||The downwards spiral of Argentina's economy has severely affected the language travel market, with price being the most important consideration for the few who can still afford to study abroad.
|The total number of students placed by the 10 agencies in our survey was 1,475
Individual agencies placed between 20 and 600 students on language courses per year
Student numbers decreased by an average of 59 per cent in 2002
The average length of stay for Argentinean students was 6.7 weeks
Commission rates ranged from 0 to 22 per cent, averaging out at 16 per cent
The average spend on tuition and accommodation per week was US$346
Almost half of Argentinean students took a language travel couse in January
||Most popular courses
New Zealand 6%
South Africa 3%
Language plus work 9%
Academic prep. 9%
Teacher training 8%
Au Pair 4%
Exam prep. 1%
Summer vac. 1%
|Reasons for language travel
||Age range of clients
|Current work 42%
Studies at home 20%
Studies overseas 19%
||How do agencies find new schools to represent?
|Host families 73%
Private apartment 3%
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 56%
Education NZ 56%
British Council 100%
Argentina's ailing economy had a devastating effect on the country's language travel market last year, with one agent saying 2002 was 'the worst year in the travel business history'. All 10 of the language travel agents who took part in our Agency Survey reported a drop in student numbers, of between 15 and 90 per cent. The overall average decrease across all businesses was 59 per cent. However, one agent reported that although student numbers had dropped in 2002, their relatively small business had grown by 10 per cent as there was more demand for work experience, au pair and certificate courses, for which, according to this respondent, they were offered better commission rates.
The trend towards work experience courses was reported across the board, with paid work experience being particularly in demand. Nevertheless, general and intensive language programmes were most popular among Argentinean language travellers, accounting for 54 per cent of bookings, while work experience courses and academic preparation programmes accounted for only nine per cent each. Most agents agreed that demand for language travel programmes was coming from postgraduate students and young professionals interested in serious language programmes. Overall, around 42 per cent of students took a language travel course for work reasons, while 19 per cent did so for their further studies overseas and a further 20 per cent for their studies at home. A number of agents reported that they had received a significant proportion of requests for language travel programmes from clients who intended to emigrate.
Language and destination trends
With the focus of the Argentinean market firmly on vocational courses, it follows that English is by far the most popular language choice among agency clients, accounting for 94 per cent of bookings. However, with cost becoming one of the most important deciding factors for students, the UK, although still the number-one destination overall, lost share as the strength of the pound put it outside many students' price range. Agents reported that their clients expected to pay between US$230 to US$400 for a week's tuition and accommodation. Agents also reported that tight visa entry regulations had dampened student numbers to countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA. Interestingly, South Africa has started to become more attractive to Argentinean students.
Agents estimated that, prior to an agency consultation, 65 per cent of students already knew which country they wanted to study in, 41 per cent had a fixed idea of the city and just five per cent knew the school.
Forecast for 2003
All the respondents in our survey acknowledged that 2003 would be another difficult year. In the short-term, price remains the deciding factor for most clients, with discounts and special offers all proving vitally important to agents.
At the end of 2001, Argentina's President, Fernando de la Rua, resigned, the country defaulted on its debt payments and its currency, which had been pegged to the dollar, collapsed. By the end of 2002, GDP had dropped by 11%.
Since October 2001, 450,000 jobs have been lost in Argentina, with one in every five people now unemployed. Salaries have lost 70 per cent of their value and half of Argentina's population now lives under the poverty line.
Argentina's economic outlook for this year is better. Industrial production is expanding, the currency has stabilised and hyperinflation has been avoided. A modest GDP growth of 3.1% is forecast for 2003, although a significant return to growth is only expected in the second half of the year.
Source: The Guardian; Economic Intelligence Unit
Argentinean agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Australia: Australian Catholic University, Sydney; Australian College of English, Sydney; East Coast College, Brisbane; Milner School of English, Perth; Queensland College of English, various. In Canada: Tamwood International College, Vancouver, BC; University of Victoria, Victoria, BC; Vancouver English School, Vancouver, BC. In Ireland: Emerald Cultural Institute, Dublin. In New Zealand: Dominion English School, Auckland. In the UK: Basil Paterson College, Edinburgh; Cambridge Academy of English, Cambridge; English in Chester, Chester; English Language Centre, Brighton-Hove; Excel English Language School, London; Hampstead School of English, London; London School of English, London; New Westminster University, London; Severndale Academy, Severndale; Swan School of English, Oxford. In the USA: PMC, Boston, MA; South East Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO; Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL; Talk International, Fort Lauderdale, FL; Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, VA. Worldwide: Aspect/ILA; St Giles International.
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Adriana Cantu, Australia & New Zealand Travel, Castleways Educational Consultancy, De Allende Viajes y Tourismo, The Chase Foundation, Together, Universities and Schools of America, VIC Organization, VO & Association, Zenitur