September 2013 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Vocational Focus

Special Report
Course Guide
Regional Focus 1
Regional Focus 2
Market Analysis

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Spanish resilience

Business in Spain’s language teaching sector is steady so far in 2013, but schools need be innovative in their course provision and marketing in order to maintain market share in a competitive marketplace, discovers Matthew Knott.

Spanish language schools’ marketing budget by region (overall %) Top nationalities in Spain by student weeks – according to schools, 2012
W Europe 43%
C&E Europe 23%
North America 19%
Asia 10%
Latin America 2%
Australasia 12%
Middle East 1.5%
Italian 15%
Dutch 12%
German 11%
American 11%
British 9%
French 5%
Swiss 5%
Scandinavian/Finnish 5%
Russian 3%
Chinese 2.5%

Source: STM Status survey Spain

Commission Student numbers by age range
23% is the average comission paid on a language course

11% is the average paid for commission on accommodation by 11 of the institutions profiled

8-11 0.5%
12-15 7%
16-18 24%
19-24 31%
25-30 19.5%
31-50 12%
50+ 6%

Means of recruiting students in Spain, 2012 Reasons for learning Spanish
Agents 37%
Internet 35%
Local bookings 21%
Other means 7%
Pleasure only 32%
Current or future work 30%
University/college studies at home 16%
Further studies in Spain 15.5%
Further studies in another Spanish-speaking country 5.5%
No reply 1%

Students in Spain by world region
(according to schools)
How did students find out about their school
Western Europe 71%
North America 13%
Asia 8%
Central and Eastern Europe 5%
Other 3%
Agent 42%
Internet 35%
Friend/relative 18%
Advertised 4%
No reply 1%

Student's region of origin
Western Europe 56%
North America 26%
Asia 8.5%
C&E Europe 3%
Australasia 1.5%
Africa 1%
Latin America 1%
Middle East 1%
No reply 2%

Total marketing spend by sector and by category in %
Agency costs 35%

Commission 27%
Agency brochures 6%
Incentives 2%

Travel costs 27%

Trips to agencies 11.5%
Agency visits to school 6%
Agent workshops 5.5%
Student exhibitions 3.5%
Entertainment 0.5%

Publicity costs 38%

Brochure, video etc 16%
Internet 13%
Agent mags 7%
Student mags etc 2%

Ask the students – view from the classroom

252 students from 32 different countries took part in our survey of language schools in Spain

The average age was 29 years
The average class size was seven students
56 per cent of respondents were from Western Europe
26 per cent of respondents were from North America
42 per cent of respondents found out about their school through an agency
35 per cent of respondents found out about their school through the internet
42 per cent of students were staying in host family accommodation
32 per cent of students were learning Spanish for pleasure
30 per cent of students were learning Spanish for current or future work
47 per cent of respondents found it quite easy to practice Spanish with local people
45 per cent of students had been on a previous study abroad trip
98 per cent of students would recommend their course
74 per cent of students thought there was just the right mix of students and nationalities in their class

Number of participating organisations: 24
Total number of students at the organisations in 2012: 22,548
Total number of student weeks in 2012, estimated: 72,154
Participating schools: Academia Mester, AIL Madrid, AIP Language Institute, Centro de Enseñanza de Español La Herradura, Cervantes Escuela Internacional, Clic-IH Seville, Colegio de España, Costa de Valencia, Escuela de Español, Escuela de Idiomas Nerja, Escuela Mediterraneo, Escuela Montalban, Españolé International House Valencia, Instituto Andalusi de Español, Instituto de Idiomas Ibiza, K2 Internacional, La Casa del Español, Lacunza - IH San Sebastian, Letra Hispanica, Lingua Globe, Malaca Instituto, Sheffield Centre, Spark Spanish, The Spanish Course, Trinity School, .

7.8 weeks Overall average length of stay

23 hours Average language tuition per week

A stable last six months was the overriding impression from interviews with Spanish language schools for this article, following on from a mostly positive 2012, according to Fedele’s annual member survey (see box). A noticeable trend, however, is that gains from developing student markets have been offset by losses from the traditional European base. “We observed that the market of Asian students is better now than the past years, and also we received many more requests from Russia and the Middle East regions,” says Chiara De Meo, Product Manager at Sheffield Centre, Madrid. “Instead we received fewer requests from the Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece.”

“During the last six months there weren’t many changes, but we observe how emergent economies such as Brazil and Turkey are increasing the number of enquiries,” says Manuel Rodríguez, Marketing Manager at Cervantes EI, Málaga.

Other favourable trends were reported. Stephen Ferreira, Marketing Manager at K2 Internacional in Cádiz, relates, “So far, 2013 has been a good year for us and we have not noticed a significant downturn in the number of enrolemts at the school...We are expecting to grow in 2013 and to have a successful 2014.” Meanwhile, on the island of Ibiza, Daniel Bertole, Director General at Instituto de Idiomas Ibiza, says, “The last six months were incredibly busy in terms of enquiries. Although the increases in enquiries did not reflect in the same degree of increase in bookings, we still have more students at the school this year.” He also reports a surge in last-minute bookings from former students, often via agents.

However, just staying at a steady level requires some commitment, says Frederic Parrilla at Clic International House in Seville and Cádiz. “Keeping the same figures also means more effort in terms of marketing due to the increase of competition by both other schools and alternative destinations such as South America.” Parrilla notes this strategy has paid dividends in Asian markets.

Negative headlines about the state of Spain’s economy have been a factor impacting on language schools, and consequently, as De Meo says, “Families are worried about sending their children to study in Spain, because they think that living here is difficult and unsafe.” Parrilla attests that a lot of the coverage has been exaggerated and dramatic. “Although it [the economic situation] is serious, lots of people coming to Spain are actually surprised to see that the economic crisis has not changed at all the Spanish way of life and passion for social life.”

Another area of concern for Spanish language schools is the ease with which potential students can obtain visas. Ferreira says, “Visas do still play a role as the process continues to be complicated for certain countries, especially in Africa and the Middle East. I believe that relaxing some of the student visa requirements for some countries could benefit our whole business sector.”

While South America is a rival travel destination for Spanish language study, its emerging importance within the world economy is nonetheless having a positive impact on interest in the language itself. “Many people are realising in the situation as it is at the moment, that languages, and in this case especially Spanish, is becoming increasingly important as South America is a very important market with a lot of opportunities for businesses in Europe that want to expand,” says Ferreira.

Although numbers may be steady, Parrilla observes that the average duration of short-term courses is decreasing. He also notes a subtle change in student profile with middle class students increasingly being replaced by upper class ones. “I have the impression there is a growing gap between people aware of the importance of learning foreign languages and the ones that are not ready to invest in studying abroad,” Parrilla adds. At Spark Spanish in El Puerto de Santa María, General Manager Douglas Haines says that although many are still willing to invest in language study, the austere economic times are prompting clients to be more discerning with their outlay. “Nowadays, students select a language school by analysing every single aspect of the language programme in order to make the most out of the scarce amount of money in circulation.”

As a relative newcomer to the Spanish language teaching market, Spark Spanish is an example that there is still room for new players to emerge. The Spanish language school was established in 2011 as the latest educational venture from a company that founded El Centro Inglés, a private English language-based secondary school and TECS, an English summer camp provider, with a €1 million (US$1.28million) investment in classrooms, accommodation and communal facilities, says Haines. He adds the school has already attracted over 1,000 students since it opened.

Ferreira agrees that innovation and investment are keys to success, especially in tough economic times. “As Cádiz is a small city and competition amongst language schools is fierce, the only way to survive is to be the best and to stay one step ahead of the competition.” K2 Internacional has achieved this by expanding its suite of courses according to market needs, including specialising in group programmes for youngsters. He adds, “Over the past few years, we have also purchased a new building for our school to be able to offer even better facilities and services to our students.” Bertole at Instituto de Idiomas Ibiza echoes similar sentiments. “We added a residence and we renovated our school in 2012. Furthermore, we have added a family programme and our teen and young adult programme is growing year by year. These are clearly big factors of this year’s and hopefully next year’s growth.”

With the Spanish football side sweeping all before them in international competitions over recent years, and Spain world-renowned for its distinctive cuisine, these are obvious aspects of Spanish culture that provide opportunities for Spanish language schools to expand their language plus portfolios. Indeed, Lacunza IH San Sebastian has branched into both recently, says Nicole Rodger at the school: the new Spanish plus cooking course is being run in conjunction with the Basque Culinary Centre in the Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences of the University of Mondragon, where students will be introduced to regional recipes in practical workshops taught by a qualified chef and enjoy tasting sessions; while a summer Spanish plus soccer course has also been launched for students aged 14-to-17, using the professional facilities of SoccerWorld Sports in Riberas de Loyola, near the school.

Cervantes EI has also added a new Spanish cooking course to its offerings, as well as introducing more daily activities and excursions to the growing social programme, says Rodríguez. Sheffield Centre, meanwhile, has also tapped into the current worldwide prestige of Spanish football, informs De Meo. “We have offered some new camps in some different places in Spain, for example our new football camps in Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, and until now it has seemed a positive experience because we have received many new students.”

Spark Spanish hopes to capitalise on its off-the-beaten-track location by emphasising the experiences available outside the classroom, with a new Discover Spain activity programme and a Spark Fax scheme which provides discounts in the local area, thereby encouraging interaction. “Students tend to recognise a great language programme as one that provides them with opportunities to get involved in cultural, social and sports activities that include them in the local community,” says Haines. The school has also entered into agreements with a number of European universities to provide language courses for their students, with a focus on summer and winter study.

As well as innovating in course provision and facilities, schools are working on their marketing techniques and highlighting some of their unique aspects. Clic IH, for example, emphasises the authenticity of its location in Cádiz as a selling point. Parilla says, “Some students seem to be more sensitive to environmental protection and Cádiz is an example of nature preservation, one of the only places in Spain where the real estate boom did not really affect the landscape due to regulations.” Ferreira at K2 Internacional in the same location adds that Cádiz is attractive by virtue of having a cheaper cost of living than the major cities. Spark Spanish, meanwhile, has targeted its marketing efforts on Germany and the Netherlands, as these are the two major source countries, says Haines.

Ana Cózar, Director of Fedele, talks to Study Travel Magazine about the association’s member survey of 2012 results and recent trends.

The recent report on 2012 trends at Fedele member schools revealed a positive growth in student weeks: rising from 136,100 in 2011 to 160,250 last year – with an increase recorded by each of the six regional associations that comprise Fedele. Just under half of the 88 reporting schools recorded an upturn in business during 2012, with 18 per cent registering growth between 15 and 25 per cent. A further 32 per cent of members noted stable trends, while 28 per cent suffered a decrease. In terms of the regions, Andalucía was the largest by student weeks, accounting for 53,250 weeks – an increase over the 48,100 student weeks recorded in 2011.

Germany continued to be most important source country for the Spanish language teaching market, according to the survey: members were asked to list their top five source countries, and Germany was nominated by 94 per cent of schools. The next biggest markets were the UK (70 per cent), Italy (52 per cent), the USA (52 per cent) and France (46 per cent). Meanwhile, Russia was the most increased market, followed by China (see STM, June 2013, page 7).
The results were noticeably more positive than predicted in the 2011 member survey, when 63 per cent of schools said they expected no increase in 2012. Ana Cózar, Director of Fedele, says given some of the negativity in general in Spain, schools could be forgiven for the pessimism. “School directors and staff are immersed in the national environment where negative news and national scepticism are the day-to-day routine. This panorama is obviously affecting the perception of future business development.” The cautiousness continues to shape expectations for 2013 in the member survey, with just over half of all members giving neutral expectations for 2013.
Media reporting of Spain’s economic situation overseas has had an impact on student recruitment, says Cózar. “Some of the agencies and parents sometimes contact us to check if Spanish destinations are safe, and of course they are, but the news about strikes and demonstrations has an important effect when people are trying to decide where to study.”

Regarding visa processing – reported last year as an obstacle to student growth (see STM, September 2012, page 83) – Cózar says, “Fedele has been working this year in a communication process with embassies and consulates in order to accelerate these procedures. The problem is still there, but we have made an advance regarding the destination centre check that embassies have to do when a student applies for a student visa.” However, she adds there are still problems with visa delays in certain markets, notably China, Korea, Russia and the Arab countries.

School survey comparison, 2012 vs 2011.

When comparing the STM Spain status survey of business trends in 2012 with the previous year’s analysis, perhaps the most noticeable change is the rise of Italy as a source market, jumping from eighth in the 2011 survey at five per cent to become the largest source country in 2012 on 15 per cent. Although some differences may be explained by the fact that 24 schools participated in this year’s survey, compared with nine last year, this is nonetheless an eye-catching increase. Dutch, German and American were prominent nationalities, remaining in the top five. However, Swiss and Scandinavian/Finnish students both made up five per cent market share in the 2012 survey, compared with 11 per cent and nine per cent respectively in the previous year’s questionnaire.

There was a slight reduction in the average length of stay from 3.5 weeks in 2011 to 3.2 weeks, echoing anecdotal findings expressed by contributors to the article, while average course and accommodation fees remained largely consistent with 2011.

There was a clear increase in the number of local bookings as a means of recruiting students, becoming the third biggest method on 21 per cent, compared with just six per cent in last year’s survey; this therefore reduced the share of students recruited via agents from 50.5 per cent to 37 per cent, while the internet accounted for 35 per cent, a four per cent increase over the previous year.
This year’s survey saw an increase of students concentrated in the 16-to-18 and 19-to-24 age-groups: constituting 23.9 per cent and 31 per cent of all students respectively, compared with 17.5 and 27.5 in 2011. Conversely, the 25-to-30 category dropped from 26 per cent in 2011 to 19.5 per cent, and the 50+ age group declined from 10 per cent to six per cent.

Commission rates for agents remained the same at an average of 23 per cent, but constituted only 27 per cent of marketing spend by schools, compared with 32 per cent last year. The internet was the most noticeable increased overhead at 16 per cent, an eight per cent rise over 2011.

Thank you to the following schools who participated in our student survey: Academia Hispánica, Caxton College, Cervantes EI, Clic-IH Seville, Don Quijote/Enforex, Escuela Montalbán, Estudio Sampere, K2 Internacional, Lacunza – IH San Sebastian, Malaca Instituto, Málaga ¡Sí!, Spark Spanish, Sheffield Centre.

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