||New agent members for Italian association
The Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents (Ialca) has welcomed eight new members. Ballocchi Travel in Thiene, British European Centre (BEC) in Milan, Centro Soggiorno Studio (CSS) in Sassari, English in England in Borgoricco, Libero Corso in Oderzo, Oxbridge in Torino, Sunflower Exchange in Como and WEP in Torino have all been granted membership status after adhering to strict guidelines enforced by the association’s governing body.
Giuseppina Foti, President of the association, said that each agency had demonstrated that they had been actively sending students abroad for three years and that they had proven to have sound working relationships with school partners.
Current Ialca committee members were heavily involved in the application process with trustees vetting the information that agencies send out to clientele. Foti added that the new members were welcome additions to the association, spanning the width and breadth of the country. “As we are a national association it is very important to have members in every region of Italy,” she said.
The association has also been busy planning a reconnaissance mission to South Africa. Six members, along with representatives from the Italian press have been invited by Eltasa/EduSA the South African language school association to take part in a cross-promotional tour in November. “We are promoting new destinations for Italian people,” explained Foti. “Very often parents and children want to go together on a study-holiday trip and a place like Cape Town could be the right destination to combine an English course and safari.” She added, “The prices are very competitive.”
Meanwhile, a Quality English workshop is taking place in Rome with various Ialca members, and is scheduled to take place sometime in November.
HKOSC buys Guangdong-based agency
Hong Kong Overseas Study Centre (HKOSC) has announced its acquisition of China’s Guangdong Overseas Education Services (Goes).
Jimmy Wong, President of HKOSC, owned by Hong Kong Student Travel Group, explained that the move meant that “one of Hong Kong’s leading educational recruitment agencies will bring to Goes which was in China’s first group of licensed agents an extensive network of quality institutions as well as improved services and programmes.”
The Guangdong agency will now become HKOSC’s head office in China and spearhead expansion plans within the country, with an extended range of products planned including educational, cultural and study tours, working holidays, internships, conservation volunteer programmes and travel passes.
“We believe Goes-HKOSC will bring ‘synergy’ between the two brands and that it will open doors to a vast student market, [offering] better support and services and a bigger portfolio of quality overseas institutions,” said Wong. He continued, “China is experiencing a rapid growth in students going overseas to study whereas in Hong Kong, the market is very mature. We saw this as an ideal opportunity for the development of the company.”
Goes was established in 1993 and was one of nine agencies in China selected to pioneer Australia’s e-visa system. Wong said it was “among the most reliable”. George Guo, Managing Director of Goes, will become General Manager of Goes-HKOSC.
CI in Brazil reveals e-training for staff
Brazilian agency, Central de Intercambio CI, has developed a new online training system for all CI employees.
Based on a learning management system devised by Ciatech (the Brazilian e-learning solutions company) the bespoke software aims to train CI staff in all areas of the business, including what products are available (product management), how to sell them (sales techniques) and how to manage time effectively (time management).
According to Tereza Fulfaro, Educational Director at the agency, the training facility will also include “tips for the corporate and personal life of our employees such as finance administration and energy saving”.
Originally intended to train sales staff, Fulfaro notes that the system has wide appeal for the entire company. “When we first thought about this e-learning system, it was focused on more than 65 offices around Brazil and a good system to keep training the sales staff,” she said, “but the project got bigger than this and now is very useful for all areas in the company.”
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, King George International College in Vancouver, Canada, nominates IE Intercambio from Brazil. Mike Henniger explains this decision.
“We have nominated IE Intercambio as our agency of the month in order to recognize their enormous efforts promoting KGIC Education Group over the last few years. IE Intercambio continues to support our six campuses in Canada, and with the KGIC Education Group expanding with new campuses in Boston, USA in January 2010 followed by Halifax, Nova Scotia in February, we are confident that they will continue to be an important partner.
The agency provides very high quality service to every student coming to Canada. We say that they treat every customer as their own child, brother or sister; every student is a family member. We find that students arriving in Canada are well informed about our school and programmes and the overall satisfaction level is very high.
The IE staff are friendly and helpful. Communication is simple and effective. This makes life easier for us at KGIC. It is a pleasure to have IE Intercambio as partners in Brazil and we thank them for their great support of our school.”
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Do you think 2010 will be a better year in terms of business performance? If so, why?
Niall Abbott, Halsbury Travel, UK
“2009 can so far be summarised as overall decrease in student numbers but an overall increase in student weeks. We also noticed a great deal of “last minute” bookings prob-ably due to worries over swine flu and the recession. This has meant that more than ever we have had to keep in close contact with our partners for availability and advise students on alternatives when their first choice location is not available. We are optimistic that 2010 will be a better year in that currency rates seem to have at least stabilised and we hope to see some improvement for the pound. We also hope that the “budget” airlines retain their routes for 2010 as there have been many changes in 2009. This stability will hopefully lead to a better year in 2010. Our European work experience programme continues to grow and fits in very well with the developing languages curriculum in the UK.”
Arunima Dhingra, Aims Global Education & Immigration Services, India/New Zealand
“2009 has been a very interest-ing year for most international education consultants. Some factors that have affected business this year are Australia saw a decline in Indian students following several vio-lent attacks on Indian students earlier this year. New Zealand saw a big rise in applications for student visas and a shortage of resources to deal with these led to a significant increase in processing times and tightening of immigration policies. On the other hand, markets like Canada and the UK have opened up to international students. Canada introduced a system called the Student Partner Program for giv-ing “special attention” to Indian students and reducing visa turnaround time to as low as two weeks with a high approval rate. In a similar tone, the UK opened its gates to Indian students like never before by making its student visa policies simple and straightforward. With a short visa processing time and a high approval rate, the UK is now fast becoming the most popular destination for Indian students. Courses like business and IT still continue to be the most popular course options for Indian students. I see 2010 performing way better than 2009 with the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia still being our hottest markets. I expect the USA to be coming up in a very big way later this year/early next year by intro-ducing policies that will certainly give all other markets a run for their money.”
Dushyant Bachkaniwala, Dalimit Associates Group, India
“2009 was slow in business terms and growth was not up to expectations. Study abroad business was most affected due to the recession and visa problems. We have already had an increase in enrolments this July so 2010 will be better with bigger targets.”
Maria Victoria Barros, NR Intercâmbio, Brazil
“We do hope that 2010 will be better than 2009. Our groups were not affected as much by the financial crisis or the H1N1 virus, but the individuals travelling to study abroad were very much affected. We experienced a decrease in the number of clients in 2009 due to this and currency [rates] that varied and generated more instability. Hopefully in 2010 currency will stabilise as the crisis peak has passed, and the influenza virus will also lose its prominence in the media and its strength.”
On the move
NSTS is pleased to an-nounce the appointment of Isabella Conti as Executive International Sales. Ms Conti joins NSTS English Language Institute from IELS (or LAL Malta). She im-mediately takes responsibility for promoting NSTS in France, Turkey, Asia and the Far East. Ms Conti said, “NSTS has offered me a challenging position and I am very pleased to be part of such a big organisation which offers a big portfolio of services. I look forward to selling NSTS and to working with our agents around the world”.
Ania Ciesla has recently moved into the Marketing Officer position at Australian Internships in Brisbane, Aus-tralia. Previously Ms Ciesla worked at the International House World Organisation headquarters in London. She has a strong and extensive business background, with a BA in Business English, Advanced Certificate in Public Relations and 10 years of experi-ence in the international education industry. Having worked in Poland and London for a number of years, Ms Ciesla has a great knowledge of the European market and she is hoping to use her skills, contacts and previous experience to promote Australian Internships in Europe.
Manuel Vallés and Olga Shalashova have been ap-pointed Sales Managers at Internet Advantage in Spain. Handling the UK and Ireland markets respectively, both will be based at the new international sales offices in Madrid. Having completed a law degree and a BA in business administration, Mr Vallés has worked for various ad-vertising and marketing agencies, while Ms Shalashova graduated from the University of Latvia with a Bachelor’s degree in English Phi-lology and has worked previously as an interpreter and translator.
David Oancia has taken the International Recruitment Officer position at Niagara College in Niagara, Canada. Mr Oancia, who worked previously at the Hansa Language Centre in their International Marketing department, will be overseeing the Latin American and European markets.
Linda Auzins has been ap-pointed Acting Executive Di-rector of Languages Canada, following the departure of Johanne Lacombe. Ms Auzins will carry out her administra-tive duties and coordinate the advocacy and marketing initiatives.
Ielts reveals top English language learners for 2008
Analysis of Ielts test data has revealed that Afrikaans speakers outperformed fellow exam candidates to achieve the highest average test scores in 2008. German, Romanian, Tagalog, Yoruba and Ibo speakers also performed well in the English language exam that measures listening, reading, writing and speaking aptitude.
The survey which looked at the mean and individual band scores of the top 40 most common first languages found that Afrikaans-speakers were the most proficient, achieving an average test score of 7.28 out of a possible nine. Language standards were said to be so high in fact that candidates were equipped enough to advance into linguistically challenging fields such as medicine.
South Africans (principle users of the Afrikaans dialect) demonstrated excellence in all four areas of the test and were the only nationality to score eight or above in any part of the language exam (they scored an average 8.33 on the speaking paper), while Tagalog speakers (a dialect predominantly used in the Philippines) improved upon 2007’s results by achieving a 6.69 average, compared with the 6.57 previously recorded.
Meanwhile, female students edged ahead of their male counterparts by achieving an average test score of 5.89 in the academic version of the test and 6.11 in the general training model, compared with male students who averaged a respective 5.71 and 5.97 in the two modules.
In 2008, a reported 1.2 million students sat the language exam and according to Pamela Baxter, an Ielts representative, growth is expected to continue. “The continued growth in people taking Ielts around the world is being driven by the practical nature of our test. It is the best means of proving ability in relation to how language is used in the real world,” she said.
Hostelworld.com sells language courses
Hostelworld.com the online reservations specialist for the budget, independent and youth travel market has launched an interactive Travel Store in a bid to enhance user experience.
Visitors to the site can now purchase a whole manner of travel products including travel insurance (through World Nomads), mobile sim cards (via Travel N Roam), and guidebooks courtesy of Lonely Planet. Customers will also be able to search and book language courses with Eurolanguages.com.
Peter Hutchinson, CEO of Eurolanguages.com, said, “The partnership with Hostelworld.com means many more people will find it easier to find a decent language course. It’s a landmark partnership for this industry.”
New pre-paid MasterCards available for agency clients
GSM International, a UK-based company that is a specialist in communications solutions for the EFL industry, is launching a new a Pre-departure Pack for agencies that includes a preloaded UK SIM card and a pre-paid MasterCard for international students to use.
This innovative pack will be sold via agents worldwide and GSM International claims it will give parents peace of mind and students an easy and cheap way to stay in touch and an easy, secure way to look after their money while travelling. Providing a UK SIM card before departure allows students to get in touch with friends and family from the moment they arrive in the UK and also means they can give out their “new UK number” prior to departure. The pre-paid MasterCard offers numerous benefits.
Marco Travaglia, Managing Director of GSM International, explained, “As well as solving the pocket money issue, the pre-paid MasterCard also saves students on work placement programmes from having to open a new bank account. Wages, allowances and pocket money can be paid into the card account remotely by the student’s employer, sponsor as well as parents who can also supervise and monitor their children’s funds online in real time”.
Bulats exam in nationwide roll out
English UK and Cambridge Esol have pooled their resources by rolling out the Business Language Testing Service (Bulats) to 426 centres nationwide.
Aimed to assess the language proficiency of those coming to work in the UK, Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, said, “Businesses around the world recognise that to fill the skills gap with non-native English speaking employees, providing relevant and effective language training is key. Assessing an individual’s language ability is critical to this, which is why collaborating with Cambridge Esol is such a natural fit.”
Branded as the global benchmark for workplace language skills, Bulats has also joined Cambridge Esol’s Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE), Business English Certificate (BEC) Vantage and the International Certificate in Financial English (ICFE) on a list of recognised exams advocated by the UK Border Agency.
The government agency, which is responsible for regulating entry and settlement in the UK, will now accept the exam model under both Tier 1 and Tier 2 of its Points-Based System (PBS) visa categories. Tier 1 covers highly skilled professionals including investors, entrepreneurs or post-study workers, while Tier 2 focuses on sponsored workers that have job offers.
Michael Milanovic, CEO at Cambridge Esol, said, “Potential employees need to feel confident in their ability to speak English.”
There is change ahead for Ireland’s English language teaching industry, and MEI’s Chief Executive, David O’Grady, answers our questions about MEI’s activities and government plans.
Full name: Marketing English in Ireland (MEI)
Year established: 1993
Number of members: 68
Type of members: Private language schools and universities
Association’s main role: To promote the interests of its members abroad in established, emerging and developing markets through the pooling of resources. Focused on academic standards, student welfare and the promotion of excellence of the EFL industry in Ireland
Government recognition: All MEI schools are recognised by the Department of Education and Science
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: Yes
1 Lower Pembroke Street
Tel: +353 1 6180910
Fax: +353 1 6180909
What has your association been up to since you took over at MEI early this year?
Although new to the role at MEI, I’m not new to the industry, having worked in education for 20 years. I took over the role when the market was on a downturn, hugely affected by the UK pound. As our biggest rival, the UK has a much higher profile than we do, and price was always our trump card. Schools are now becoming more price-conscious as a consequence. Agents are looking for competitive prices and schools are having to squeeze their resources but MEI’s remit is that we guarantee quality so we have to be careful this isn’t made into a race for the bottom. In the last 12 months, we’ve welcomed six new members, taking total membership to 68. The MEI workshop in Dublin was a reflection of the times. There’s not an awful lot of business out there for Ireland at the moment. However, we hosted roadshows in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and Milan that yielded some very positive results. Next year, as well as these fairs, we’ll be adding two more destinations, one in Trieste, Italy and one in Bilbao, Spain. We’re particularly excited about Trieste as we’re hoping to attract agents from Slovenia and Croatia. And a roadshow in Taiwan in November also promises to be successful. The fact that Taiwanese students no longer require a visa is providing some much needed impetus.
What tough challenges could member schools come up against in 2010?
The Department of Tourism has been extremely supportive [of our sector] and we only hope that this transgresses to government. There have been some huge cutbacks made by the Irish government [to international education promotion], not like in Australia or New Zealand, for example. There are five separate government departments that we have to contend with if we ever want to move for reform on something which can be extremely frustrating to say the least.
What are your plans for the MEI Workshop?
We’ve decided upon a new format for our 2010 MEI Workshop. Next year the fair will take place in a southern locale, yet to be decided, in October as opposed to April. We will also no longer offer fam trips. We found that agents that were attending the annual MEI workshop were having to take five to six days and this just wasn’t logistically possible in some cases. Hopefully, this will prove an incentive for more decision makers to attend the fair next year.
The Irish government has mooted a new quality seal; what will this mean for the industry?
The international education reform is still up in the air at the moment...still at the discussion stage. Nothing is in situ until 2011. A new quality mark based on the UK system is very exciting indeed. It will be a shared quality mark between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice. The industry is dogged by cowboy schools abusing the system but this new reform will allow only quality-marked schools to obtain visas. With this in place, we can move into alternative markets. But there’s still, as yet, a lot of to-ing and fro-ing.
• Aegean Airlines, the second largest carrier in Greece, has added several new routes to its flight network. From December the carrier will offer a daily service to Madrid and a five-times-weekly flight to Vienna. Dimitris Gerogiannis, Managing Director of the airline, said, “Although conditions in the European air transport market are still difficult, we remain focused on implementing our strategic targets…gradually completing coverage of our European network.” The carrier, which recently launched flights to Istanbul, saw passenger numbers increase by nine per cent, year-on-year.
• Online hotel specialist, Hotels.com, has collated a list of the world’s most extreme hotels. At 1,050 feet, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is officially the world’s tallest hotel, while the world’s largest (by room number) is The Palazzo Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (it shares some 8,108 rooms with the Venetian Hotel next door). Meanwhile, the Hoshi Ryokan Hotel in Japan is officially the world’s oldest. Having been in operation for 1,300 years it is said to have been run by the same family for 46 generations. Those with a little expendable income won’t baulk when told the cost of a one night stay at the Grand Resort Lagonissi in Athens. The Royal Villa suite is officially the most expensive hotel suite in the world, costing a whopping USD$50,000 a night, however, this does include exclusive use of a private jet. Meanwhile, the Grand Hills Hotel and Spa in Lebanon contains the largest hotel room. Set over six floors, the “room” totals 86,110 square feet and contains two swimming pools, a garden, terrace and its own pavilion!
• V Australia, the long-haul international airline owned by Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd, has announced the second phase of its global expansion. Four new routes are due to commence this year including a twice-weekly flight from Brisbane to Phuket in Thailand, a weekly flight from Melbourne to Phuket, a twice-weekly flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles and direct flight from Melbourne to Johannesburg in South Africa. Virgin Blue Airlines Group Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said, “V Australia will be the only airline to offer direct flights from Brisbane to Phuket and Melbourne to Phuket, as well as from Melbourne to South Africa. The March launch of Jo’burg flights will be just in time for fans travelling to South Africa to cheer on the Socceroos at the Soccer (FIFA) World Cup,” he added.
• Flight search engine, Skyscanner, has named and shamed airports that claim to be “close” to the cities that they serve. Some of the most ambiguous airports include Munich West, which lies some 70 miles (112 km) outside of central Munich, Oslo and Frankfurt, both 68 miles (110 km) away from their respective city centres and London Oxford, a 60 mile (97 km) car journey from central London. “It’s easy to get caught out by flying to an airport that is miles away from where you want to be,” said Barry Smith, Director of Skyscanner. “Double check the airport location before you book, especially when flying on low-cost airlines,” he advised. Meanwhile, some of the closest airports include Taipei Sungshan in Taipei and Salt Lake City in the USA, both three miles (five km) outside of town.
• Air New Zealand, the nation’s flag carrier, is to commence a summer service to Japan in a bid to grow visitor numbers. The airline will charter flights from Nagoya and Okinawa over the December/January period (the southern hemisphere’s summer season) to complement the current Tokyo and Osaka services it offers. Chris Myers, General Manager Japan, said, “Japan remains a very important market for New Zealand, contributing 96,000 tourists last year our fifth largest market. It is also one of our highest spending markets.”
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