Contents - November 2003

Special Report
Counting costs
In the last few years, there has been a trend among students towards value for money, targeted courses and in some cases, 'no-frills products', as more and more students, and parents, acknowledge cost sensibilities when buying a course. This may mean opting for a certain destination, mode of travel or length of course. As Gillian Evans reports, price doesn't always win out, but strategic customer choices are now expected by schools and agencies.

Professional virtues
Agency associations around the world provide an update in this issue on what they have been doing over the course of the year. As Amy Baker finds out, activities have ranged from minimal to impressive, depending on the size and level of infrastructure in the association and, in some cases, the type of year that their members have experienced. Professional improvement and better business relations remain hallmarks of most associations' goals, however.

City Focus
Valladolid in Spain is a little known study destination for language students, despite reputedly being the birthplace of the Spanish language. Language schools in the city point out the many historical and cultural attractions of the area which, when combined with the numerous opportunities to integrate with the local people, provide a perfect setting for students to gain a truly unique Spanish experience. Bethan Norris reports.


Best practice
Now that the busy enrolment periods for the year are over, many operators in the industry will be pleased to see 2003 coming to a close, and will look forward to what will hopefully be a better year for business next year.

This is certainly the view of many language schools in Canada. A significant number of schools there saw business drop by an alarming rate, as fear among Asian communities about the Sars virus prevented many students from travelling overseas.

While bookings are reported to have returned in the last quarter of the year, the Sars virus was yet another alarm bell for schools that rely too heavily on one or two main markets from the same continent. As Asian student numbers dwindled, so did the fortunes of many schools. It is always challenging to maintain a nationality mix in schools, but it is always best practice.

A notion of 'best practice', which school associations champion as one of their main aims, is wide ranging, incorporating factors such as student welfare, tuition, nationality mix and social activities. This is an area that Australian group, English Australia, has improved in the past year, according to Sue Blundell at English Australia. She explains that the association also prides itself on encouraging steady, sustainable growth rather than 'dramatic, market-driven fluctuations'.

Language schools in New Zealand similarly suffered from a slowdown in Chinese student enrolments this year. The reasons for this are thought to be manifold - the rise in value of the NZ dollar, the fallout from Sars and fears about student safety while in the country. Schools with an over-reliance on Chinese students are suffering as a result, especially those opened in the past two years to capitalise on what was then a tidal wave of Chinese students coming into the country. Some schools are being forced to lose staff members, while the first school casualty has been Modern Age Institute of Learning.

The government in New Zealand has involved itself in the regulation of language course provision and recently determined that best practice involves not accepting students under the age of 10 - unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian - into the country to enrol at educational establishments, unless they have boarding facilities. There have been concerns about young students, many of whom are from Korea, inappropriately cared for in large groups and the effect on the industry's reputation.

Agency associations similarly uphold best practice and quality standards as one of their central tenets, and many of these associations have been busy in the last year, improving professional integrity and promoting themselves to the general public. All keep professional values at heart, although some associations in Europe report a difficult year for members, which impacted on association activities.

A slow economy in a country can mean fewer students being able to travel, but also a reprioritisation of spending values. One agent, based in Korea, says that since the Asian economic crisis in 1999, student purchasing power has never been the same. General trends in consumer consumption also underly an awareness about value for money and a desire for cost-effectiveness among students. As we report, this doesn't necessarily mean that students buy the cheapest product, but they like to know what they are getting for the money that they are spending.

Now that the busy enrolment periods for the year are over, many operators in the industry will be pleased to see 2003 coming to a close, and will look forward to what will hopefully be a better year for business next year.

NZ and Australia react to crime fear
School chain in NZ goes under
Spain, Saudi Arabia start young
Ialc continues to expand
New schools/acquisitions abound

Travel News
Troubles in the air in Asia
BA stops flights to Saudi Arabia
Security in the sky
Easyjet to expand services

Agency News
UK workshop season is upbeat
UK agent wins
business accolade

Agency Survey
Japan's crawl
Despite the positive results posted by one of the agencies that took part in this issue's survey, growth in the Japanese agency market was slow overall this year.

Ireland feedback
A higher proportion of students studying English in Ireland intended to continue on to university study this year, according to our Feedback survey. This is due to the higher number of Chinese students among those canvassed.

Market Report
Canada plummets
The last year has been a difficult one for many language travel destinations and Canada was particularly hard hit by the Sars epidemic, which spread from Asia to Toronto. Language schools reported a good start to 2003 but disappointing enrolment figures throughout the rest of the year as quarantine procedures and negative publicity about Sars took their toll. Gillian Evans talks to schools in Canada about a difficult year and their hopes for 2004.

Course Guide
UK junior courses
Language courses for under-16 year olds are very popular with students coming to the UK, especially in the summer months. Here, we provide details about a selection of programmes available.

EA risk management
English Australia has put a lot of effort over the past year into promoting strategic management and growth among its members to ensure they offer high quality courses and are well placed to weather any storm. Sue Blundell, Executive Director of EA, tells us about the association's achievements.

Status: New Zealand 2002
The Status survey is a venture by Language Travel Magazine, in collaboration with the Association of Language Travel Organisations (Alto), which gathers specific market data about all of the main language teaching markets in the world.