January 2004 issue

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Alphe Asia grows in size

Last year's Alphe Asia workshop, which took place in Phuket, Thailand, marked the 'coming of age' for the event, according to Hothouse Media's Stephen Roberts. The workshop, which took place in the luxurious surroundings of Le Meridien hotel, was the biggest yet, with a total of 89 participants and an agent to educator ratio of 2:1.

Matthew Northover, Co-organiser of the event, said that 30 educators from 14 countries attended and met with 59 agencies representing 24 countries. 'Feedback from participants was very positive,' he commented, 'particularly in regard to the quality of our agent attendees.'

It was the third Alphe workshop to be organised in Thailand, and a delegation of agents from Korean agency association, Kosa, attended the event this time. Roberts said, 'This cemented our strong relationship with Kosa and paved the way for a successful new Alphe workshop in Seoul, Korea in March.'

Yumchmaa Khoroldulan from Gobi Education Centre in Mongolia was another of the agencies attending the event. 'It was my first time at Alphe Asia,' she said. 'I met some good schools, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.' Anita Wild from English 2000 in the UK added, 'It was absolutely wonderful. I had no complaints whatsoever.'

Representatives of the Global Alliance of Educator and Language Associations (Gaela) and the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca) also attended the workshop and held meetings prior to the two-day event.

Fedele prioritises new agents

Spanish schools' association, Fedele, reported that it attracted a high number of new agents to its workshop, which was held in September last year. Astrid Verlot, Executive Secretary of the association, added that schools attended the event from many regions of Spain, meaning that Fedele 'could say we had an offer of Spanish courses almost everywhere in the country'.

Ninety-three agencies attended the workshop in Valencia, from 24 different countries. 'More than 70 per cent of the agencies participated for the first time,' commented Verlot, who explained that Fedele aimed to attract agents who had not previously attended. 'This way, it is more interesting for schools instead of [seeing] the same agents with which they already work.'

There was a good turnout from agencies based in Germany, the USA, Italy and Switzerland, while agencies from countries as diverse as Russia and Brazil also attended in good number. Verlot said that agencies were selected by a Fedele selection committee, adding that feedback from Fedele members about this year's event was 'generally positive'.

Ludmila Gauslaa, from Språkreisebyrået in Norway, has attended the event every year. 'The Fedele workshop is one of my favourites and I am quite honoured to be invited there every year by the Spanish tourist office and leaders of Fedele,' she said. 'The range of schools gave us a brilliant opportunity to get to know better different regions of Spain. It was a very good selection and introduction.'

WYSTC in Thailand shows serious side

The world Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in October was 'just what the doctor ordered' for the travel industry, according to Susan Goldstein, Conference Director of the event, which is jointly organised by Fiyto and ISTC.

Goldstein spoke of a serious and targeted event that saw good business done, despite a drop in numbers. Other fair participants echoed these sentiments.

Tony Evans, from Langues Sans Frontieres in France, commented, 'It's true that attendance levels were down and the Travel Mart was noticeably quieter than I've seen it before. We did have fewer business appointments than last year but the quality of those we had was significantly higher.'

Goldstein reported that numbers were down by 20 per cent on the previous year, from 860 attendees to 606 this year. 'However, the real difference was the quality of business and trade, which was very high,' she said. 'According to seasoned veterans of the show, the traders present were serious and substantial.'

There was a higher number of traders from Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, Goldstein reported, while noticeably fewer participants were at WYSTC to represent the language travel and accommodation sectors. Working holidays and adventure travel, meanwhile, were both noted as growth areas.

Evans agreed. 'There were fewer language schools which resulted in a stronger focus on work and travel, study and work and activity holiday [products].'

WYSTC's chosen venue in Pattaya, Thailand, was a success, added Goldstein, despite concerns voiced some weeks before the event. 'Pattaya proved a sound choice,' she said. 'Moreover, the city government and business community joined with Tourism Authority of Thailand - official hosts - to provide spectacular cultural events for the opening and closing of the conference.'

Industry issues - agents speak out

Q How important do you believe activities to be as part of a language learning package and why?

'Activities are very important, vital. Academic activities should include team skills and opportunities to develop leadership skills. Social activities should [encourage] confidence building and help form relationships, especially with people from other countries, so that students can learn cultural differences. I believe there is now a wider range of activities as more schools are in competition for business. However, most schools offer very similar programmes.'
Larry Field, Overseas Personal Development Services Ltd, UK

'It is clear that language courses are the basis of a language learning [experience]. However, alone, they are not enough - activities and social life in general is as important, perhaps even more so. Through these factors, students practise what they learn in class and gain confidence in their speaking abilities. All kinds of activities must be considered as the students are all different (culture, age, etc). So we really appreciate a school that provides a wide range of activities such as sports, excursions, social events, games.... everything that can help students to speak the language and discover the culture. I am relatively new in this business - three years of experience - but I would say that [activities have] improved, as the market is very competitive. We really feel that language schools are trying to add value to their package through activities in particular. Finding activities with native speakers is the point to work on, as the majority of our students are asking for this.'
Fabrice Saillet, Experiment, France

'I think that activities should be an integral part of a package, but not just to entice students to a destination for entertainment value; they should be an extension of the language learning. Activities should provide students with the opportunity to exercise what they have learned in a real-life environment. Field trips that encourage students to use their language skills, such as outings where students need to pay their entrance fees, ask questions from guides, listen to others in a native environment, are beneficial. With the current glut of language schools in many areas, this concept has been diluted somewhat, so I feel it is important for education counsellors to closely assess the students' purpose for studying abroad, and to accurately match their objectives with the schools' offerings. For those students seeking more of a study-vacation, then purely touristic activities are just fine. But for those who are serious about the academic side, schools should be presented that [offer] continued learning in an activities programme.'
Anita Kuehnel, Alternatif University Placement Services, Turkey

'Activities are very important for us when we are choosing a partner school. The whole idea of travelling abroad to learn the language is not only learning the language, but learning the culture, lifestyle, making new friends... It cannot be done only in the classroom. Last year we had a huge success with students sent to EF schools worldwide because they offer a great package of free activities that change weekly (like video nights, international party nights, visits to local museums, guided walking tours, etc) and many optional trips and activities for a good price. It is important for students to know upfront which activities are offered and if they cost extra. Our partner schools have great activity coordinators who are young people that understand what students want to see and experience and often accompany them on their outings.'
Gordana Kolenko, BHV Education, Croatia

Face to face

Who are you?
Leticia Becerril, Director.

Where do you work?
Kukulcan Educational Spanish Community, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

Why and how did you start in the industry?
The school was my mother's vision. She started it 15 years ago, organising non-profit exchange programmes with high schools abroad, the objective being to offer her daughters and other children the opportunity to improve their language skills. Because this experience was so influential in my life, I have dedicated the past five years to expanding the school.

Why should agents choose to represent your school?
We make our students speak Spanish while enjoying their stay in the 'City of Eternal Spring' where the year-round weather is 25 °C. We deliver quality, while catering to our students' needs thanks to our relative small size (maximum of 100 students). Through our joint collaboration with Colegio Cuernavaca, a local school for children aged three to 15, we have a very unique programme for young students, where they can relate and play with Mexican children while learning Spanish.

How does your school promote itself to agents?
As of now, we have been very lucky with word-of-mouth recommendation. I must admit that working with agents is not a segment that we have fully developed, but it is one that we are eager to build.

How do you believe your institution will develop in the future?
We have plans to establish a satellite campus on a rural beach that is an eco-tourist destination.

On the move

Global language school chain, Study Group, has appointed Andrew Hutchinson as Group Sales Director (left). Many agents working with Study Group will know Mr Hutchinson through his previous role as Regional Sales Director for Europe, Middle East & Africa. Shelan Rodger (right), previously Director of the Embassy CES Language Division in the UK, has now been appointed to replace Mr Hutchinson in his previous role. Study Group is confident Ms Rodger will make a strong contribution to the development of the market in the Europe, Middle East & Africa region in the coming years.

Having run his own agency, Machens Bildungsreisen, in Germany for seven years, Roland Machens has now joined LAL Sprachreisen in Munich as Marketing Manager. 'I have taken the position of Marketing Manager for the LAL agency in Germany and am also in charge of worldwide marketing of the LAL group of language schools,' explained Mr Machens, who sold his share of Machens Bildungsreisen to his former associate partner.

Declan Millar has started a new venture in Ireland - High Schools International (HSI). Mr Miller has been involved in high school and academic year programmes worldwide for the past 15 years, originally through ETE, which he started in 1988. His new venture continues to specialise in high school, junior summer camps and English language programmes in Ireland. HSI will offer a number of other destinations in the future, including the USA, UK, Australia and Canada.

Marcella Ciravegna was appointed Marketing Manager at the Eckersley School of English in Oxford, UK, in October 2003. Ms Ciravegna has extensive experience of the English language business, having been involved in marketing language institutions both in the UK and abroad. She is very pleased to be part of the established Eckersley School in Oxford and is looking forward to developing new international links with agents worldwide.

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