industry will know the importance of being able to communicate and understand each other. But understanding does not just mean comprehension of another language, schools and agents have to really articulate what they expect of a successful business relationship.
In our article about marketing support for agencies, it is clear that some schools do not, in agencies' eyes, deliver what they would hope in order to sustain the ideal working relationship. If agencies are to proactively promote a school, they need to receive insightful and appealing marketing materials and to be fully-briefed. Knowledgeable agents should preferably have visited the school overseas and be armed with all the information and visual materials that they need (page 21).
With the number of language schools increasing worldwide and competition intensifying, schools need to make sure that agents are fully equipped to sell their products. In New Zealand, there is a large number of new schools aiming to become accredited so that they can cash in on the overseas student boom in the country (page 4). In Brazil, more language schools are joining the Portuguese language teaching market, to satisfy student demand (page 31).
Agents who are aware of the benefits of language-plus programmes are also very useful to have on side for language schools that offer these activity-led courses. As one school in Spain, which promotes themed cultural courses, says, 'A good agent who believes in your programme is the best way to recruit' (pages 24-28). Schools are keen to underline the associated benefits of using a language within a client's field of interest, and should remember to sell the benefits to agencies too.
One hindrance in the language-plus sector of the market is the higher cost of these programmes. Many student markets remain very price-conscious, and Germany is becoming increasingly so; its slowing economy is having an impact on the growth of the market there (pages 12-13).
In Vancouver, Canada, local inbound agencies are capitalising on the price restraints felt by many language students in the city by offering 'conversation classes' for a much lower price than professional English language classes at schools in the city. Schools are understandably aggrieved at this, as the agencies are not licensed for running such classes (page 9).
The good news for language schools in Bournemouth in the UK, on the other hand, is that low-cost carrier Buzz has joined Ryanair in serving this south coast destination. For many students travelling from or connecting in Europe, there should be well-priced flight alternatives available soon (page 6).
While price has always been an important differential in a student's decision-making process, professional agents are aware of course that a good school is not always the cheapest. Far better to weigh up price versus quality and make an informed decision. Accredited schools in various countries promote the quality advantage that their recognised status offers. Typically, this includes established complaints procedures and standard guidelines for academic instruction and student welfare.
In the UK, Arels and Baselt, are jointly promoting the value of accreditation through a new brochure, to be sent out to agents. A new website, developed with the British Council, is also pointing web visitors towards accredited institutions (page 5).