Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Aside from word-of-mouth recommendation, how do you attract new business to your agency?
Enrique Corrales, Kino Travel, Mexico
“Word of mouth recommendation is our first and main source of referral when getting new clients. Nevertheless, advertisements are a very effective method to recruit clients and very used. We always have three steps to do this, the first step is to publish our language programmes in a big advertisement in local newspapers, flyers, brochures, etc., where we offer general information about these programmes overseas. After that, the second step comes, when we advise with all information regarding clients’ future trip; it takes us about 30 minutes [per client] but the prospective client is well equipped with all kinds of information so that they can make up their mind. The last step is potential clients actually choosing our offer but they definitively rely on [the opinion of] past students we have referred to schools abroad [when deciding]. I think this way of using the word-of-mouth to attract new clients will be the very best in future years as it never will be replaced by the Internet or another way to attract new business.”
Pham Phuong Luyen, Khai Sang International (KSI), Vietnam
“Vietnam is a peculiar place. Peculiar in that students from Vietnam are not treated equally to their peers in other countries due to a visa differentiation policy by many [embassies of] destination countries. So a visa success rate is one of my ways of attracting new business. Very few students from Vietnam are issued a US student visa every year compared with the number of applications but some among these, I am proud to say, were referred by KSI. I study each student’s application documents and give them proper advice. Secondly I am always honest for the sake of my students. Lastly I follow their every step until they successfully present themselves [for a visa]. ‘When they (students) eat the fruit, they remember who planted the tree’, as a Vietnamese saying goes.”
Martin Elbeshausen, Kultur Life, Germany
“Word-of-mouth recommendation is certainly the most important [consideration] for the recruitment of new agency customers. Apart from that, we regularly attend youth exchange fairs throughout Germany. In our effort to recruit older students (18 years plus) we try to attract them to our website by promoting it on sites like Google. We also promote our 18 plus and gap year programmes through job centres and career counsellors. Still, making a name for ourselves in a new field of business is quite challenging without a big marketing budget!”
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, Linguaviva in Italy nominates STB in Brazil this month. Giorgia Bicelli, Head of International Relations at the schools, explains this second of two nominations:
“We would like to nominate STB Brazil. They are a great, reliable partner in Brazil. We have been cooperating for quite a few years and they have constantly increased the numbers of students sent to our schools. STB is a huge organisation in Brazil and still are able to maintain a friendly and professional relationship with its clients and partners. They are quick in sending in any additional information regarding their students’ booking and have a well organised and efficient booking system.
STB also has very nice staff with a personal approach to the schools they work with. We appreciate the quality of the services delivered to their students because we note how all the operations runs smoothly before the arrival of the student to their departure. It shows that their clients are well taken care of right from the beginning. Clients are satisfied because they know what to expect, what they have booked and what the schools offer. We are glad to work together with STB a good, reliable and efficient partner in Brazil.”
On the move
Geoff White is the new Director of Go Abroad Programs in Brisbane, QLD, Australia. The company specialises in inbound student groups and individuals wanting language study programmes with activities such as surfing. “We offer programmes in popular Australian locations using high school, college and university locations,” said Mr White, who was previously worked for Study Group.
It was with considerable regret that American College Dublin in Ireland learnt of Paul Mullins’ retirement from the industry. Director of English Language and Marketing at the school since its foundation in 1993, Mr Mullins has travelled all around the world recruiting international students for the school, particularly from emerging markets. Mr Mullins earned the respect and affection of agents who were constantly surprised by the depth of his knowledge of so many countries all over the world.
Magda Szajbe has left her position as Vice Managing Director of JDJ Bachalski in Poland, and has joined ESKK Ltd to build a separate branch of the company, dealing with language education abroad. ESKK was established in 1991, and used to work as an agency in the past, so for some schools the news might be a good opportunity to renew the cooperation. “The company operates in nine countries, so it’s a real challenge for me to start working for an international organisation,” said Ms Szajbe.
Pina Foti has been appointed President of the Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents (Ialca), taking over from Paolo Barilari who had held the chair for six years. Ms Foti has been working in the field of language consultancy for 22 years and runs International Language School (ILS) in Rome.
Global Language Institute (GLI) in St Paul, MN, in the USA is pleased to announce that Laura Latulippe is the new Director of International Marketing. Many will know Ms Latulippe from her 20 years spent as Director of Celcis at Western Michigan University. At GLI, Ms. Latulippe is responsible for working with agents to promote GLI’s programmes in St Paul/Minneapolis and Florida as well as to develop new partnerships.
Associazione Scuole di Italiano come Lingua Seconda (Asils) in Italy is campaigning for improved visa issuance and a list of accredited schools. Matteo Savini, National Secretary of the association, answers our questions.
Full name: Associazione Scuole di Italiano come Lingua Seconda (Asils)
Year established: 1991
Number of members: 31
Type of members: private Italian language schools
Association’s main role: maintain quality standards among members
Membership criteria: quality checklist
Government recognition: none
Code of practice: not specified
Complaints procedure: not specified
Agent workshops/fam trips: no
Asils, c/o Via Fiume 17,
Tel: +39 0412410720
Fax: +39 0415285628
What has Asils been up to in the last year?
Trying to obtain new rules for student visa procedures and trying to create a list of accredited schools at the educational ministry. Many schools in Italy work at the limit of legality, so we think the industry needs definite (clear) rules to operate by. At the moment anybody can call themselves a ‘school’ and anybody can operate in the industry, maybe using illegal workers and rooms that don’t meet safety regulations, selling really low price courses. Creating a register of accredited schools, of which Asils should be with a clear and recognised inspection criterion in charge, will give all agencies and all clients an immediate standard by which to recognise the reliability of a school.
What visa problems are Asils members experiencing and are you working with the government to resolve them?
Yes, we are desperately trying to convince the government to recognise a type of visa to study Italian in Italy. It seems they could hardly care less... We don’t have a student visa for Italian language study. It only exists for university courses. So to get a visa to study in any school in the private school sector is a concession, not a right. In recent years it has become normal that visas have been granted from Japan, often from the USA and from Canada. It’s almost impossible to come to Italy from China, Russia and India and it is extremely difficult from central and south America. Consulates and embassies discourage potential clients, refuse applications and don’t think studying Italian could be a good reason to come to Italy, from countries with an immigration risk. The damage our industry suffers is huge.
What are your predictions for the year ahead?
Stable, little increase in numbers, a little decrease in average length of stay. Europe is growing as a market, Japan is doing not so well, the USA may have the best performance in 2007.
What activities has Asils got planned for 2007?
We aim to regulate the sector and give it reliability and quality standards.
The Icef Berlin workshop mixed serious business opportunities with social gatherings during the annual event in November last year. The traditional dinner reception and dance, held in the hotel, saw another international throng on the dancefloor, with some good moves on display. Evidence below:
The industry has another new member, Flaminia Sarno, born to Alberto Sarno and Esther Dohmen on September 22 2006; a possible Sprachcaffe employee of the future. The cutie has already made her industry debut at the Icef workshop in Berlin.