March 2004 issue

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Beta mobilises UK tourism sector

A new organisation is up and running in the UK, dedicated to mobilising the youth, student and educational travel industries to 'fight their corner' and vocalise issues of concern to the government.
The British Educational Travel Association (Beta) held its inaugural youth seminar late last year and welcomed senior speakers from the British Council, VisitBritain and UK Trade and Investments, all of whom promised closer cooperation between their agencies when promoting UK educational travel and tourism in the UK and overseas.

Beta currently has over 70 members that span a wide range of activities in the tourism sector. These include tour operators, adventure travel companies, English language schools, work exchange programme organisers and au pair agencies. A majority of these members attended the seminar in December along with a substantial number of non-members keen to hear the seminar and find out more about Beta's activities.

Beta Executive Director, Emma English, commented, 'Educational travel is a vital part of Britain's tourism industry, but for far too long, the sector has been under-recognised and under-valued. With one in four travellers a young person, bringing together the key partners is the first part of Beta's strategy in raising the profile of the sector.'

The association's further plans for the coming year include attending the World Travel Market, organising more seminars for members and non-members and conducting research into the sector to define its economic impact and market trends. English added, 'We will [also] be lobbying all government departments to raise awareness, support and understanding of educational travel.'

Current Beta Chairperson, Dick Porter, Chief Executive of STA Travel, said he believed the main value of membership of Beta was strategic unity. 'It helps to elevate the vision of those in the industry and helps [industry members] to really understand the value of, and take pride in, the sector,' he said.

Fellow Beta member, Bob Lewis, Chairman of Yes Education Centre in Eastbourne, added, 'Beta seems to be a pro-active organisation and it's very nice to see key organisations offering to work collectively.'

Scotland wooing foreign students

The Scottish Executive wants to encourage graduating foreign students to stay in the country by granting visa extensions for up to two years, according to a report in The Sunday Herald. The plans are being discussed as part of a Fresh Talent initiative to bring more skilled immigrants to Scotland.

The Executive, which has autonomy in governing Scotland's domestic affairs, is said to be in talks with the government's Home Office about the idea. The move could have serious implications for language schools in the country that can offer a learning route through to Scottish universities. They normally have to contend with strong competition in England, which is better known as a language travel destination.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, said to business leaders last year, 'It is time for the government to say to [students], 'Stay in Scotland, you are very welcome, you can have a fantastic quality of life here and there are good employers out there that would love to have you'.'

Scotland is also discussing the launch of a relocation advice service to advise on jobs, accommodation, visas, work permits and learning opportunities.

More than 5,000 international students currently graduate in Scotland each year. Present rules allow students a six-month visa extension after graduation to find employment, and these rules are expected to remain in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

McConnell was understandably concerned to hear from one Scottish minister earlier this year that a Russian woman had been refused a visa to study English for 10 weeks in Scotland. One of the reasons given for the refusal was that she could not satisfactorily explain why she had chosen Scotland over her other options in Cambridge and Oxford.

McConnell, who has praised the Home Office's efforts in cooperating on the Fresh Talent initiative, promised the minister concerned that he would raise the issue with the UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett.

Students pick Canada for safety

One of the key reasons for Canada's appeal as a study destination is its safety and security, according to student viewpoints voiced in a wide-ranging survey undertaken for the Canadian Association of Private Language Schools (Capls).

Fifty-two per cent of the 2,039 students surveyed said that a 'safe country to study in' was the first or second most important reason for choosing Canada. Value for money was given as the second most important reason overall, chosen by 37 per cent of students as the first or second most important factor.

Capls decided to canvass students studying at all of its 73 member schools last year in a bid to ascertain trends in the Canadian international student market.

The survey also revealed that 53 per cent of students that responded had followed an agent's recommendation, while a further 20 per cent chose their institution through the recommendation of a friend or relative. Other mediums remained unimportant in comparison to word-of-mouth, with websites influencing only nine per cent of students.

The top student nationality in the survey was Korean, accounting for 30 per cent of respondents, followed by 18 per cent of Japanese and 12 per cent of Mexicans. Swiss, Brazilians, Chinese, Germans and Taiwanese were then represented in descending order of size.

A spokesperson at Capls called the survey a 'fascinating portrait' of business trends.

Auckland counts foreign students' contribution

Foreign students bring NZ$930 million (US$608 million) a year into the city of Auckland in New Zealand, according to a study commissioned by the city council. Students were estimated to spend NZ$240 million (US$157 million) each year on tuition costs and NZ$690 million (US$452 million) was spent additionally via teachers' salaries, accommodation spend, etc.

The international student industry also creates, directly and indirectly, 12,800 full-time jobs in the region - 2.7 per cent of total jobs, revealed the study, which was carried out by Infometrics last year. The findings are being used to look into potential council involvement in the industry.

Areas that Auckland council may involve itself in include rental space and accommodation issues, open space planning, transport planning, support of student care and government advocacy. The report estimated that there were 44,600 foreign fee-paying students in the region in 2003, with almost 20,000 in the central business district.

Language study features in industry trends survey

A survey of 144 members of the Federation of International Youth and Travel Operators (Fiyto) and the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) has produced a 'barometer' report of trends predicted for the future of the youth travel sector.

From an entire range of products offered within the industry, the inbound and outbound operators that took part in the survey considered language programmes likely to be fourth in terms of a product experiencing high demand over the next five years.

Number-one in terms of demand were low-cost airlines, with personal development and hostel accommodation products making up the top three. Those products expected to experience low demand were extreme sports, package tours, city breaks and hotel accommodation.

Other trends discovered by the survey included a general belief that sales growth in the sector will slow in the next five years, while the strongest demand will come from Eastern Europe and Central & South America.

Bloomsbury International opens in London

A language school principal with extensive experience of the English language teaching industry has launched a new venture and set up an English language school in central London, UK, along with two business partners.

Bloomsbury International is the brainchild of Kevin McNally, who was previously employed as Principal at The Hampstead School of English for 12 years.

The school opened in February and boasts 25 classrooms, 20 ADSL computers for Internet access and a cafeteria. Mr McNally said the school offered excellent teaching, facilities and pastoral care at extremely reasonable prices. 'Interest from agents has been overwhelming,' he added.

English test by phone available in China

An English language testing service in China is teaming up with a well-known examination centre to promote a new English language test by phone which can post scores from the test onto a website soon after the test has been taken, according to a report in the People's Daily.

United Education is the company behind the test. Lionel Xu, General Manager of the company, said the test has worked well abroad, and a similar testing system was used to assess the language level of volunteers during the World Cup in 2002.

It takes 10 minutes to complete the exam, which asks students to repeat sentences or answer questions. Shanghai Foreign Language Testing Service is reported to be signing a deal with United Education to use the test for university graduates at Shanghai International Studies University in the city and free up resources currently spent on assessing language level.

However, critics point out that it will be impossible to verify the identity of each test taker, paving the way for test cheats to get fluent contacts to take the test for them.

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