This week, we interview Angy Vinueza, General Manager of agency Xplorer about the Ecuadorian agency association COICEC.

Can you explain a little about the background of COICEC (Confederación de Organizaciones de Intercambio Cultural del Ecuador)?

For a long time, creating this association was a goal that some of the actual members had. Finally, five years ago COICEC was born – being legally established and recognised by the Ministry of Education.

COICEC started with 10 agencies, some being named as the foundation partners and the rest being invited to join the association after passing through a screening process. At the moment we have nine members since some had to leave the association for different reasons and some were not able to join the association at all since they belong to international sponsors and therefore cannot join a local association.

At the moment, COICEC members are: Apex, Ordex, Student Visa, Xplorer, Idiomas, Yes, ISP, WEA and Representaciones Académicas.

This organisation is a strong group with the same goals and willingness to have an honest competition within a market that has capacity for all nine. We have a Board of Directors, a mandatory meeting once a month and a code of conduct that all need to follow, and in case someone misses any of the rulings we have a commission that takes care of this area.

In five years, COICEC has been able to establish its name locally and internationally. Nowadays, it is recognised by local institutions such as embassies, schools, universities, and internationally by different sponsors in the different fields.

How is the agency business and study abroad business in Ecuador at this time?

We all believe that Ecuador is going through a blossoming time in terms of study/ work abroad; there is much interest from different target groups, and the most important support from the government in providing loans to the students is really opening important doors to both students and agencies.

Also major sponsors worldwide are realising about the importance of the Ecuadorian Market; often we receive the visits of important partners and also we can see the increase in educational fairs around the major cities of our country.

Due to this, it is very important to belong to a group as COICEC, where all can join forces. As Ecuador is a small country, there are agencies that don’t have a good ethical performance so it is our responsibility as COICEC to help protect our market knowing that our agencies will provide a responsible and professional service.

What programme types are popular for COICEC members?

Even though Ecuador is a small country, it is a country with much potential; there families with important economic power as well as nowadays many students having the possibility to travel due the Government support.

Within COICEC there are agencies that have certain programme specialisations, such as programmes that send the major volume of the work and travel students into the US, and high schools. But recently we are all feeling the importance of increasing language programmes, pre-programmes and postgraduate programmes due to the loan options, among others.

COICEC is also maintaining good relationships with the embassies, making sure we all follow the rules and necessary screening processes. This is reflected in the high visa approval rates.

Are there any trends impacting positively/negatively on the sector?

The most positive aspect right now is the Governmental support and the close communication that all agencies receive from the loan department.

On a negative note, we face the fact that some embassies don’t have physical presence in Ecuador, and this delays the processing since we need to send all documents to another country such as Colombia, Peru, or Chile. This quite often ends with arrival delays.

Also as agencies we need to pay a tax of five per cent for sending payments abroad. This has to be added to the programme cost.

What are your business expectations for the next 12 months?

As mentioned, Ecuador is going through a very important phase like never before. Now Ecuadorian students can actually travel abroad and the economic area is no longer a challenge.

We feel that we as COICEC are a group that is professional and understands the industry very well, so our goal is to increase numbers, sign agreements with sponsors as a group, and join forces so Ecuador can present good recruiting numbers, leading to more sponsors being interested in our market.

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