by Nicola Hancox,
The role of the study travel agent is a versatile one: recruiter, marketer, promoter, advice giver, sympathetic ear. And there are some great examples of the diverse role that they play in this issue (and in every issue for that matter!)
Agents don their marketing hat in this month’s central feature (page 28), which looks at the different marketing techniques agencies employ to attract student clients and support school business partners. With agent portfolios comprising several different products managed by several different school partners, the challenge is how best to promote and market each one effectively. Add to the mix the different target markets (student, paying parent) and you have yourself a veritable marketing mountain to climb! More than just a student recruiter, agents should be treated as marketing partners, suggests one contributor.
The importance of sharing up-to-date, quality marketing material with agent partners is another area flagged by contributors. “There’s a random and globally mediocre level of pictures made available by schools,” laments one agent. Photos can sell a destination, a course, a school, so it is critical the images schools provide accurately reflect the product they wish their agent partners to promote. However, schools and agents should always be wary of the perils and pitfalls of copyright infringement.
Our Direction feature on page 41, meanwhile, looks at the world of international student insurance. Agents play a key role here, too. According to participating service providers study travel agents generate a significant amount of annual business (between 60 and 70 per cent at one insurance company, 85 per cent at another). Guiding students as to which package best suits them and their needs is by no means easy especially when students seem hell bent on insuring their personal possessions rather than their health!
The feature also highlights the growing prevalence of mental wellness (one insurance provider notes a significant increase in the number of claims in this area) with insurers keen to provide better coverage and support for overseas students. With so many different guises, from extreme homesickness to study-related stress, eating disorders to relationship conflict, mental health can affect anyone and symptoms can often be exacerbated when a student is away from home and their loved ones. As a constant and tangible link to home, agents prove indispensable in this respect, providing advice and guidance in a students’ own language before, during and even after a student has completed their course.