Acorns and oaks
A new year heralds anticipation and, in England if we are lucky, a smattering of snow. Elsewhere around the world, January is the hottest month in the year and the beach beckons. Wherever you spend the New Year, I hope that you have time to reflect a little on the year ahead amid the mayhem and merrymaking.
Having time and space to think about expectations can be a crystallising experience half-formed ideas and thoughts can become concrete action plans. It must have been an acorn of an idea once but a global agency network in the shape of IAE Global is now very much a reality, whether you favour such unionism or not. I was reading about the UK’s major school operators (page 7) and thinking that an alliance of international agencies is the closest thing that the agency industry has to mega-chains of schools.
One positive about agency conglomeration is that the new muscle power of big agency brands has brought with it a trend towards higher commissions, in my opinion. Once one company demands a starting point of 30 per cent, the ball is rolling, and the parameters of the playing field may be up for discussion again.
Perhaps I am hearing about higher commissions because educators want to keep their agencies on side in case of any depressed demand in the year ahead. But as our agents indicate in this month’s Industry Issues (page 9), there is little concern at the moment that demand will fall long-term, although counsellors in our news report suggest a possible revision to destination choice if money is tight (page 6).
With the UK ushering in its new student visa system soon, schools will be concerned that the changeover is a smooth one, for fear of giving students, and their agents, a reason to consider an alternative destination. We talk to operators in the country and find out how the new system will impact on students (pages 38-41). If, however, agencies were to consider and reflect on options for their clients, they could add Cyprus to the list of English language learning destinations. The tourism board in the country is keen to work with the trade to grow “learning tourism” (page 8).
Agencies are not in a bad position as we enter 2009; the profession has been reinforced by new competitive thinking and educators are appreciating their partners more than ever. Good service means good rewards, and good service is not just about volume but quality and loyalty too.