||New agency association in Switzerland
A new agency association, Leading Independent Language Agencies of Switzerland (Lilas), has been formed by seven language travel companies in Switzerland, all of which distinguish themselves as “highly ethical agencies with over five years’ experience in the field”, according to the association’s website.
Nick Gibbons of Castle’s English Institute in Zug told Language Travel Magazine that the grouping was the brainchild of several agents including Peter Rupp from Biku Languages, Niklaus Thür from Thür Lingua and Annette Willi from Lingua Net Sprachaufenthalte.
“Peter, Niklaus and Annette were the ones with the initial idea and contacted the other participants who decided to join the group immediately,” confirmed Gibbons, who noted that the new association has been in the pipeline since spring 2007.
Operating under the motto, “Quality, Service, Passion”, the new association’s prime objective is to promote awareness of its high quality: offering clients a more personalised service with members delivering comprehensive and professional language training, advice and assistance in the organisation of language trips abroad.
The fact that all member agencies must have several years’ experience and actively visit their partner schools as outlined in the membership criteria will benefit clients who will receive sufficient advice and sound information concerning a school and its programming, underlined Gibbons.
Rupp, one of the co-founders, explained that Lilas’ inception was a logical step to take. “It makes sense to exchange ideas, views and experiences with like-minded competitors,” he said. The inaugural seven members include Beratung fur Sprachausnildung, Biku Languages, Castle’s English Institute, The Language House, Lingua Net Sprachaufenthalte and Swiss Lingua, Thür Lingua.
Meanwhile, the other industry association in Switzerland, Salta the Swiss Association of Language Travel Agents conducted an annual survey of its 15 members at the beginning of the year. The poll revealed that Spanish had overtaken French to become the second most requested language behind English by Salta clients. Members also noted that 50-plus courses were an emerging trend in 2008.
Two new agencies on the block
The Linguaviva Group, which runs several Italian language centres across Italy, has expanded its business operations to include an outbound student agency.
The new agency, World Experience, was formed by Alessandro Vidoni, CEO of the Linguaviva Group, and Giorgia Biccelli, Director of Linguadue, in Milan. “With over 30 years of experience, we have gained a good insight into the educational business and we personally know many of the operators in the industry,” said Bicelli.
Largely web-based, the agency will target university students looking to continue/enhance their tertiary studies and business professionals wishing to enrich their CVs. Bicelli added that they aimed to promote work experience opportunities as well as language programmes.
Meanwhile, another new online agency, Gemini Courses, has launched in Jimena de la Frontera, Spain. Sarah Spencer, agency founder, said she plans to utilise the experience she gained working at UK-based Cactus Languages. “I wanted to set up an agency to focus, initially, on sending Spanish people to the UK (and other English speaking countries) to learn English,” she said.
The agency will specialise in language courses for adults, language plus activity courses, business English and home tuition, with a view to expanding this portfolio further. “My long-term plan is to develop the Spanish courses side too, so that I will be able to send people to learn Spanish,” said Spencer. “I have always had a vision of having the two main sides to the business running parallel, perhaps its something to do with being a Gemini!”
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, Humboldt Institute in Argenbuehl, Germany nominates Centro Aleman in Spain. Lennart Guthling explains this decision.
“It is our pleasure to nominate Centro Aleman in Spain as our ‘Agency of the month’. Carlos de Valcárcel and his colleagues have been cooperating with us for more than 15 years and always have been a wonderful and reliable partner to work with, not only because we receive a good number of students year by year, but also because of their professionalism and accuracy in what they do: enrolment forms always have all the necessary information on them (which is, unfortunately, much rarer than one might think). All staff at Centro Aleman are very concise in asking questions, very quick in answering ours and highly efficient in handling any issues which might arise. Carlos has made a point in visiting most of our schools himself and never makes promises to his clients that we cannot keep. If problems ever arise, he makes sure to check back with us first, before talking to the student and this has guaranteed a very smooth and mutually satisfying relationship over the years! Well done Carlos!”
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Are you cutting back on international travel this year?
Ada Franceschin, International Know How, Italy
“Yes we have had to reduce our international travel. Not only long-haul travel, but all international travel. The flights are too expensive and fewer flights are scheduled. They are more expensive than a couple of years ago, in fact airport taxes are often more expensive than the actual flights! The higher cost will reduce the number of people who can afford to plan a study trip. The cost of international travel is one of our major problems; if the flights are too expensive it means that the market will be affordable only for a limited number of people.”
Tom Smith, Director, Oxford Oriental - Languages Abroad, Hong Kong
“No, we’re not planning to cut back on international travel this year on the contrary, we see real opportunities at present and are now developing our language travel business to include continental Europe. Located as we are in Hong Kong, travel for us mainly to Britain but now Europe too is all long-haul. Air fares have been fairly stable, and in recent months, there have been some stellar deals for those able to travel at short notice. Our own HK dollar, which is linked to the US dollar, has appreciated against the pound sterling by about 25 per cent since last year. Our students travelling to language schools in the UK have not had it this good in a long while. Euro-denominated destinations also seem very good value at present. While Hong Kong has not been immune to the current world turmoil, it does seem that we have perhaps been a little more fortunate than elsewhere. We continue to be bullish on the immediate prospects for language travel. For ever-mobile Hong Kongers, if you need to improve your language skills you simply can’t beat jumping on a plane for an immersion destination.”
Gabriel Lloyd, FIT Intercambio, Brazil
“Despite the increase in airline tickets and the current world crisis, we are not cutting back on our budget on international travel this year. We are trying to adjust and make longer trips shorter in order to fit our budget, but we are doing our best not to cancel any pre-scheduled event. We believe it is of major importance to stay in constant touch with our current partners and to be part of international events and fairs in order to see what is available out there and therefore, find new options for our clients. Fairs and international events are a great way to establish relationships with new destinations and different programmes.
Emilio Bordona, STS Interway, Spain
“Yes, we have cut our expenses this year. Mainly because, after many years travelling abroad to see different courses and language fairs, it will not be a big impact on our business if [we do not do so] and this economic situation will not last longer than one year. We all know the depth of the turmoil we are facing, therefore we have to act accordingly by cutting some expenses. Having said that, I am convinced that sooner or later, we will go back to travel to visit new centres, to choose new courses and schools and to visit our partners abroad, because travelling is essential in our business. How can we sell a language course abroad if we haven’t visited it before?”
On the move
Tristram Grevatt was recently appointed LAL Language Centres’ Design & Communications Manager (top). He is one of the team behind the new LAL website, www.lalschools.com, which went live in January. Steve Johnson (below) is the new General Manager for LAL USA. He has extensive experience in curriculum development, education administration and ESL, Esol and Business English instruction. He has held previous posts in La Jolla, California and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
d’Overbroeck’s College in Oxford, UK, has recently appointed Petra Kondrova as its new Marketing Coordinator. Ms Kondrova will further develop the international marketing of the d’Overbroeck’s International Study Centre and its sixth form as well as work on national marketing. She has a degree in Economics, two years’ experience in international marketing at Taunton School International and three years experience in marketing from the Czech Republic.
GCI Group in Galway, Ireland is delighted to welcome Rory Curley as Sales and Marketing Manager for Galway Cultural Institute and Galway Business School. Mr Curley has been working in the English language industry for over eight years. He said “I’m delighted with the move and hope to consolidate GCI’s reputation as a premier destination for international students. I’m also very excited about creating a complete study pathway for students through Galway Business School”.
Heartland International English School in Winnipeg, MB, Canada welcomes Andrew Wilkinson as its new Marketing Manager. Mr Wilkinson joined Heartland in March and is very excited to start working with agents and developing long-term win-win relationships.
Mike Henniger has taken over from Barbara Godt as Marketing Director for KGIC Education Group in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Ms Godt will now head up Research and Planning as Director for the group. Mr Henniger was Assistant Director of the Canada Tesol Centre and also owned his own English school in Japan for many years, so is no stranger to the education industry. He brings a wealth of experience to his new job.
Pearson to deliver online learning
Language learning publisher Pearson has teamed up with a website called Livemocha to deliver online language learning direct to consumers. Livemocha, which claims to be the world’s largest online language learning community, said it would co-develop a new, conversational English language learning experience available on Livemocha’s online platform with a global community of over two million members.
Under the terms of the agreement, Livemocha and Pearson will build a series of online conversational English courses. Pearson’s English language learning content will be integrated with Livemocha’s collaborative approach to language learning, which integrates practice of a foreign language with native speakers.
Livemocha launched in September 2007 and has two million members. “We are delighted to align with an industry leader that shares our vision and commitment to providing language learners with world-class content and innovative learning tools,” said Livemocha’s Chief Executive, Shirish Nadkarni. “This partnership will further transform the language learning marketplace.”
Meanwhile, UK company Languages Out There (LOT) claims to be the first to have teamed up with an online community to promote language lessons delivered direct. It has created a partnership with italki.com whereby students can connect with independent language tutors. LOT’s Jason West said that the partnership was set up in March, and since December, his company has published over 600 hours of specially designed online conversational English courses that can be used with Skype and online language social networks.
Meanwhile, Wall Street Institute (WSI) has sold its Chinese subsidiary, Wall Street English, to Pearson for US$145 million. Wall Street English claims to be China’s leading provider of premium English language training to adults, teaching 35,000 students in seven cities. Timothy F Daniels of WSI said, “To date we’ve barely scratched the surface of the opportunity this massive country presents. We are pleased that Pearson has agreed to purchase WSI and take the business to the next level of success.”
Verifile offers China degree checking
A UK-based company, Verifile, has teamed up with China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Centre (CDGDC), a Chinese government department, to offer a qualification-checking service for employers keen to verify the academic standing of prospective employees from China.
The company explained that the difficulties of verifying qualifications issued from a country with a different educational system and written characters, or sinographs, has been compounded by the rapid expansion in the Chinese higher education system five times more students graduated in 2006 than in 1999. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with the CDGDC. Our proven robust internet-based verification system coupled with our knowledge of Chinese authorisation and legal compliance procedures will ensure employers, universities and government organisations in the UK and Europe have an easy and accessible way to verify Chinese qualifications,” said Eyal Ben Cohen, Managing Director of Verifile.
Each verification report for a Chinese qualification will cost UK£45 (US$68) and will take up to 20 working days. The service is available to both organisations and individuals and is thought to be particularly relevant for countries with graduating Chinese seeking jobs in-country while overseas.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the China Britain Business Council (CBBC) provided assistance in facilitating negotiations with CDGDC in China. Martin Keepfer, Senior International Trade Adviser with UKTI said, “We at UKTI have been proud to assist, not only here in the UK ‘on the ground’ but also, working with our partner CBBC and our network of Embassies and Consulates globally, to develop exciting new business opportunities and ‘open doors’ to new international markets.”
Meanwhile, global exam provider Ielts celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Since 1989, it has been accepted by 6,000 organisations worldwide as an English ability indicator and tests are offered in over 125 countries.
Two schools invest in upmarket accommodation
Two language schools have added a new offer to their residential accommodation portfolio, underlining the ongoing investment being made into alternatives to host families. In Montreal, Canada, Language Studies Canada (LSC) now offers a unique student residence built in an old bank.
Located in the heart of the city, the apartment-style residence is just a few minutes walk from the school. Each apartment features five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen. As well as lounges, games rooms and a screening room, the residence has converted the vaults into music rooms for students to play instruments: the ultimate sound-proof room!
Meanwhile, in Torquay, UK, Torquay International School (TIS) has bought a hotel that has been transformed into Club TIS Hotel, located across the road from the school itself. Judith Hands at the school explained, “We had used the hotel for years and when the excellent owners decided to retire we realised we would be lost without it and that accommodation so near the school and of such a high standard was essential.”
Hands said that with increasing numbers of mature clients and executive business clients, such high-end accommodation was an imperative. “I’d wanted that kind of superior residential accommodation for a long time in order to be able to provide for the increasing numbers [in these sectors],” she said. “It’s just perfect for that sea views too.”
English Australia represents language schools in a country with one of the best immigration and international student welfare systems. As Sue Blundell tells us, the association spends its time gathering market data and improving on an already well developed product.
Full name: English Australia (EA)
Year established: 1983
Number of members: 121
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.
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: No
PO Box 1437Darlinghurst
NSW 1300, Australia.
Tel: +61 2 9264 4700
Fax: +61 2 9264 4313,
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
Government lobbying has been a strong area of focus for EA, making submissions to a number of reviews and ensuring that Australian government policies continue to support sustained growth for the industry. We have also had a major focus on ensuring the quality of the student experience, by developing a number of new Best Practice guides for members.
You conducted a survey of members at the beginning of the year, what were your findings?
Members seem to be cautiously optimistic regarding levels of enrolments. The strong growth Australia experienced last year has continued into the early part of 2009. Concerns related to specific markets but were balanced by reports of strong growth from other [student source countries]. Members noted the following points as aspects in Australia’s favour: the weak value of the Australian dollar; a geographic proximity to key markets in Asia; demand for English language skills and qualifications to improve job prospects; the Australian consumer protection framework (Esos Act); and our reputation for quality.
How have recent changes to the visa assessment levels in Australia affected recruitment numbers at member schools? What other tough challenges could member schools come up against in 2009?
The visa assessment level changes have had no impact on student numbers. The transparent and objective visa regime continues to support the industry well. Challenges in 2009 will most likely emerge from the global situation and its impact in market countries.
What marketing activities are you planning for the near future?
“Marketing” is not a primary focus for EA. We aim to add value to members’ marketing strategies by providing good data and data analysis concerning market trends as well as raising the profile of EA, EA members and Australia more generally with agents and students.
What are your primary goals at this year’s English Australia conference in September?
Australia has a great reputation for delivering a quality education and lifestyle experience to international students. The EA Conference provides a great opportunity to bring colleges together to share good practice and raise standards even further.
• Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to expand into the South American market with a non-stop service from London Heathrow to the Chilean capital of Santiago. Hal Apeno, Virgin Atlantic’s new country manager for Chile, said, “It’s the perfect place to add as our next destination to help mark our 25 years of flying.” The new service, which will include additional extras such as Spanish-speaking cabin crew and an authentic South American menu comprising of chilli con carne and a selection of Chilean wines, will become the airline’s 31st destination.
• Israeli carrier, El Al Airlines, has added a new service to its list of offerings; a six-time weekly flight from London Luton to Israel’s second largest city, Tel Aviv. Uri Danor, El Al Airlines CEO for the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe, said, “The flight timings are particularly good for passengers as our departures and arrivals will be at times when the airport is at its quietest.” The airline also plans to improve connectivity between Israel and India by launching a twice-weekly service from Tel Aviv to New Delhi this summer. “We are also looking at other destinations in India like Bangalore, but they would come at a later stage,” added El Al General Manager for India, Judah Samuel.
• The Australian government is in favour of cutting its skilled migration programme for 2008-2009 in a bid to protect local jobs. The measure will reduce the intake of skilled migrant workers from 133,500 to 115,000 (a decrease of 14 per cent) with building and manufacturing trades largely affected. Bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters will be removed from the critical skills register, with jobs in health, medical, engineering and IT still up for grabs.
• Qantas has unveiled plans for a new Australia-India route. A thrice-weekly service, via Singapore, will replace the discontinued direct service between the two countries. John Borghetti, Qantas’ Executive General Manager, explained this was a logical next move for the carrier. “Customers will now be able to fly to Mumbai from Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, further opening up access to the Indian sub-continent from Australia,” he said.
• According to UK Shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, UK tourism could generate an additional UK£22 billion (US$40 million) for the UK economy and 50,000 jobs if the government intervened. “Tourism is no candy floss industry,” said Hunt. “As a sector worth £114 billion (US$171 billion) a year, it is responsible for some eight per cent of our GDP and employs over two million people.” Bob Cotton, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association and Chairman of the Tourism Alliance, agrees. He said, “We need more new tourism facilities. We need existing facilities updated. We need to gain a reputation for a warm welcome that’s second to none.”
• A report by the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) has deemed Brisbane Airport the most popular airport for the fifth consecutive year in a row. Meanwhile, Sydney Airport has been rated the country’s most unpopular hub, behind Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne. The ACCC, a consumer watchdog, is responsible for reporting on airport services and facilities, as well as prices, costs and profits.
• Lufthansa will soon launch a daily service between Frankfurt and the Polish city of Pozan, a five-times weekly flight from Frankfurt to Rzeszow, also in Poland, and a daily connection between Munich and Lviv in the Ukraine. Meanwhile, subsidiary, Lufthansa Italia, has challenged troubled Italian flag carrier, Alitalia. The new airline recently launched multiple daily flights between London Heathrow and Milan Malpensa with connections to Rome, Naples and Bari as well as Bucharest and Budapest. Lufthansa Italia’s Heike Birlenbach said, “It is the first time Lufthansa has set up a new airline outside Germany. It is a strategic market and our share in northern Italy is already high, but the home carrier is struggling a bit and we will look to increase our presence.”
• Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, has announced a twice-weekly seasonal flight from London Luton to Varna in Bulgaria. The airline, which already serves the Bulgarian cities of Bourgas and Sofia, carried 5.9 million passengers in 2008, a 41 per cent increase on 2007’s results.
Please see the digital issue of Language Travel Magazine for the Grapevine section