Global Trends for the Language Travel Industry - ALTO Day Berlin 2014
14 November 2014
Where does the responsibility lie for the misdemeanours of an agent? This was one of the interesting topics dissected by various panellists at the end of a long and insightful ALTO day in Berlin.
Seven heads of national associations spent time sharing insight with ALTO delegates about business challenges and market updates before discussing wider industry hot topics, such as how agent regulation might evolve in light of new Partner Agency schemes or agent certification modules.
|Sue Blundell of English Australia surprised some, including Eddie Byers of English UK, by underlining that the national code in Australia requires education institutions to take responsibility for the actions of their agents. |
The ability for students to extend or apply afresh for a new student visa while onshore in Australia was also covered, with one Colombian agent drawing nods from Blundell when he explained that Australia was popular with his clients because it offered the ability for them to extend or switch providers while in-country.
Blundell wowed her audience with in-depth slides of market analysis available on Australia and commented how important role data plays in lobbying efforts on all fronts.
| English Australia - top 10 nationalities 2013|
| FELTOM - year in review juniors and adults||Genevieve Abela of FELTOM in Malta also explained the fact that the comprehensive data available in Malta enabled her to “open doors and have the conversation” while representing the sector. |
With 13% of all bed nights in Malta being booked by an English language student, Abela also underlined how important the ELT sector is in Malta (and, in fact, one of the least seasonal).
Byers of English UK presented a comprehensive view of the year that was in the UK, revealing that generally-stable source countries are nonetheless sending more students but they are staying for a shorter amount of time. The junior sector is flourishing, while the adult market slowed in 2014.
He foresaw plenty of long-term opportunity however, including the rise in English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) as an opportunity, blended delivery and English “plus” specialist programming. The association itself is pleased with its agent events in-country that are building affinity for member schools.
|Representing Languages Canada, Sharon Curl surprised some with her acknowledgement that China is only a significant market for public sector members, with most private programmes unable to get visas to teach Chinese students.|
Curl also revealed that 2013 and 2014 had presented challenges in Canada, with the visa officers strike and change in ISP regulations – also affecting the ability of some schools to offer co-op/intern programmes – all having a restrictive impact on numbers. Student weeks across all members were down by 1.5% in 2013 compared with 2012, for example.
But Curl was upbeat about the outlook ahead now that agents are familiar with the new regulatory landscape, which has enhanced the quality of the sector. She acknowledged that post-study work rights in Canada were a motivating factor in some markets and a selling point that Canada had to maximize.
| Languages Canada Top markets 2013 v 2012|
In the USA, Caroline O’Neal represented English USA and also spoke of some regulatory challenges around the definition of pathway programmes that the sector is working through with the government. She outlined the organisation’s new mission around advocacy, standards and outreach and its regional events that have helped mobilise the diverse membership and also given the association a “bigger voice” in Washington DC.
| Mei - Adult students 2013||“In terms of our challenges and priorities, these are really centred around driving better information and data collection and continuing to bridge communication between members, accreditation bodies, and regulators,” she explained. While only 40-50% of all operators in the USA are members, this includes the majority of significant private sector operators and many on-campus programmes too.|
Ireland was not immune to challenges either, and David O’Grady described the “organized crime” that had used the umbrella of ELT and had now been caught out.
Predicting a more stable year ahead with a new regulatory regime in January and new standards at MEI schools, O’Grady also revealed he believed Erasmus + - funded scholarships could yield strong potential for Irish schools.
|And ensuring that the non-ELT markets were represented, Carmen Sanchez was there on behalf of Fedele in Spain, revealing a focus on quality allegiance with strong relations with Instituto Cervantes was among the priorities across a fragmented membership. |
Fedele’s four association tenets are quality, branding, training and advocacy. Sanchez agreed with other markets, notably the UK, when she said that juniors and groups were a buoyant market segment, with students studying Spanish getting younger.
| Fedele - Top nationalities 2013|
ALTO’s initiative of inviting key destination association heads in order to examine and compare trends within the language travel industry was very well received and allowed members to form a truly global perspective about the industry. The board has plans to continue facilitating similar discussions in the future and extend the invitation to representatives of top source market associations next year.
ALTO would like to highlight the importance of collecting and sharing data within the language travel sector and has recently launched an industry-wide benchmarking exercise together with well known accounting firm Deloitte. More information about the ALTO- Deloitte International Language Travel Survey and the report itself will be circulated shortly to members of the association and to those organisations who contributed to the report.
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Special thanks to David Niland - GCI and the PIE for the photos!