||Growth in the Italian market remained muted in 2004 but interest in more languages from a wider age range of clients bodes well for the market's future.
|The total number of students placed by the 12 agencies in our survey was 3,519
Individual agencies placed between 20 and 1,200 students on language courses per year
Combined student weeks of all agencies totalled 14,614
The average length of stay for Italian students was 3.4 weeks
Average business growth across all agencies was 2.7 per cent in 2004
The average student spend on tuition and accommodation per week was e586 (US$697)
July and August accounted for 52 per cent of agency bookings
Host family accommodation was the preferred choice for 61 per cent of Italian students
||Most popular courses
Summer vacation 12%
Work exp. 6%
Junior progs 4%
Exam prep 4%
Au pair 2%
Lang plus 2%
|Reasons for language travel
||Percentage of agency business by age group
|Studies at home 53%
Current work 27%
Studies overseas 3%
|How do agencies recruit students?
||How do agencies find new schools to represent?
|Word of mouth 50%
Mail shots 8%
Advertising in press 3%
Seminars to students 2%
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
English Australia 50%
Italian in Italy 67%
Education NZ 50%
English NZ 42%
English UK 100%
British Council 100%
The weak economy was largely blamed for the sluggish performance of the Italian language travel market in 2004. Although 58 per cent of the 12 agencies that took part in this issue's Italy Agency Survey reported business growth, 33 per cent said business had declined in 2004, and one agency reported that bookings had remained the same. Overall growth in the Italian student market did not quite reach three per cent. Among those individual agencies that had experienced good growth in 2004, one agent reported a 42 per cent hike in business the reasons given were good word-of-mouth recommendations and longer average lengths of stay by students.
Language and destination trends
There appears to be more interest in languages other than English among Italians. Although English language courses overseas still accounted for 81 per cent of agency bookings, this was down from 87 per cent in 2003 (see Language Travel Magazine, July 2004, pages 12-13). Interest in Spanish was up from six per cent to eight per cent in 2004, and bookings for French programmes rose two percentage points to five per cent. One agency this year also experienced high demand for Japanese language courses, which boosted its share to two per cent of overall bookings. The interest in a wider range of languages may be linked to the fact that, according to one of our agent respondents, more children are studying two foreign languages at school.
Student and course trends
School groups, university students and executives all make up important client bases in the Italian market, and this is reflected in the good spread of ages of agency clients. Thirty-five per cent of language travellers were under the age of 18, 52 per cent were aged between 19 and 30, and a further 13 per cent were over the age of 31. All sectors were earmarked by our respondents, depending on their area of expertise, as growth areas. The executive sector remained important to the Italian market with 10 per cent of clients being executive clients. However, one respondent noted that corporate bookings were down, although numbers from individual executives were up.
Italian agencies continued to receive around half of their business through word-of-mouth recommendations. However, the influence of agency websites has increased, pulling in an estimated 31 per cent of new clients compared with 22 per cent in last year's survey. Sixty per cent of the agents who answered the question charged their clients a handling fee, which ranged from e60 (US$71) to e1,300 (US$1,546).
Overall, the outlook for 2005 year-end is upbeat, with most agents forecasting growth based on a positive performance in the first quarter of the year. One agent mentioned that the new additions to their portfolio of products, which included work experience programmes, would attract more clients, while another respondent pointed to the constant increase in group bookings as a factor fuelling growth.
Italy's GDP managed to muster one per cent growth in 2004, up from 0.4 per cent in 2003. However, the economy fell into recession early in 2005, forcing analysts to downgrade their forecasts for the year-end to zero growth.
The budget deficit is forecast to rise from about three per cent of GDP in 2004 to be- tween 4 and 4.5 per cent in 2005/06.
Private consumption growth is expected to continue to outpace that of GDP, and there are signs that private investment demand is recovering. GDP is expected to increase by 1.1 per cent in 2006.
Sources: OECD, economist.com
Italian agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Ireland: Atlantic Language School, Galway; Horner School of English, Dublin; International House, Dublin; ISI, Dublin; Language Centre of Ireland, Dublin. In Germany: GLS, Berlin. In Malta: European Centre Malta, St Julians. In Spain: Colegios Delibes, Salamanca; Collegio Maravillas, Malaga. In the UK: Brookes University, Oxford; Cambridge Academy of English, Cambridge; Frances King School of English, London; Geos-LTC, Eastbourne; Hampstead School of English, London; Harrogate Tutorial College, Harrogate; Language Specislists International, Portsmouth; London School of English, London; Regent Language Training, London; Studio School, Cambridge; TIS, Torquay. In the USA: ELC, Boston, MA; Embassy CES, various; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; FLS International, Pasadena, CA; The Language Academy, Fort Lauderdale, FL; University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; University of California San Diego, San Diego, CA. International: Aspect; St Giles.
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: Ageoviaggi; ALP; Auriga Servizi; Coming; Drion Viaggi; I Centri; International Language School; Language Data Bank; Lord Byron; STI Travel; Training Solutions; WEP.