For the second time, Language Travel Magazine has endeavoured to produce a picture of the English language teaching industry, to assess market trends and provide guideline information on the size and value of the market in each of the principal English-speaking countries worldwide.
Such information is a real insight into how the main players in the English language teaching industry operate alongside each other. With limited information available from some countries, there will be some margin of error in our findings, but the overall picture produced is crucial to our understanding of the market and the direction in which it is heading.
For a number of countries, it seems, 2003 was a flat year. Malta, New Zealand and Australia are all examples of countries that saw slight negative growth on 2002. This is an indication of the difficult operating environment that the industry has come through.
In the UK, some schools report that student numbers are picking up in 2004 after a depressed year last year for many providers. Those countries that continue to actively market themselves will have a head start when student markets rebound. The same goes for agencies themselves.
In Venezuela, as we hear from one reader this month, operating conditions for agents have been difficult in the last two years. But now there are signs of improvement, and it is those agencies that have maintained their profile in the marketplace that are most likely to profit first from any resurgence in student bookings. Marketing strategies vary from country to country, but good levels of service, a good website and attendance at seminars or student fairs all seem to be standard tools used in the marketing mix of agents.
Countries also market themselves, through an export promotion outfit, to appeal to decision makers in student source countries. Aside from an agent, who is very often the decision maker for their client, the parent of a student embarking on a language travel trip very often has a significant say in the decision making process and export promotion bodies should bear this in mind when developing brand materials.
In Canada, the Canadian Education Centre (CEC) Network seeks to promote Canada as a study destination through various activities, including student fairs and an agent workshop. This year, CEC Network will offer agents a sightseeing trip around Montreal after their workshop.
According to school representatives around the country, Canada wins bookings because of its reputation for safety, as well as its friendly population. Safety and ease of entry still seem to be crucial factors in the decision about where to study. Malta also benefits from its reputation as a fun destination, as revealed in our Student Feedback survey.
For the USA, ease of student entry has become the bête noire of the industry, as visa issuance procedures hamper student demand because of the requirement for a face-to-face visa interview, among other regulations. This is one facet of the visa process that a US Senator is hoping to change.
Perhaps the USA should look to the Antipodean competition for inspiration. Both Australia and New Zealand seem intent on encouraging student immigration. Australia has signed a Working Holiday Maker visa agreement with Taiwan, while New Zealand has revamped its immigration advice website.