January 2010 issue

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Bullish Spain

Activity-led programming is helping to attract new students from different markets. Meanwhile, changes in visa regulations for certain nationalities are also having a positive effect on business in Spain. Nicola Hancox reports.

Despite operating under some difficult market conditions, Spanish language providers posted good annual growth in 2009. Of the 11 providers surveyed, seven posted either a moderate or substantial upturn in business with many citing intense marketing efforts and a more open approach to course provision as contributing factors.

“We have increased our student numbers by 25 per cent from last year,” affirms Mercedes Sánchez Herreros from The Spanish Courses in Cantabria, and she relates that agent fairs have certainly helped raise the school’s profile. “We had more enrolments this year due to participation in different fairs and the improvement of our marketing campaigns,” she says.

Marga Fortmann from Escuela Montalbán in Granada also notes a 15 per cent increase in enrolments with group bookings accounting for the lion’s share of business in 2009. “We [had] a 50 per cent increase in teenage and college group [bookings] from all over Europe,” she explains. Carlos W Morales from Cervantes Escuela Internacional in Malaga also apportioned much of their 10 per cent gain to group bookings.

Meanwhile, increased competition continues to thwart the efforts of language providers in southern Spain. “There are currently too many schools in Malaga for the current demand,” asserts Bob Burger, Marketing Director from Malaga-based,, Malaca Instituto. He estimates there was a five to six per cent drop in student enrolments at the school this year. However, specific projects aimed at newer markets will certainly help boost enrolment levels in 2010, he asserts. “The fact that we won the LTM Star Award for a second time [this year] will also have some impact in recruiting new agents,” he says.

Several savvy providers adapted to unfavourable market conditions by freezing course prices in 2009. “We have offered more activities and left our prices unchanged since 2008,” notes Ingrid Antons from inlingua Santander. Morales relates they too will offer 2009 prices in 2010 in a bid to remain competitive. “[Next year] we aim to improve by 10 per cent, just like this year. [Therefore] we won’t change the price of enrolments for 2010,” he says.

Progress still needs to be made in areas of advocacy, however. “Overall, Spanish government promotion for our sector is weak compared to say France,” asserts Steven Muller from Babylon Idiomas in Barcelona, and he adds that government agencies should throw their weight behind advertising campaigns in Asia and Latin America. “Widening the network of Instituto Cervantes in Asia and Brazil may have long-term benefits for our sector,” he says.

Daniel Bertole, from Instituto de Idiomas Ibiza, notes that he has seen positive developments in the Russian student market of late. “We know that it is getting easier for Russians to obtain visas which should make this market more interesting for us,” he says. Russian student numbers also performed well at Caxton College in Valencia. However, Marilo Estevan at the school reasons this could be a direct result of changes made to the Russian education system, which encourages foreign language acquisition. “Russian student numbers have increased because the Russian economy is improving and their education system encourages students to study abroad,” she says.

In recent years, the Spanish language teaching market has tended to enrol Western European students and 2009 was no different. Surveyed schools reported strong representation from the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. However, according to our latest Status Survey on Spain (see LTM, November 2009, page 80), the number of American students increased dramatically in 2008, a trend that appears to have carried on into 2009. “The Americans performed the best [this year],” explains Markéta Zíchová from Letra Hispánica in Salamanca. “They are not too numerous [when they come] but they usually stay for long periods.”

Language plus

“One-week language plus activity courses have become very popular,” observes Marga Fortmann from Escuela Montalbán in Granada. “Almost all the adult students choose a combination [programme] like this,” she adds.

Indeed, students looking for an added study incentive can choose from a variety of different add-ons including cooking, dance or cultural studies.

“Most of our special courses are on an upward trend at the moment,” observes Bob Burger, Marketing Director at Malaca Instituto in Malaga. Their Spanish plus Dance course for example – which includes two hours of dance training per day – is so popular that the school recently added a dance studio to its on-site facilities.

Carlos W Morales from Cervantes Escuela Internacional in Malaga also notes that they are harnessing new student markets by offering specialised programming. Students with a specific career focus for example can enrol on a Spanish for Lawyers or Spanish for Tourism course. “They are very successful, because it’s a way to attract more potential students,” he states. However, Burger relates that product promotion of courses that are so specific in their focus can be problematic. “It is not easy to sell Spanish plus activity courses. It often needs niche marketing,” he relates. As a result the school is actively seeking new agent partners who are specifically looking to market these types of courses.

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





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Alliance Française
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