Twice as nice
Many people who work in the language travel industry have been in it for years. Someone said to me at a workshop in August, "people never leave the industry, or if they do, they always come back". While not universally true, it certainly seems to be the case that many of us stick around for quite some time and hold a special affinity for an industry that deals in international exchange and experience.
One reason for this is of course that many companies are owner-operated schools or agencies, founded by people who themselves have had the exciting and sometimes excruciating experience of learning a language and living in another country. Another reason is that we all enjoy working in a wider global community and meeting our contemporaries from other cultures and countries who are equally passionate about what they do. For this reason, workshops provide a great business and social forum, and this year';s Alphe UK workshop and the English UK event in Brighton were no exception (page 10).
One industry name back in international education, and back at workshops, is Kevin McNeany, who returns as co-owner of the Manchester Academy of English in the UK, having previously sold his ILA school chain to Aspect five years ago (page 7).
The importance of face-to-face meetings and personal connection is the same in any industry, but so much of the business done in the international education sector involves close liaison between partners who respect and trust each other, and our industry is different from others in this regard. When agencies explain how marketing tactics might influence them, they readily admit that as well as a quality product, good service and tempting commission structures, likeable school staff can be the decisive factor (pages 22-23).
For agencies, having friendly and personable staff is just as important given that they work in a client-facing environment. One agent in Kazakhstan underlines that when it comes to recruiting agency staff, they need someone who is understanding and discreet, not someone who is simply efficient in processing bookings. Another agent in Russia relates that it took them months to find the right person for a vacant position (page 11).
It is heartening to imagine, therefore, that everyone working in the industry has been hand-picked on the basis of their experience or niceness. I look forward to meeting many more such nice people at future workshops.