Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Which software do you use for processing client bookings?
Isabela Calil, ICEC, Brazil/UK
“This is a crucial issue for us, agents, as it is not well developed nowadays. I have been managing the agency for three years, we have four offices and having software systems to manage all operations is crucial. However, I have also been looking for software suitable for agents’ requirements and I still haven’t found it. I have looked at fairs, the Internet, software companies and many other places. To develop my own software is too expensive and a small company wouldn’t be able to afford it. I am still managing manually all bookings and operations, but I am still hopeful to find a programme to make my life easier. The farthest I have got is a website which offers online integration and many predefined databases, www.weboffice.com.”
Dushyant Bachkaniwala, Dalimit Associates Group, India
“We have designed our in-house clients’ booking system. We are not aware of any industry product available. We request all booking through our new web- based client booking system that we have developed. If one has a system of process developed based on knowledge and experience knowing the entire flow then it’s not a difficult area.”
Denis Baker, Aventure Linguistique, Switzerland
“Right from the birth of Aventure Linguistique, two and half years ago, we wanted to automate procedures as much as possible. All our reservations are completed online using an elegant php-based reservation form that was developed in-house. This is backed up by a paper copy for those clients used to a more traditional method of enrolling, which we then input manually. All the schools we work with appear happy to accept our enrolment form. Its only failing is that it does not, as yet, generate statistics. Until recently, all the other aspects of agency management related to client bookings have been done using simple Excel and Word templates. We have, however, been working with a developer on a more integrated system to manage everything we need for a client from quote to invoice, one that could also accommodate our current system the main reason I chose to develop in-house again rather than buy a package. This is a work in progress, but we seem to be getting there!”
Paolo Barliari, I Centri, Italy
“We use software that we developed from Filemaker, the database. We have used it since 1997 and since then have introduced new functionalities and improvements. We like the idea that we do not need to depend on a specialist outside the company for our database and that we are actually free to change any little details as much as we like. We are aware of the fact that now on the market there is “ready to use” software for language travel agents, but still we think that our development from Filemaker is easy to use and gives us a full control over the whole procedure, from the first contact with the student to the booking and invoicing. With our software it is also very easy to sort out figures and charts regarding bookings, average length of the courses, average invoice, average profit... All the bookings are processed through our software with some exceptions when schools give us an extra discount if we use their booking system online.”
On the move
Wimbledon School of English welcomes Isolde Smith as its new Marketing Officer. She looks forward to meeting existing agents and establishing relationships with new agents. After having obtained her degree in German and Business, Ms Smith taught English in Austria, Germany and Japan. She aims to develop the school’s reputation as one of the best independent language schools in the UK.
Greg Kaul has for many years been working in the Orlando conventions and tourism industry in the USA. He is now bringing his expertise and experience with large groups and corporate travel to Institute for Spanish Language Studies (ISLS), based in South Pasadena, CA. With his help, ISLS looks forward to booking more groups to Spanish speaking countries.
Prime Education is delighted to confirm the appointment of Kaylee Hong as Regional Director for North and South East Asia. Ms Hong joins Prime Education with an outstanding track record in the international education industry. Until recently, she was Regional Director at Kaplan Aspect with responsibility for recruitment out of Korea, Taiwan and South East Asia.
Veronica Cartagenova has been named National Director of Intensive Conversational English (ICE) Programmes at Berlitz Canada, based in Vancouver, BC. She will oversee agent relations and marketing initiatives, expanding programmes and developing new markets.
Jason Foody is the new General Manager of Galway Cultural Institute/ Galway Business School in Ireland. He joined the company last year and brings his expertise and operational experience to the group, enhancing the student experience and developing the already diverse business. Prior to this posting, Mr Foody worked for many years in the hospitality sector worldwide.
The Language Centre of Ireland (LCI) in Dublin is please to announce that Will Dowling has joined as a Director. With a strong marketing and operational background, particularly in ELT, Mr Dowling, alongside Tom Doyle, will strategically guide LCI and help take the school into its next 50 years.
New software launched for language schools
A language school group and agency in Germany and Latin America has developed a new system of online software, Xaidoo, that will enable language schools around the world to carry out various management-related activities more efficiently.
Christopher Thebing from Kolumbus Enterprises/Academia Kolumbus, which has three language schools in Latin America and three agency offices in Europe, has been developing the system since 2006 and is currently visiting schools around the world in order to promote it. Key features of the system include an invoicing tool, a host family matching tool, a tuition planning tool, aiport pick-up confirmations, attendance and progress reports and an online placement test. The software is multilingual and schools using it may have unlimited users. Users can also generate newsletters, produce feedback forms and reports.
Thebing said that they developed the software after the company grew to include different schools and offices in different countries. “Before this, our school was using word, excel etc but this is impossible once you get to a certain size,” he explained. “Too many mistakes are inevitable. The reaction so far has been very positive.” Matthias Muller from College of English in San Diego, CA, USA, one of the first schools to buy the system, said, “I especially like the user friendly intuitive handling of the features. This new tool will help us to improve our services, not only to agents.”
While the software is designed to be used across countries, Thebing added that it can also be tailored to meet the demands of particular countries’ visa regulations, like I-20 issuing in the USA and the passport copy for the UK. More features such as activity planning and calculating are due to be added to the system over the next few weeks.
Schools will be able to purchase the basic system for e6,000 (US$7,978), while additional features such as host family matching and tuition planning will cost extra. Users will also have to pay an annual service fee of 15 per cent (including daily backups, a secure server, updates and a helpdesk) which reduces over time.
Gap Adventures partners with STA Travel
Gap Adventures has formed a partnership with global travel agency STA Travel to provide small group adventure experiences in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.
The volunteer travel organisation has been the preferred partner with STA for travel adventures in Latin America for the last three years. The new agreement means that Gap Adventures will provide STA Travel with over 1,000 adventure experiences in over 100 countries worldwide, also including expedition cruising.
Peter Liney, Chief Executive of STA Travel, said, “We have had a very successful partnership with Gap Adventures over the last three years as our preferred supplier for Latin America. We look forward to working together to offer our customers an extensive choice of small group adventures in all parts of the world.”
Korean launches own version of Toefl
The Korean Ministry of Education, Sciences and Technology has announced that it is to introduce a state-certified English proficiency test from 2012 that will eventually replace the Toefl test in Korea and any other foreign exam material.
The government has decided to introduce the test, provisionally called the State English Aptitude Test, in order to reduce the amount of money spent on private cram schools and other language institutes in Korea. The test will be modelled on the Japanese Eiken English test, which is recognised by institutions in the USA and other countries as an alternative to Toefl.
Education Minister, Ahn Byong-man, said, “We believe as long as we can develop a quality test, many overseas schools will accept it. I expect the new test to replace Toeic and Toefl in college admission and job applications.”
The government plans to run pilot versions of the test in 2010 before the official launch in 2012.
Ely Property Group changes owners
A consortium of investors, calling themselves Verum Ltd, has bought Ireland-based Ely Property Group, a provider of student accommodation in Ireland and the UK, for e39.27million (US$52.22 million). The founder of Ely Property Group, Philip Marley, led the consortium, which bought out the company owned by Newcourt Group at the end of last year.
Ely currently has six student blocks in the UK and Ireland, comprising 1,772 beds, and gained planning permission for a 734-bed student accommodation and commercial use development in Birmingham City Centre. The company also has a further 1,400 beds across five sites in the UK currently in the planning process. Philip Marley has been CEO the group since it was founded in 2003 and the current management team will remain in place under the new ownership.
Marley said, “Ely Property, a business which I founded in 2003, has grown rapidly and operates a business model which remains robust in the current environment. Over the past number of years, we have been successful in further developing the Ely business with the Newcourt team.”
Last year was the inaugural year for Languages Canada and the association was busy making inroads with government on behalf of its members. Johanne Lacombe, Executive Director, answers our questions about achievements and onward plans.
Full name: Languages Canada/Langues Canada
Year established: March 2008
Number of members: ~ 134 Accredited Programmes as at December 31, 2008
Type of members: Public, private, French, English, and seasonal language institutions
Association’s main role: To promote quality, accredited English and French language training in Canada, both nationally and internationally.
Membership criteria: Accreditation under Languages Canada Accreditation Scheme
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: Planning will commence in March 2008
Executive Director Johanne Lacombe
General enquiries Linda Auzins
How has Languages Canada evolved in its first year of operation?
The Languages Canada team has been very busy in its first year of operation with organising a new office, hiring new staff, the development of strategic relationships with different stakeholders and moving forward with its accreditation programme. The staff now includes two new positions: Executive Director (Johanne Lacombe) and Accreditation Services Manager (Magali St-Amand).
How do you work with government to promote international education in Canada?
We work with different Federal departments (ie Foreign Affairs, Canadian Heritage, Industry Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada), provincial partners and embassies in order to promote international education in Canada and outside of Canada. We keep our partners informed by attending official meetings, teleconferences, major tradeshows and communicating directly with our partners on our projects, always keeping in mind our main objective: to represent the Canadian language industry.
Are there any further concessions regarding work rights, immigration rules, in the pipeline?
Languages Canada continues to work cooperatively with Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the hope that the accredited Languages Canada members will be the only language training institutions able to issue Letters of Acceptance and that study permit holders be given access to work privileges.
What do you think 2009 will bring?
This year will be as busy as the last one by: expanding our accreditation programme, bringing new members into the association, developing key marketing messages and tools, making sure that the language industry is well represented in Canada and outside and most important, establishing even stronger relationships with the Federal government and with the Ministry of Education of each province and territory. Languages Canada needs to take its place in the language industry and work in collaboration with the language institutions, governments and not-for-profit organisations.
Why should agents consider Canada as an ideal study destination?
Canada’s natural wonders draw many students from around the world and bring much pleasure to its 33 million inhabitants. What better country to come to and have the opportunity to learn two languages: Canada offers something that is unique to other competitor countries, the ability to study English and/or French in an immersion setting.
• BMI, the second largest carrier to operate out of London Heathrow, has increased its flight frequency to the Middle East. Passengers can now benefit from a six-times-weekly flight from London to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Following the acquisition of British Mediterranean Airlines (BMED) back in 2007, BMI also inherited routes including Amman in Jordan, Lebanon in Beirut and Damascus in Syria. Meanwhile, a recent agreement between the UK and Ukraine concerning route frequency expansion has led to the British carrier being granted permission to serve the Ukrainian capital of Kiev five times a week.
• Despite criticism from civil liberties groups and security officials, the European parliament has agreed to implement the biometric passport in certain parts of Europe, excluding the UK, Ireland and Denmark. The passports, which will contain passenger fingerprints and photo images, will be accessible via computer, with many worried as to who else may have access to such sensitive information. “There is a risk that border officials and police will rely too heavily on the technology, at the expense of old-fashioned techniques for identifying travellers,” said Richard Clayton, a security researcher at Cambridge University. “With the existing passports, border guards look closely at people’s faces. If the emphasis switches to fingerprints there is a risk that you get rid of the human element in the job, such as observing if a person fidgets or looks nervous as they try to pass through passport control,” he added. Meanwhile, the US Department of Homeland Security recently ruled that it would begin collecting biometric data from permanent residents, arrivals seeking admission on immigrant visas, individuals seeking asylum and foreign visitors.
• Construction of a new runway and a third terminus at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport has finally been given the go ahead. Approval for expansion plans were orginally granted back in 2007 but a lengthy dispute between aviation authorities and those directly affected by the move postponed activity. Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of air transport association Iata, signalled that this would be instrumental to growing the industry. “This is an important decision for Germany because a strong, competitive aviation sector with the right infrastructure supports employment and economic growth,” he said. German transport company, Fraport, announced that the number of passengers using Frankfurt airport in 2008 was estimated to be 53.5 million, down 1.3 per cent from the previous year.
• A recent survey conducted by travel company, Holiday Extras, has revealed that British travellers are looking for new and exciting travel experiences in 2009. The poll of 1,000 people found that 31 per cent were looking to discover a new destination with almost half (48 per cent) intent on “doing something totally different and really memorable”. Only 14 per cent divulged that they weren’t interested in changing their habitual travel arrangements, while seven per cent claimed that the credit crisis would cause them to holiday closer to home. “With the pound currently weak against both the dollar and the euro, it is perhaps no surprise that many people are looking to new and different destinations for their holidays,” said Mike Whiting, Managing Editor at Holiday Extras.
• Falling passenger numbers have prompted Singapore Airlines (SIA) to slash flights to China, India and Australia. The Star Alliance member could halt as many as 200 flights per week with routes to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China, and to Mumbai and New Delhi in India, all at risk. Flights to Perth, Sydney and Brisbane in Australia and to London and Zurich in Europe may also be affected. “We do not want to be flying half empty planes around the world any longer than we have to, because it increases our cost burden at a time when we can least afford it,” said SIA’s Stephen Forshaw.
• Lufthansa has been named best long-haul business airline in the 2009 Business Travel World Awards.
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