||Poland's fragile economy and high unemployment rate dampened growth of the language travel market in 2003. However, the country's accession into the European Union this year may well boost interest in language travel in the future.
|The total number of students placed by the eight agencies in our survey was 555
Individual agencies placed between 20 and 200 students on language courses per year
Student numbers increased by an overall average of 5.6 per cent in 2003
Average length of stay for Polish students was 3.5 weeks
Commission rates ranged from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, averaging out at 17 per cent
The average spend on tuition and accommodation per week was US$300
Overall, 74 per cent of agency clients took a language programme during July and August
||Most popular courses
Au pair 8%
Work experience 5%
|Reasons for language travel
||Age range of clients
|Current or future work 44%
Studies at home 39%
Studies overseas 13%
||How do agencies recruit new clients?
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 14%
Education NZ 14%
British Council 75%
Half of the eight language travel agents who took part in this issue's Agency Survey reported a decrease in student numbers in 2003 of between 20 and 50 per cent, which they put firmly down to the country's fragile economy. However, a quarter of respondents said they had recorded an increase in clients of between 20 and 60 per cent. The remaining quarter said their numbers had remained the same as in 2002. Overall, the language travel market grew by just under six per cent in 2003.
Despite the fact that learning a language for current or future work was estimated to be the motivation for language travel for about 44 per cent of agency clients, school-aged students remain important to the agency market. Under-18 year olds accounted for 40 per cent of students in 2003. Given the high concentration of school and university aged students, the Polish language travel market is unsurprisingly highly seasonal, with 74 per cent of clients reported to undertake their language travel programme during the months of July and August.
While English remains the most popular language choice for agency clients, it is interesting to note that Spanish was also relatively important, with around 12 per cent of students opting for a Spanish course. In comparison to last year's survey, Spanish has gained some ground this year, having overtaken German as the second most popular language in the Polish market (see Language Travel Magazine, May 2002, pages 10-11). The UK remained the favourite destination for Poles, being chosen by 59 per cent of clients, although its share has slipped from 72 per cent last year. Spain was the second most popular destination overall, accounting for 12 per cent of bookings, followed by Germany with nine per cent.
Agency websites seem to have become more important to the Polish market, with agencies recruiting 18 per cent of clients via the web, compared with seven per cent last year. Most Polish clients had a good idea of where they wanted to study in terms of country (96 per cent) and city (43 per cent) before they sought agency advice. Agents also estimated that around 10 per cent of clients came to them with a school in mind. After agency advice, while only seven per cent of students changed their minds about their chosen country, 36 per cent changed their city choice and 68 per cent their chosen school.
Forecast for 2004
Polish language travel agents are finding that low average incomes and high unemployment are holding back the market. Although an improvement in the market's performance is largely linked to the country's economy, Poland's membership of the European Union in May 2004 may well increase interest in study abroad among Polish students.
After experiencing GDP growth of only 1.4 per cent in 2002, Poland's economic performance in 2003 appeared much more positive, with a 2.2 per cent increase in the first quarter and a 3.8 per cent increase in the second quarter. Year-end economic growth is forecast to reach 3.5 per cent.
Although there were signs of improvement in Poland's economy, its unemployment rate remained at 17.8 per cent in June 2003.
The zloty reached an all-time low against the euro at the end of September 2003. The foreign currency markets have lost their trust in the zloty as the government put off necessary adjustments in social spending and other reforms until this year.
Despite its weaknesses, the outlook for the immediate future for Poland's economy looks more positive. The country's EU accession will mark the start of policy coordination with Europe that will help the ecomony.
Source: PRM Ltd, PriceWaterhosueCooper, IMF
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: AB Centrum, Almatrap, Almatur, JDJ Bachalski, MacPherson Szola, Oxford Holidays, Profile, Siesta
Polish agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Austria: Cultura Wien, Vienna. In France: International House, Nice. In Germany: Astur, various; Horizonte, Regensburg. In Ireland: Aspect, Dublin; International Study Institute, Dublin. In Malta: NSTS, Valletta. In Spain: Estudio Sampere, Madrid; Malaca Instituto, Malaga. In the UK: Canterbury Christchurch University College, Canterbury; Eastbourne Language & Activity Centre, Eastbourne; Eastbourne School of English, Eastbourne; Inlingua, Cheltenham; ITS, Hastings; John Hazell School of English, Hastings; MM Oxford, Oxford; St Giles, various; Stanton School of English, London; Superstudy, London; United International College, London; University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh; University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Worldwide: Study Group.