May 2015 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Industry Faces
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Special Report
Regional Focus
Course Guide
Market Analysis

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Steady Switzerland

The value of the Swiss franc shot up in January, which gave agency business a boost, but also devalued commission payments, as Claire Twyman reports.

Key points

The total number of students placed by the 12 agencies in our survey was 1,935 (not all agencies disclosed student numbers)

Individual agencies placed between 12 and 555 students on courses per year

Average business growth was 7.5 per cent

The average length of stay for Swiss students was seven weeks

Overall, 79 per cent of Swiss students preferred host family accommodation

The largest percentage of Swiss students (29 per cent) were studying for current work opportunities

Language is the largest sector of the study abroad market for Swiss agencies (85 per cent)

Most popular course requests Average percentage of agency business by sector
General 33%
Intensive (25+ hrs) 28%
Lang. plus work 10%
Summer 8%
Academic prep. 7%
Business lang. 5%
Junior lang. 5%
Under/-postgraduate 3%
GCSE/A level/IB/Pre-U 1%
Language programmes 81%
Volunteer 6%
Work & Travel 6%
Internships 3%
High school 3%
Higher education 0.5%
Other 0.5%

Reasons for studying overseas Top destinations

Current work 29%
Future work 26%
Pleasure 22%
Further studies at home 19%
Future studies overseas 3%
Other 1%

UK 28%
USA 14%
Canada 13%
Australia 12%
France 9%
New Zealand 5%
Spain 4%
Ireland 4%
Germany 2%
Italy 2%
Malta 2%
Japan 0.5%
China 0.5%
Other 4%

How do agencies recruit students? How do agencies find new schools to represent?

Word-of-mouth 49%
E/online marketing 22%
Website 18%
Press 6%
Mail shots 2%
Seminars to students 0.5%
TV/radio 0.5%
Other 2%

b2b conferences 46%
Internet 21%
Fairs and expos 4%
StudyTravel Magazine 1%
Other 28%

Market growth

When the Swiss National Bank lifted its cap on the Swiss franc’s value against the euro in mid-January, the value of the currency soared by as much as 30 per cent. Marcel Rüfenacht, President of the Swiss Association of Language Travel Agents (Salta), says that agents in the country were not expecting this development or the resultant increase in business as Swiss students made the most of their increased spending power.

Rüfenacht says that at Linguista and globo-study, which are both Media Touristik brands, programmes in destinations such as England, France and Spain were booked earlier whereas they would usually get booked later in the year. Meanwhile, Maria Jost from A&A Sejours Linguistiques in Montreux reports that the currency fluctuation gave a welcome boost to summer programme bookings, and that the UK did especially well along with German, Italian and Spanish language courses.

However, the currency appreciation wasn’t entirely good news. Rüfenacht explains that it also devalued the commission payments that agents received from their school partners, meaning that agents needed to secure more business to maintain the same level of income. “That’s difficult to generate out of a saturated market,” he says.

Over the past 12 months, though, business has been steady, with the agencies reporting an average business growth rate of 7.5 per cent. But it should be noted that more than half (seven) reported no growth at all, and one agent gave a growth rate of 40 per cent.

Language and destination trends

Our survey, mostly of non-Salta members, indicates that English was comfortably the most popular language among Swiss students over the past 12 months, accounting for 73 per cent of language bookings. French (14 per cent), Spanish (five per cent) and Italian (four per cent) were also popular.

Salta recently conducted a survey on business for its 11 members in 2014, and the results were similar. English accounted for 67 per cent of language bookings in the adult market, followed by French, Spanish, German and Italian in that order. Meanwhile, the UK (28 per cent) was the most popular destination in our survey, followed by the USA (14 per cent), Canada (13 per cent) and Australia (12 per cent). The results of the Salta survey for most popular destinations largely mirror STM’s findings, although Malta was in fifth place in the Salta survey yet did not feature very strongly in ours.

In the UK, Salta says that Canterbury is becoming a popular location for business courses in 2014, and London was popular among students aged 30-to-50 years. Philipp Alexander Weber from fRilingue in Fribourg gives further insight, “Swiss people like Sidmouth and Totnes in Devon [UK] as they are small, beautiful and secure. In France they like Antibes.”

Student and course trends

General language (33 per cent), intensive language (28 per cent) and language plus work (10 per cent) courses received the most bookings in our survey, which is a change from our previous survey. Intensive language programmes were top with 56 per cent last year, followed by business (19 per cent) and academic/exam prep courses (10 per cent). General language courses were next at eight per cent.

Although some agents repeated the survey both years, there was a different cross-section overall which could account for the change in results. The largest share of students were studying for current work purposes in both surveys.

Agency business

The Swiss market still appears to be dominated by language course bookings at 81 per cent. However, these programmes scored 96 per cent in the previous survey, and the volunteer, work and travel and internship sectors have made significant gains since. Salta also reports that Swiss students are increasingly booking courses for career purposes.

In terms of marketing courses to students, word-of-mouth (49 per cent) is still the most common method followed by email/online marketing (22 per cent) and agency websites (18 per cent). And when finding new school partners, b2b conferences (46 per cent) and the internet (21 per cent) were on top.

Looking ahead

The mood is generally positive for the coming 12 months. Many agents predict modest business increases, and Ursel Rutz from Surprise Reisen in Sommeri reports that there should be “high interest and lots of enquiries turning into bookings. We’ve added four new schools in 2014 and are expecting higher numbers”.

Weber reports that he hopes the agency section of his business will grow by around 20-to-30 per cent in terms of the number of students, and this could be achieved due to the fact that some of his competitors offer a high mark-up on courses. However, “For Swiss agents it isn’t possible nowadays to work with schools that just give 15 per cent commission on the whole package,” he says. “As our overhead costs are very high it is hard to make a living out of this,” he adds.

Many agents also think that they will continue to benefit from the recent currency fluctuation, including a spokesperson from Akzent Sprachbildung in Zurich. However, they note that the value of the Swiss franc has gone down a little bit since January, which could mean that bookings will trail off slightly. claire@hothousemedia.com

Switzerland key facts

Population: 8,061,516 (96th in world rankings)
Youth population (aged 15-to-24): 11.4%
Unemployment rate: 6.6% (69th in world rankings)
Youth unemployment rate: 8.4% (119th in world rankings)
GDP per capita: US$54,800 (11th in world rankings)
GDP growth rate in 2013: 2% (146th in world rankings)
Inflation rate in 2013: -0.4% (6th in world rankings)
Education expenditures (GDP): 5.2% (66th in world rankings)
Literacy rate: 99%

Source: CIA Factbook

Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Agroverde; Akzent Sprachbildung; Aventure Linguistique; ESL - Language Studies Abroad; fRilingue; Frischknecht Sprachausbildung; Gfeller-Eickhoff Internatsberatung/Private Consultancy; Interlangues; International Experience Schweiz; Lingua Service; Surprise Reisen; Yalea Languages.

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.







Centre of English Studies  
ELS Language Centers  
Kings College  
St Giles International  
Xplore Ltd.  

Ability English  
Cairns Language Centre  
English Australia  
ILSC Australia  
Impact English College  
Monash College  

CERAN Lingua International  

Central de Intercâmbio  
UNISUL- Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina   

Mandarin Spring  

Anglophiles Academic  
Country Cousins  
Heart of England Language School  
Islington Centre for English  
Kilgraston Language and Activities School  
Oxford Royale Academy  
Queen Ethelburga's College  

Accent Francais  
Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne  
Groupement FLE  
Institut Catholique de Toulouse - IULCF  
Institut d'Etudes Françaises  
Institut de Touraine  
LSF Montpellier  
Paris Langues  
Riviera French Institute  

MEI Ireland  

Intercultural Institute of Japan  


Education South Africa  
Bay Language Institute  
EC Cape Town  
Eurocentres Cape Town  
Good Hope Studies  
Inlingua Cape Town   
Interlink School of Languages  
International House Cape Town  
Kurus English  
LAL Cape Town  
Language Training Centre   

California ESL  
Summer Study Programs  
University of California Berkeley  
University of California San Diego  


Calgary Board of Education  
Central Okanagan School Dsitrict  
Central Quebec School Board  
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board  
Eastern Townships School Board  
Edmonton Public Schools  
English Montreal School Board  
Golden Hills School Division #75  
Greater Victoria School District  
Louis Riel School Division  
Niagara Catholic District School Board  
Ottawa Carleton District School Board  
Qualicum International School Program   
Simcoe County District School Board  
St James - Assiniboia School Division  
Waterloo Catholic District School Board  

Carlsbad International School  

United World School of English  

Saint Denis International School  


UNISUL- Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina   

Algonquin College  

Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University  

University of Liverpool  

University of California Berkeley  
University of California San Diego  
Summer Study Programs  


ANDE-LM Ltd Agency  

British Council  
Twin Group  
Trinity College London  

CareMed GmbH  

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