Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich in Germany to meet with local agents.
Carolyn Blackmore, Chief Executive of the group, said, "The schools commented favourably on the usefulness of the agent contacts they made, and the agents likewise." Agent, Elisabeth Artner-Peil of Artner Seminare & Reisen, commented, "It was very easy to get [to know] the representatives of the language institutions and to come right to the point and to find out how to work together."
The QE missions are becoming a twice-yearly event. In October last year, an average of 10 QE member schools met with a similar number of local agents in the cities of Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. The agents were invited to attend a QE presentation, half-day workshop and lunch.
In the most recent mission to Germany, QE schools met 15 to 20 agents in total.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How do you ensure that you attract repeat bookings at your agency?
Francisco Scarpinelli Mendy, Smart Mendy Educational Consultants, Argentina
"Some of our bookings are repeat bookings, but most students recommend us to their families and friends. We contact them once or twice a year after their trip, on special occasions such as Christmas, on their birthdays or to give them information about the courses. Today we are making our new web page, with a blog area where a short report will be written with some photos about the trips and so students can write comments [here]. In that way they keep in touch with us and among themselves. We also send them new promotions, offers and any other useful information relating to their personal interests. It is our custom to offer discounts for repeat bookings or when members of the same family travel together. Free tickets for museums, plays and sports events are also other kinds of gifts for them. Identifying repeat bookings is not difficult due to our solid contact with our clients [after their trip]."
John Paek, Doosan Overseas Education Center, Korea/New Zealand
"I have to admit that nowadays, various marketing strategies do help in attracting repeat bookings for the agencies. Discounts, gifts and student feedback forms are commonly used. But still, in my opinion, the most important thing for the business is the quality of service considerate, professional, [prompt response], accurate and so on. Free gifts could be more effective in attracting new clients, but would not be the key point in attracting the repeat bookings unless the clients had been satisfied with the previous services. In this case, even if there was no free gift, most likely they would choose to re-book. Feedback forms (maybe together with some free gifts) could be a good choice to remind the previous clients of the good quality services. Marketing strategies are applied to expand in a developing market and the final goal is to achieve a high reputation in a developed market. And a good reputation is the guarantee of the prosperous business."
Pepe Torres, Educatours, Mexico
"Easy our good reputation, we are educational advisers, not a travel agency. Our knowledge in education and offering all the products (educational programmes plus the insurance, ISIS cards for discounts, homestays, etc) gets us repeat bookings. And if I get discounts from the schools, I give the discount to students, or a free flight, or something."
Luciana Spelgatti, International Know How, Italy
"The Italian client is faithful and [comes back] to the agency after the first trip/experience, especially if the client is a minor or inexperienced. Our major difficulty is to convince them to go on the first experience abroad. We normally have a return rate of 30-to-35 per cent of the previous year's individual clients. And more than 60 per cent when it comes to groups. In spite of this high percentage, our organisation studies new formulas every year to attract clients to book early and to [provide incentives to] the faithful. This year, we have offered clients a further discount on the published prices for any enrolment on a course until 90 days prior to the departure date. We are also very careful to [stay ahead] of changes to the market which varies every year. Last year we offered a reduced price for repeating students in 2005. We have to bear in mind that our market enrols later than other European countries so every marketing action is quick and lasts a few weeks."
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, English Tutorials in Edinburgh, in the UK, nominates iSt in Germany.
Christopher Smith, Founder and Director of the school, explains this decision:
"Our nomination of iSt, Heidelberg is [due to] a special [relationship] rather than an exclusive one. We have been operating since 1984, offering micro-tuition (maximum three participants per group), private and combination courses to adults so our target group is slightly restricted. We enjoy excellent relationships with all our agencies in Europe.
We started to receive referrals from iSt in 1990. In 1993 they published us in their brochure. Their description of us has always been accurate, appealing and obviously very effective. Students have always known exactly what to expect and we have always been well briefed about them in return.
Their professionalism saves us time and facilitates our customer care. Always supportive, friendly, responsive and flexible, it has been a pleasure to partner with them over the last 13 years. We salute their success and hope that we may continue to figure in their plans."
On the move
Paul Douglas (left) has left Shane Global, London in the UK, after 14 years working for Shane English Schools/Saxoncourt Group of Companies. Berwyck Gibbons, School Director in Hastings, takes over his role as Director of UK Operations. Mr Douglas, who is moving back to his home city of Sheffield, said, "It has been a great pleasure to work with so many great people here at Shane Global over the past two years and of course the many agent partners from so many different countries."
Erich Thaler, former Head of Marketing and PR at BSI Berlin in Germany, has moved to Switzerland. He is the new Director, Language Travels, at Academia Sprach- und Lernzentrum in Basel. Academia has two high profile language schools in Switzerland and is set to expand its network into Germany and France.
Jonathan Richards is the new Director of Berlitz Brighton in the UK. On December 20, Berlitz Brighton was acquired by Brighton Language College, part of the Golders Hill School Group (independent pre-prep schools based in north London). Mr Richards said, "We have long wanted to take advantage of our group's international connections through the acquisition of a language school. We are confident of the long-term strength of the language study market."
David Anthonisz has left his position as Sales & Marketing Director for Bloomsbury International in London, UK, to establish Alenea Consulting, a sales and marketing consultancy for the educational industry. Alenea Consulting is a full-service agency and has already secured a number of high profile clients. Mr Anthonisz said, "At Alenea, we provide our clients with a range of products that will give them a significantly higher market profile and access to new business partners from all around the world."
Marie-Laure Lions-Olivieri (left), previously Director of Campus International in Toulon, France, with 15 years experience in the industry and Jean Petrissans (right), previously Secretary General of French schools' association, Souffle, have left their respective positions to create a consultancy partnership. The new business will providelanguage schools in France with professional services relating to advice, school audits, promotion and training.
ABLS in the UK has been working to raise its profile among industry peers and with British embassies around the world. Janet McGuirk, Chairperson of the association, answers our questions.
Association of British Language Schools (ABLS)
Year established: 1993
Number of members: 33
Type of members:
Schools, Homestays, One-to-one providers, etc.
Association's main role:
Accreditation of private institutions providing English language tuition and associated services
Membership is gained by passing the ABLS Inspection (details available in the ABLS handbook at www.abls.co.uk)
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: No
Association of British Language Schools (ABLS)
PO Box 182, Potters Bar, EN6 5ZG, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1707 663311
Fax: +44 (0)1707 663311
What has ABLS been up to in the last year?
At the beginning of 2005, all ABLS members were automatically included on the DfES Register of Providers, which was quite an achievement. During the year we sadly said goodbye to our Chief Inspector, Robin Bye. I am pleased to say that we have recruited new inspectors and now have Acting Chief Inspectors both for the North and South of England. We wrote to all the embassies across the world to introduce ourselves, as sometimes visas had been refused to member schools as embassies were only aware of the British Council [accreditation scheme]. We had some very positive responses. In August we attended the Alphe Workshop, as we have done every year for the last five years. We feel that it is an opportunity for ABLS to increase our profile within the industry.
With an accreditation system linked to visa issuance being planned by government, how do you think it will affect the industry and does ABLS hope to play a part in the scheme?
If the government brings in an accreditation scheme linked to visa issuance then it will only partly affect the industry, as organisations which have only European students [entering without visas] will still not need to be accredited. ABLS members feel that this is a tremendous opportunity for accreditation to be linked to improving standards within the industry as a whole. Therefore, if the government brings in an accreditation scheme linked to visa issuance, it would be a great shame. ABLS expects to be fully involved in the scheme and is working towards this end.
What are ABLS's plans for 2006?
We are planning to appoint a sub-committee comprised both of inspectors and members to review our inspection procedures. As the industry is changing quite significantly we are working towards ABLS developing so that it is fully equipped to continue to be one of the recognised accreditation bodies. The most important thing is that, if we are to continue to improve standards and quality, clients need to have choice.
Love was in the air at Shane Global in London, UK, earlier this year. The school put on its own speed dating night on Valentine's Day in February for its international students. A flirting lesson preceded the evening of five-minute interviews to assess for love potential, followed by a dinner and dance. Pictured below, the match-making in progress (top) and a successful result.
The British Council Innovation Awards proved a swanky affair again, held in central London earlier this year. Twelve companies were nominated for the awards, known as the Eltons, to celebrate the cutting-edge of English language teaching. Camden College of English in London was among the three winners, honoured for its English Language Cultural Experience that takes students out of the classroom and into the city. Principal, Stuart Rubenstein, said teachers at his school spent almost a year working with him, visiting different museums and designing the teaching materials. His wife, Greta, with a Master's degree in Museum and gallery management, liaised and worked with each museum. The other winners were the University of Birmingham & Aston University for Teachers Exploring Tasks and Macmillan Education's Bugs multimedia course for young learners. Pictured here, Rubenstein and teachers, Sally McCrae and Emma Fisher, with Angela Sexton of the British Council (right).
The Canada Language Council (CLC) held its annual conference in Victoria, British Columbia, this year and the weather was far warmer than the -30° temperatures of Halifax, Nova Scotia the previous year. In fact, the environs were so charming and the weather so warm that the same venue has already been booked for next year's conference! Pictured here (left), some lucky winners in the CLC prize draw - donated prizes included some gardening gloves, adverturer's medical kit and top prize (surely) of a free table at an Alphe workshop. Also seen here (right) are two delegates snapped relaxing after a hard day's work - Marijke de Looze of Ingle International Inc. and Stuart Boag of Education New Zealand.