Industry issues - advisors speak out
Q. What are your views/opinions about schools setting up local/regional offices in your country?
Jake Heinrich, ILA, Vietnam
“The presence of on ground support by way of a regional office is a significant benefit to education agents in a local market. To have local staff working on location provides the agents with an immediate connection to the organisation and a convenient source of current information. The relationship between the staff of the agency and the rep office can be instrumental in maximizing sales through a mutual support network that allows the sales staff to confidently and efficiently consult customers on the products of the organisation. However, the relationship between agent and representative office is one that is built on trust and collective success, in that the agent is the customer-facing entity not the representative office. The presence of the rep office is best done as one of support and not of direct recruitment. It would be a difficult relationship to maintain well with the rep office becoming a competitor: not an ideal situation, and not a level playing field.”
Necdet Bilgen, Biltur, Turkey
“There are a few educators that have set up local offices in Turkey. Some schools open offices to expand the market and this helps agents like us and we welcome them. Unfortunately, several education providers have tried to cut-out the agent or middleman in Turkey by recruiting students directly. They try to expand their businesses with cheap labour and low operating costs and try to avoid paying agent commissions. This is understandable, but they also ignore the fact that Turkish advisors have spent their time, money and energy to develop this market and have given excellent service across many decades. We have first-hand experience ensuring that the entire student experience is seamless. We would not work with any organisation that would come to Turkey, bypass agents like us, and then go on to try to promote their school to the local market. It only hurts local business and the quality of that business.”
Jose Ramon Camejo, education around the world, Venezuela
“In Venezuela there are two chain education providers that have established agent support offices in Caracas. This type of operation clearly has positive and negative interpretations. On the positive side, to have the advertising clout that a large education provider [can give] is a big plus. Also, in theory, a sole/small agent operation might well benefit from an agent support office. Nevertheless, and in my personal experience, these offices cannot replace that personal contact needed between an agent and an education provider.”
Simon Bown, Double Dragon, China
“In China maintaining deep relationships is critical for success and this can only really be effectively achieved by having a locally based staff member who is able to regularly speak with agents, students and parents in real time and in their native language. There are a myriad of other benefits to having a local representative website translations, attending local exhibitions, bona fide local testing. A designated staff member will also have detailed knowledge of your school, its courses, strengths and any other issues. The truth is that there are so many schools wanting to get into the market that agents are overwhelmed with choices of which to promote and unless schools really have someone to champion their cause on a daily basis then agents will not have time to understand the school in detail.”
Q&A Advisor association
This month, Mariglan Gabarra, Executive Director of Belta, talks about the association’s focus.
Full name: Brazilian Educational Language & Travel Association (Belta)
Year established: 1992
Number of members: 73
What has been the main focus of Belta in the last 12 months?
Belta continued to work with the vision to improve processes, strengthen the image of the association and its members within the Brazilian market, keep following the code of ethics, and work closely with associates to guarantee that these rules are being fulfilled. We created a new portal Belta Online with new features available to reach students. We established a national media campaign and conducted market research. As with previous years, Belta improved the performance of its members through fam trips, training, meetings and regional activities; maintaining and improving relationships with consulates and international organisations; seeking sponsors; and strengthening Belta products, such as our magazine, ExpoBelta and Belta Online. Belta has been working closely with the educational and tourism sector, namely Embratur and the Ministry of Tourism. The regional activity of Belta members is improving with a regional media campaign. Belta, via the Brazilian Exchange Bureau, took part in several events in 2011. The association was responsible for the Brazilian universities’ participation at Nafsa. In 2011 the Brazilian booth had 18 universities represented in 72 square metres.
Where do you stand on accreditation?
Belta promotes Felca among its members, providing information about the Felca accreditation code as well as highlighting the importance of the federation. One member made a suggestion to design a “member of Felca logo”, with Felca’s name spelt in full “Federation of Education & Language Travel Consulting Associations” because the public does not know what “Felca” stands for.
What challenges do member agencies face?
The market and the economy are strong, and Brazilians need to study abroad. With the market going well, the biggest challenge is to keep the high quality of the services. Students know that agencies associated with Belta are reliable because they must follow a code of ethics and the bylaws of the association.
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different 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 Inturjoven Spanish Courses in Spain nominates Study Tours in Italy. Maximo Sepulveda Ramos from the school explains this decision.
“It has been really difficult to choose only one agency among all our partners around the world. As we have to nominate only one, we would choose Study Tours in Italy. Since its foundation in 1972, it has gained broad and extensive experience, and we consider they fulfil a number of essential requirements to get excellent results in educational areas, and specifically in language courses overseas. The professionalism and experience of Study Tours has contributed in a clear and decisive way to greatly facilitate our job and to favour an extremely productive business relationship on both sides. Their high commitment to guarantee students’ welfare during their stay abroad, together with the excellence in providing high quality services, at all times adapted to the needs and requirements of the students, make Study Tours stand out from the rest.”
““We really appreciate Inturjoven’s attention to quality and detail in academic and entertainment programmes. Selecting them as a preferred partner was a far-sighted choice and we believe that our partnership will grow stronger than ever.”
Giusy Cinquanta, Study Tours, Italy