This week, we interview Pina Foti, Honorary President of the Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents (Ialca), about market trends and the association’s activities.

What has been the main focus of Ialca over the last 12 months? Did the planned marketing projects in 2014 go well?

The planned marketing projects went very well. Ialca attended the Quality English (QE) mission held in February in Milan and gave a presentation of the Italian market. Ialca is also supporting 2015 QE mission in Rome.

During the last 12 months, Ialca had several meetings with Fiavet [Italian Federation of Travel and Tourism Company], which have been about reaching a conclusion for a potential agreement, focused on PON projects guidelines.

At the beginning of 2015, Ialca had a meeting with British Council in London. The focus was PON Projects. Ialca has highlighted the importance of working in Italy through agents and what would be the ‘best practices’ about PON Projects. We have also highlighted the serious concerns about payment delays and the new rules about electronic invoices. The same issue was been Ialca’s main focus during the English UK mission in Napoli, in June.

We have been working with Canadian institutions [with a view to] a possible cooperation with Ialca. A meeting with Italian agents has been scheduled for the third week of February 2016. The following ideas and suggestions for the meeting have been developed: workshops, web conferences for those agencies that cant’t attend the meeting and a press release.

In our last Q&A, you said you were planning a fam trip to China. Has this happened, and if so, was it successful? Do you have any other fam trips planned?

Ialca has been one of the stakeholders of the European Projects Grundtvig ‘Let’s Go’, which ended in June 2015. [The project involved adult learners, staff and teachers of the partner institutions and relevant associations and aimed to provide opportunities to: learn new cultures via language learning and vice versa; increase motivation for language learning; and improve knowledge/skills and develop personal qualities.] This huge project involved the participation of 12 Ialca members in different countries, such as Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Poland, Croatia and French Guiana. In order to concentrate as many efforts available on the ‘Let’s Go’ project, Ialca has decided to postpone the fam trip to China until 2016.

How has the expansion of the PON scheme (across all regions, until 2020) affected Italian agencies?

We are still concluding a few PON left from 2014, the new ones will start next month (September 2015). The market in Italy regarding study abroad is going, as usual, well. There is a steady number of students to maintain the business, as well as the PON project.

Italian agencies reported a 3.9 per cent growth in StudyTravel Magazine’s Italy agency survey in January 2015. Is this similar to what IALCA members are experiencing?

Yes, it is. In this economical period of crisis it is an outstanding result for Italian agencies.

Do you anticipate any challenges for Italian agents in the near future?

Ialca’s intention is to produce a document together with Italian Ministry of Tourism,

British Council and English UK. The document will contain prompt suggestions to avoid critical issues and particularly to avoid that Ialca members (and therefore our country) export a not too clear image of the situation. The aim of the document is as follows: 1) Give the suggestion of family accommodation for students and hotel (maximum three stars) for tutors. 2) Choose different locations from London and Dublin. 3) VAT according to Law 74 [invoicing]. 4) To produce a list of agencies for 2014 tenders, if available, for greater transparency.

Do you have any other marketing projects planned for 2016?

Ialca is evaluating the possibility of accreditation for agents, who already use other markets. In these terms, Ialca has already made contacts with organisations such as English Australia and Languages Canada for a collective agreement.


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