Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How interested are your clients in environmental schemes to offset their air travel when studying overseas?
Grant Hutton, Director, GA International Study, Switzerland
“To date, we have not had any student show interest in offsetting their carbon footprint. While I am sure if you asked students ‘Are they concerned about their carbon footprints and would they like to reduce it?’, the answer is probably that they would; if it meant paying more for a service, then they probably would not be interested. One of the problems I believe and this is also from my own experience is if I tick a box which indicates I would like to offset my carbon footprint and therefore pay extra, how can I be sure that the extra fee is actually being used effectively? That means not going into the pocket of the company who is charging it (like the airlines) or not being wasted by some massive bureaucracy pretending to administer carbon offsets. The real issue for students is more about whether the country/city where they will be studying is polluted or not and therefore affect their health. Those countries and/or cities that have significant environmental problems are destinations where I would be hesitant to sell to students.”
Andreas van Leeuwen, Direkt Sprachreisen OHG, Germany
“Judging from daily business, environmental effects are not really an issue, sadly enough. This does not seem something of top priority to students, or at least nothing that is being discussed with the agent. On the other side, we have already thought about putting a link to a website that deals with this issue in order to raise awareness there are certain agencies where you can ‘buy’ credits for each mile flown. The money that is raised is used to fund environmental projects. However, we have not decided yet... If you discuss with clients about environmental issues, imagine how many [agency] catalogues are thrown away carelessly or simply not used; clients understand but still don’t book [with us] necessarily. We do not have a catalogue and are completely Internet-based.”
Antonio Bacelar Jr., Director, Via Mundo Intercâmbio Turismo, Brazil
“So far, our clients do not seem to mention their concerns about carbon offsetting schemes. As a matter of fact, I believe, as an agent I am not sure about my colleagues in Brazil we are not putting much effort into this kind of information or scheme. It is good that you brought this to our attention. This way, our clients may have more awareness through us, as well as demand from airlines, more information on their initiative towards contributing to a more clean environment, and sustained growth!”
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, Wilbraham & Monson Academy in the USA nominates Euro-Internatsberatung in Germany. Kathryn Auger, Assistant Director of Admission, explains this decision:
“The agency I’d like to nominate is Euro-Internatsberatung (EIB) in Munich, Germany. Wilbraham & Monson Academy has been working with them for years to admit wonderful German students. The entire staff at EIB is professional and helpful. The amount of screening on their end assures that we always see quality applicants who are well suited to our programme. All of my communications with our agent, Tina, are timely and well informed. EIB makes the application process seamless for school and student. They facilitate interviews and info days for us to meet and speak with their clients who may be good matches for our school. I was new to Wilbraham & Monson Academy this year, so my own relationship with EIB is young and already they are a favourite. A month ago I had the opportunity to visit Munich and meet many of the staff members in person and they were gracious hosts, taking the time to show me around the country, educate me about the culture, and give me an even better picture of what they do, and it’s all good work.”
On the move
French-born Sarah Charles, previously Operations Manager at BLS China in Qingdao, has taken up an appointment with Sydney-based Abbey Language Travel in Australia. Based in China, Ms Charles will assist in the expansion of Abbey’s foreign language agency business in the Australasian market, as well as a new language school management consultancy division.
After five years as a member of Ecela-Latin Immersion Spanish schools in Argentina, Chile and Peru and four as an Ialc member, Katy Cossio has left home to face new challenges in Europe. She has joined StudyTeam Cuba at the Malaga branch of StudyTravel in Spain. Ms Cossio will be in charge of the StudyTeam promotion and partnerships with agents.
Nick Clarke has joined the CES team as their new Principal in Worthing, UK. He has previously taught English in Japan and Indonesia and worked as Head of the English Department at Bellerbys College in Brighton and Sales & Marketing Manager for Study Group for South East Asia. Mr Clarke stayed with Study Group for six years before becoming Deputy Head of the International Office at the University of Brighton. His final posting before taking up his role with CES was Sales & Marketing Manager for LAL Group for Central and Eastern Europe.
Hayley Gee has just joined Cactus in the UK as Head of Language Holidays and Groups. Ms Gee will be responsible for overseeing the company’s marketing and sales strategy across its entire language holiday product range. She will also be responsible for revamping the marketing strategy for Cactus’s full portfolio of holiday products, driving new sales, identifying new markets and managing day-to-day operations at the company.
Due to the success in growth in overseas business, Kingswood and Camp Beaumont has brought together key individuals to form the International Department for The Kingswood Group in the UK. Susan Evans (left) is the new Director of International Sales while Audrey Pellerin (middle) has become International Sales Manager and Hatice Aslan (right) is also International Sales Manager.
Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, answers our questions about what the association has been up to recently.
Full name: English Australia
Year established: 1983
Number of members: 108
Type of members: Public and private colleges teaching English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (Elicos).
Association’s main role: EA aims to establish a high professional and ethical standard in the work of member colleges, assist member colleges in providing high quality educational programs and assist, strengthen and promote the interests of the Elicos sector and member colleges.
Membership criteria: Full Neas accreditation, public liability insurance, site visits and reports from three referees, agreement to abide by EA’s constitution and by-laws.
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: No
PO Box 1437, Darlinghurst
NSW 1300, Australia
Tel: +61 292644700
Fax: +61 292644313
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
We have achieved a lot, with a high level of engagement with government and a focus on the consolidation of the various quality regimes that ensure students have a positive experience in Australia. Australia continues to lead the way in quality assurance and consumer protection for international students. EA has just completed its strategic planning process for the next three years and we have a clear sense of what we want to achieve for our members and their students over this period of time.
How has the new National Code affected your members?
Members have had to focus on ensuring that they have policies and procedures in place to meet the new compliance requirements. EA has played an important role in assisting members with this so they can focus their energies on taking care of students.
What main challenges are your members currently facing when it comes to recruiting new students?
Australia experienced over 30 per cent growth in 2007, so despite declining numbers from traditional source countries such as Japan we are seeing increasing numbers of students from a wide variety of other countries. English language colleges in Australia taught students from over 140 countries in 2007.
Why did you decide to stop running the EA workshop and how has the new Anza workshop been received by your members?
As a destination-focused workshop, EA took delegates to a different city each year to showcase the full variety of Australian destinations. By 2007 we had covered the major cities and we decided that members had gained the maximum opportunities available. Members have responded well to the new opportunities provided by Anza in bringing agents to Australia.
E-learning programme for UK landlords
InsureandGo wins two awards
The National Landlords Association (NLA) in the UK has launched a new e-learning programme aimed at improving the knowledge and capabilities of private landlords.
The association, which represents almost 14,000 landlords in the UK, launched the programme in January. The programme consists of online modules in topic areas such as income tax, inheritance tax, mortgages and record keeping, and landlords have their competence in each module automatically recorded as part of their continuing professional development. The website also provides direct access to relevant regulations and legislation affecting private landlords. The programme is free to association members and costs UK£40 (US$79) for non-members.
Alison Perkins, Landlord Development Manager at the NLA, said, “Residential landlords now have a structured way they can keep up-to-date with relevant changes that affect them and their properties. It provides an invaluable resource for the small buy-to-let investor and the large portfolio landlord alike and will help raise standards in rented accommodation.”
InsureandGo, a specialist provider of travel insurance, has won the T-Mobile Fast Growth Business of the Year and Online Business of the Year awards in a black tie ceremony held at the London Marriott hotel in the UK.
Hosted in March, the awards sought to commend UK companies for business excellence and celebrated innovators, dynamos and entrepreneurs alike.
InsureandGo was first launched in 2000 and was the first company to offer independent travellers an alternative to the travel insurance offered by travel agencies. Customers can obtain competitive insurance rates by answering three questions online and the convenience of the business model means that it currently has a turnover of UK£49 million (US$97 million) and a customer base of two million.
Perry Wilson, Managing Director of InsureandGo, said, “This award is not an easy one to win, especially with the tough competition out there and we are extremely proud of our achievement. It is fantastic recognition for all the hard work put in by the team and a great platform from which to take the business to the next level.”
Baltic Council becomes exam testing centre
The Latvian office of the Baltic Council for International Education (BCIE), a non-profit organisation which links educational institutions in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, has become the first official exam testing centre for Ielts, Cambridge Esol and Acca [accountancy] exams in the country.
The launch took place in March this year and the first Cambridge and Ielts sessions were held in the same month. Evgeni Govor, Chairperson of the Board, said that the BCIE became a testing centre after visits from representatives from Cambridge Esol and Ielts to assess their standards. The council signed an agreement with the Acca at the beginning of April and will start offering its first exam sessions in June 2008.
“BCIE is experiencing a very busy time as Ielts candidature is growing,” said Govor. “Ielts is the most popular exam in Latvia because the UK is the main destination for the students who chose to study abroad. We examined 93 candidates in the first Ielts session in March and the forecast is that Ielts numbers will be higher than the previous year, when 812 people took Ielts in Latvia.”
Agents were treated to a turn on a Belgian racetrack during the Ceran fam trip earlier this year. Here Necdet Bilgen from Biltur in Turkey is taken through his paces, while right some of the other agents relax with Christian Schillings (left) from Ceran.
This year’s WETM proved to be a good place to meet old friends and make new ones. Left, bonding on the dance floor are Debbie Flynn from Irish Education Partners and Carolle Raynor from Kaplan Aspect Internships, while David Jones from WyseTC (right, centre) mingles with delegates.
This year’s Alphe Latin America and Alphe Asia were held within 10 days of each other and the smiling faces above and left attest to the success of both events. Spotted at the dinner at the Sao Paulo event (above left) were Harry Norman and Christine Pircher-Barnes from California State University Fullerton in the USA and Una Reddington from Atlantic Language Galway in Ireland. Meanwhile, in Thailand, Pauline Hutchinson from Harrogate Ladies’ College in the UK enjoys a drink with Giljun Yang from Lets Uhak Consulting in Korea (left, below).
• The US Embassy has announced that Brazilian tourists will now be able to schedule a visa interview at any one of the four US consulates in Brazil (namely Brasilia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo), a move that will help simplify the visa process. Applications for visa renewals will also be less cumbersome, with renewals being given scheduling preference. The changes will affect those travelling to the USA on a student visa, with academics able to request an earlier interview date to coincide with course commencement. According to a US Embassy press release, “These improvements reflect the US Mission’s continuing commitment to making the visa application process as efficient as possible for the growing number of Brazilians seeking visas to travel to the USA.”
• JetBlue Airways, the US low-cost carrier, has unveiled plans to launch a new Brazilian budget airline. The new carrier will compete against TAM and Gol Airlines, which handle more then 90 per cent of Brazil’s domestic market between them. Lower airfares and a point-to-point route structure whereby travellers can fly from one city to another without any stopovers have also been put forward. JetBlue Airways founder, David Neeleman, said, “We believe airfares in Brazil are too expensive. It’s time to lower prices to allow more people to fly”.
• London Heathrow’s UK£4.3 billion (US$8.6 billion) Terminal 5 has been plagued by a series of glitches that left its grand opening in tatters. Many passengers were left without their luggage after the state-of-the-art baggage system collapsed and 34 flights were cancelled following the logistical backlog. Snow added to the chaos, when weather conditions led to the cancellation of a further 126 flights across all terminals. Terminal 5 will eventually cater for 30 million passengers per year and will equip the airport to handle up to 90 million passengers a year, 22 million more than previously.
• AirAsia X, Malaysia’s long-haul budget carrier, has announced a new service between Australia and the UK via Kuala Lumpur. The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation confirmed that the airline plans a Gold CoastKLLondon launch later this year and with return fares of UK£400 (US$1,000) plus taxes, the route offers a cheaper alternative for long-haul travellers. AirAsia X Chief Executive, Azran Osman-Rani, also stated that the airline was looking to expand its services to Japan, South Korea and the Middle East. “We [will] be flying to Japan by the end of 2009 or early 2010 as the Japanese airports have shown keen interest in our services,” he said. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Datuk Ong Tee Keat, noted that Air Asia X was having a positive affect on the country’s tourism intake. “It is also pleasing to note that some 50 per cent of [AirAsia X] passenger traffic has been foreign nationals, in line with the government’s vision of driving tourism in Malaysia,” he said.
• An increase in the number of Slovakians heading to Australia has prompted the Australian government to extend its electronic tourist visa application service to Slovak citizens. A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship said, “Most Slovak citizens who use the Internet to apply for tourist visas will now have their application processed in minutes,” adding, “Extension of this autogrant facility will further enhance links between Australia and the Slovak Republic.” In total, 1,600 Slovakians journeyed to Australia in 2006/07, a 16 per cent increase on the number recorded in 2005/06.
• In a bid to counter terrorism and visa fraud, the US government’s Department of Homeland Security has called for all international visitors flying into New York to have all 10 fingers digitally fingerprinted. Officials report that the system is already effective at airports in Washington, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago and that the added measure will help identify illegal or potentially dangerous persons trying to gain entry to the USA. A similar system has already been introduced in the United Kingdom with all UK visa applicants now required to provide finger scans as part of the application process.