By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

Coopetition. According to the Oxford Dictionaries a word dating back to the 1980s, merging cooperation and competition. “Collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results”, is the given definition, and it is a word that often seems salient in the study travel industry.

This week we have a news story from the Turkish agency association UED, who presented their annual member survey data at the Alphe Istanbul conference last week.

Amid the usual trends on study destinations, programme choice and visa acceptance rates, there was a new question this year on how agencies found partner schools to work with. A healthy ratio of these partnerships were found through recommendations from fellow members of UED – ultimately business competitors but working together.

Another interesting business sourcing statistic from the presentation was that student recruitment fairs – either independently attended or in partnership with a school – proved largely fruitless for UED member agencies. Some 76 per cent of members said they attended a fair in some capacity, but of those that did 24 per cent said it had ‘no effect’ and 44 per cent cited ‘a very weak effect’.

In contrast, word-of-mouth was comfortably the most important means of attracting clients, representing 60 per cent of business, while all other means, including the internet, shrunk in comparison. With the deluge of information we are confronted with online, it seems personal endorsements – be that former student to potential student regarding an agency or agent to agent regarding a school – are more important than ever. (The enduring importance of word-of-mouth is one of the themes covered in a special cover story on agent marketing in the forthcoming May issue of StudyTravel Magazine).

Another pleasing recent example of agents working together for the greater good came from the Japanese agency association JAOS, which recently held a seminar for Japanese universities themed, ‘Recruiting international students using study abroad agencies’.

As Tatsu Hoshino, Executive Secretary of JAOS told me, JAOS members may take advantages from being commissioned to handle universities’ outbound study abroad programmes, but ultimately they are trying to change the mind-set of a sector that has yet to embrace the use of agents, despite very ambitious international student recruitment targets nationally, and this will benefit study travel agencies across the world.

The spirit of collaboration is also in evidence in another news story this week, where Languages Canada and CAPS-I have joined forces to sign a MOU with a Brazilian state. And CAPS-I has become the latest educator association to enter a partnership with pan-European agency association EAQA, which is seemingly on a mission to deliver benefits to its members by moving closer to and formalising relations with Gaela associations.

And while we are on the topic of the industry coming together, let me remind you of a golden opportunity to reward best practice in your partner schools and agencies. The STM Star Awards 2015 voting period only has a few weeks left to run, so if you haven’t got your votes in yet, please do so!


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