The top-line results of ALTO’s first Language Travel Industry Survey were presented last November in Berlin, with overall buoyancy in business cited among those companies that took part.
This was the first attempt by ALTO and consultancy firm Deloitte to take a considered and anonymous pulse of the language travel industry and produce statistics about business performance and outlook across language schools and education agencies.
The survey produced good benchmark data to build on, with over 100 school respondents representing 304 schools and 64 agents representing 127 agencies completing the pioneering project.
The adult language travel market was reported to be growing overall. Sixty per cent of providers surveyed indicated that they saw a rise in student weeks taught for adult learners increase in 2014 compared with 2013, with growth averaging at 16%. For juniors, growth was also recorded at a lower but healthy 9% rate year on year.
The importance of agencies was underlined by the fact that across all respondents’ business, agents recruited 85% of those students.
Participants’ countries were spread out widely but with the UK, USA and Canada were in the top three.
Findings were presented David Bonett of Deloitte in Malta, who explained that it might be possible in a future year for survey participants to receive benchmarked data comparing their business with others in their country.
Revenue growth year on year almost exactly matched that of student weeks for adult and junior language students, at 16% and 10% respectively.
In terms of individual countries posting best performances, both Australia and South Africa were recording figures of above 20% average growth.
Source markets that featured as very important across the broad mix of schools included Brazil, Spain and Italy.
The granular nature of the survey means that typical turnover figures per student week are available per country: there was perhaps surprising parity for most markets and adult courses, although the UK’s junior courses at US$923 per week were among the highest-grossing products.
When asked how particular issues have affected business over the last 12 months, 81% of providers said they had been negatively impacted by economic issues in source countries. A high proportion of providers had also suffered negative effects as the result of visa policy in their own country (72%) and competitor school activity (65%).
More specific issues mentioned by respondents included media reports of violence in the destination country, ebola fears and Russia-EU relations.
As regards agency business, Brazilian business was particularly well reflected in this survey, accounting for 14% of respondents but 47% of student weeks.
Junior business accounted for 35% of total student weeks placed overall, but adult business was broadly distributed between 19-35 year olds.
Thirty-four per cent of companies surveyed said adult weeks were up year-on-year and 31% agreed on junior business performance. Again, a very similar 34% and 29% agreed that revenue had increased, year on year, for adults and juniors respectively.
It was the “no change” camp that dominated here – 39% said no change in revenues for adult business and 49% of junior business.
Currency exchange rates were cited as the biggest bête noire for agencies.
ALTO hopes that the survey will become an industry benchmark in future years, and its immediate goals are to increase participation and the quality of survey responses.
The ALTO Board would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the data collection and supported the project by providing information about their business performance. We would like to encourage them to spread the idea and talk to their peers about the importance of participation in order to make this a truly global survey.