Contents - September 2003

Special Report
Stand out from the crowd
In order for agencies to maintain their profile in their marketplace and identify themselves as better than their competitors, a range of promotional and marketing tactics are needed. Amy Baker talks to agencies around the world to find out the latest in marketing trends and ideas. Agencies are keen to point out that as well as promotional strategies, good customer service is a central component in maintaining market profile and attracting new business as well as repeat bookings.

Volunteering programmes are becoming more popular amongst a certain category of traveller - usually Western Europeans or North Americans who want to travel and have a meaningful experience in a foreign country for a certain period of time. As Gillian Evans reports, this sector of the travel market represents a potential business opportunity for language travel agents, and some are already working in this field.

City Focus
Brighton's shine
Brighton & Hove is one of England's newest cities, although it is no newcomer on the language travel scene. A firm favourite among international students, Gillian Evans finds out why by talking to schools' representatives across the city. She uncovers a picture of a youthful and bohemian city that is welcoming to visitors and has plenty to keep all types of students amused, such as under-18 year old discos, volunteer placements or the EFL football league.


Being the best
Because of the heated competition for international students, language schools and language school associations throughout the world are constantly trying to think of ways to make their language learning products and destination more attractive and accessible to the international market.

In this issue, Tony Millns from the Association of Recognised English Language Services (Arels) in the UK talks about an agreement established between the UK and Chinese governments regarding doing business in China - Arels has ensured that only accredited English language schools are covered by the agreement. And we also learn of the continuing progress of plans for English UK - a giant cross-sector association that, once established, will represent a significant number of both state and private language providers in the country.

In Canada too, there has been a similar development, as members of the Private English Language Schools Association (Pelsa) have now joined the Council of Second Language Programs in Canada (CSLPC) to form Canada's first cross-sector association. In both countries, member schools hope that their actions will form a strong united body to enable them to act as the voice of their national industries and provide a united quality association that can serve as a reference point for students.

Language school associations are ultimately there to protect the student, and many have regulations in place so that if one member is no longer able to operate, other members step in and teach any stranded students. It is up to agents to be well informed about how a school's membership of a certain association may protect their clients. The closure of a school in the UK that was not a member of an association left many students out of pocket as all lessons were cancelled and host families unpaid.

In the USA, the successful lobbying undertaken by some industry associations over a new visa regulation is further evidence of the usefulness of such organisations. Four US higher education associations lobbied the government about a new rule that stipulated that the majority of visa applicants had to undergo a face-to-face interview with a visa officer. This had a serious effect on the time it took to process visa applications. Since receiving the letter stating these concerns, the US Department of State has advised that all foreign students, professors and researchers be prioritised in the queue for visa interviews.

There are other problems in the US market too, as schools point to the war in Iraq, fears about terrorism in the USA and the high value of the US dollar contributing to a significant downturn in students last year. And judging by a survey undertaken earlier this year by members of the Association of American Intensive English Programs (AAIEP), the final enrolment numbers for the summer 2003 season will also be disappointing.

While global unrest, visa issues and economic factors can make students change their choice of destination, agents can at least take solace in the fact that students may remain loyal to an agency if it maintains its profile and good quality reputation in the marketplace. In order to do this, agencies use a range of promotional techniques. They also keep up to date with new programmes and make sure that their knowledge about their partner schools is impeccable. As one agent says, when explaining why fam trips are so important, 'Students who come to agents are entitled to expect that the agent thoroughly knows the product.'

Because of the heated competition for international students, language schools and language school associations throughout the world are constantly trying to think of ways to make their language learning products and destination more attractive and accessible to the international market.

One association for Canada?
Overseas students to be first in line for US visas
Sars fallout hits Canada hard
Drop in student numbers forecast in USA
Evendine College in the UK closes all its schools

Travel News
Ryanair threatens fares war in Europe
More direct flights for Scotland
Economy concept takes off in Middle East

Agency News
Standards for Europe take shape
New association, Nosa, in New Zealand wants fair play
Gwea grows well

Agency Survey
Slow-moving Spain
Despite Spain being a country with one of the more healthy economies in the European Union, growth in the Spanish language travel market remains muted, according to the agencies that took part in this issue's Agency Survey.

Canada feedback
A relatively high proportion of Chinese students in this issue's Canada Feedback survey meant that more students were intending to go on to university or college studies in Canada this year.

Market Report
US market in trouble
Last year was, in short, terrible for US English language teaching institutions. In 2001, there was hope that the market might improve in 2002, but with visa regulations tightening, this hope soon died. Schools across the country report that business dwindled last year, and the majority of schools predict similar problems this year, as the war in Iraq, concerns about student safety and the complicated visa issuing process all persuade students to study elsewhere.

Course Guide
Exam prep in Ireland
Toefl and Ielts courses are an important part of many English language schools' business, due to their popularity with students going on to higher education. Here, we list a selection of courses in Ireland.

Arels' bold plans

Tony Millns, Chief Executive of the Association of Recognised English Language Services (Arels), answers our questions about the association's achievements and its exciting plans for the future.

Status: Spain 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.