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September 2009 / Issue I

The Economy & Language Travel

ALTO & Quality: Accreditation in the Changing Economy

Market Spotlight: ALTO’s Roadshow to Kazakhstan

Emerald cultural institute Intensive and Specialised Courses year-round All-inclusive Summer Programmes with excellent sports and recreational facilities for juniors, including the hugely-popular AC Milan Soccer Camp Examination Courses Professional Development Courses for Companies and Individuals Teachers’ Courses Host Family Accommodation and Excellent Newly-Refurbished Residence 60-minute classes in all programmes Social Programme provided with all courses Self-Access Multi-Media Language Laboratory with email and Internet Access Locations in Dublin, New York and Washington

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Want to know what the future holds for the global youth, student and educational travel industry? Don’t miss our niche-specific seminar sessions, research releases, networking events and more, at the World Youth & Student Travel Conference.

Keizersgracht 174 1016 DW Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel: +31 20 421 28 00 Fax: +31 20 421 28 10



Or access them online at Join us at the centre of it all at WYSTC 09, Exhibition Stand #415



Letter from the ALTO Chair


Feature: Economy and Language Travel

Mauro Biondi introduces the first issue of ALTO Connect

Global impacts of the current economic climate

10 Market Spotlight

ALTO’s first Roadshow to Kazakhstan

12 ALTO & Quality Accreditation in the changing economy 16 ALTO Member School Focus

Study Group International

18 ALTO Member Agent Focus iAE Global 20 Marketing and Innovation

Building more value for customers in tough times

ALTO Connect, No.1, 2009 ALTO Executive Board Chairperson 2007–2010 Mauro Biondi Bluebeam Ltd. Trading as Emerald Cultural Institute Ireland Treasurer 2007–2010 Santuza Paolucci N. Bicalho Student Travel Bureau Brazil Member 2008–2011 José Antonio Flores Kings Group/Prime Education United States

Member 2008–2011 Lourdes Rébora Mundo Joven Group Mexico PUBLISHING INFORMATION: ALTO Connect, 2009 September issue Published quarterly for Association of Language Travel Organisations Keizersgracht 174 1016 DW Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel: 0031 20 421 2800

ALTO Editor: Stephanie Manning Graphic Design: Gyrithe Schack Bothmann, Chili Design, UK Published by: WYSE Travel Confederation Front Cover: ©Teofil Rewers, Distribution: Distributed free-of-charge to all members and partners of ALTO, National Associations, and delegates at industry events.

View ALTO Connect magazine online at HAVE YOUR SAY: Want to respond to an article you’ve read in this issue or suggest a topic for the next one? We want to hear from you! E-mail your comments to ALTO is a not-for-profit organisation and a founding member of WYSE Travel Confederation. Published September 2009 | ALTB0209 | 9413 ALTO



Most of us were not around when FIYTO

(The Federation of International Youth and Travel Organisations) and ISTC (International Student Travel Confederation), were formed sixty years ago. With the merging of the two as WYSE Travel Confederation three years ago, the founding principles of the original associations remained central, and it is worth remembering how it all started. Some of you may be familiar with the story of Jean Barrand, a former French officer active in the resistance in World War II, who took his first groups of young people from two schools in the North of France and Brittany on an all-expenses-paid visit to Koblenz—an area which was occupied at the time by the French army.  His goal was to assist young people in developing an increased awareness of others, and to bring them to a greater understanding of other cultures, so that the wars that had ravaged the world in the 1940s had a lesser chance of happening again.  Now, some sixty years later, our ALTO community keeps this tradition of international and cultural understanding alive. The world is very different today from what it was when the original associations were established. It is of course necessary for there to be a commercial element in order to keep the organisations going, but we also need to acknowledge the core values at the heart of our Association—an Association which has as its founding principle that of building a community around leaders committed to providing the very best language and educational travel programmes for students.  

We all know that ALTO is about building relationships—long-lasting partnerships built on mutual trust as well as new business relationships that are just beginning to bear fruit. The aim of ALTO members is to create the best experiences possible for our students. While the landscape has changed, the core values of our community remain the same—and give us the strength and resilience to be creative and innovative in difficult economic times. The past three years have seen many changes, not just in the language travel industry, but in ALTO as well with our smooth transition from FIYTO to WYSE Travel Confederation.     Likewise, the world is changing for the student. As nations and ideals become more fragmented, language and educational travel are just as important, if not more so, as they were when the roots of our association were established in 1948.  Therefore, we invite the wider ALTO community to use ALTO Connect as a platform for discussion within our industry. Let us use this as an opportunity to share, innovate, debate, and above all else, connect. 

Mauro Biondi Chair ALTO



The Economy & Language Travel Global impacts of the current economic climate

In its journey around the globe, the recession that began in the United States at the end of 2007 has visited every country on the map, shaking up their economies and industries, including language and educational travel. But not all countries of the world nor sectors of the industry have been affected equally, and not all have suffered a decline. 




By Steven Cutler

Global Directions in Language Travel 2009, the latest survey conducted by ALTO, compares the state of the language and educational travel market during the first quarter of 2009 with the same period in 2008. On average, the study reports, the demand within the language travel industry decreased by 6 percent. While that number is less dramatic than the decline in the international tourism market in general over the same period (-8%), many more organisations saw a decrease in demand than an increase. About 62% of organisations reported a drop in demand, compared with just under a quarter reporting an increase in business.   The worst hit geographic area was Europe, which declined by 8% in the first quarter of 2009 when compared with 2008. Then came Africa and South America, which reported declines of almost 6%. While there wasn’t a significant difference in decline reported by schools and agents, larger schools were the hardest hit. One school affected by the economic downturn is Mandarin House, a Chinese language school that attracts students from the United States, Germany, Switzerland, England, and other countries to its centres in Beijing and Shanghai. 

According to Jasmine Bian, director of Mandarin House, “Our business had increased 30 percent in 2006, 2007, and 2008. But we’ve seen a 10 percent decrease in business for the first quarter of 2009.” The programmes given by Mandarin House that were most impacted, says Bian were “private tutoring for local expats—mainly business people working for big companies like GM and Toyota.” 

Uncertain times The Global Directions report sums up the greatest challenge for language travel organisations today in one word: uncertainty. Half of respondents to the Global Directions report said general economic uncertainty has had the greatest negative impact on their businesses. With unemployment a concern around the world, many parents who fear the loss of future income are cutting back on language travel for their children. 

“The global economic crisis will actually increase the number of potential students. Education becomes a refuge of a downward economy.”    - Mark Lucas, managing director, iAE Global 

Another cause of uncertainty, a factor affecting language travel especially, is the constant fluctuation of currency exchange rates. Approximately 25 percent of language travel organisations felt exchange rate fluctuations were a major cause of business loss. Exchange rate fluctuations can work both ways, however, making some locations more accessible to travel students. According to Heith Mackay-Cruise, CEO of Study Group International, “The U.S. dollar has held up pretty well, and if you look at South Korea, the won has devalued itself against the U.S. dollar. As a general rule of thumb, an English language course in the U.S. today would cost 40 percent more than a year ago if I’m paying in won. So I think we’re going to see less international students coming into the U.S.”  Meanwhile, adds Mackay-Cruise, “The flip side of that is the United Kingdom. The British pound has actually depreciated. So if I want to do English language, maybe I would go to London or Sydney.” 

Other deleterious forces impacting language travel, according to Global Directions, are the generally poor economy, and visa issues. Along with exchange rates, respondents cite increased competition and controlling costs as additional pressing concerns over market conditions.

Good news for some Not all regions and sectors of the youth travel business have suffered declines. Indeed, nearly a quarter of the respondents in the Global Directions study reported an increase in demand in the first quarter of 2009. Those organisations fortunate enough to have enjoyed better numbers in the first quarter of 2009 than the previous year cited new partnerships and opportunities, diversification and innovation, and increased marketing efforts as the primary positive influences. Language travel organisations especially have benefited from more aggressive marketing programmes.  Also, some special niches enjoy increased business even while the industry as a whole feels the pinch. For example, as unemployment in their home countries increases, some young people are travelling to attain volunteer experience they can take back to their domestic markets to improve their employability.  “Students will look to do something to give them an edge,” says Mark Lucas, managing director of iAE Global, an international education recruitment agency headquartered in South Korea. “They might pursue further study in their home country or, if they have the money, they’ll go overseas.”  Indeed, Lucas predicts, “The global economic crisis will actually increase the number of potential students. Education becomes a refuge of a downward economy. A lot of people in Asian countries or other countries figure, if you can’t get a job, keep studying. You’ll see it in the United Kingdom and United States. Students will actually extend their study rather than go home, because, you know, why go back? China has a massive number of new graduates coming out of university, and there just aren’t enough graduate jobs available, so a lot of those students will study abroad.”  Some markets have thrived simply by virtue of the region in which they operate, particularly if their governmental agencies strongly promote the youth travel industry. In Australia, for example, says MackayCruise, “the education sector is the third largest sector of the economy, and there is a greater awareness in



Feature political circles than perhaps there is in the United Kingdom or the United States or in Canada.”

Looking for new partnerships & opportunities

The language travel market is faring well because of its value within the broader educational context. It represents almost 7 percent of the global youth travel market, and has been conservatively estimated to be worth US$8 billion a year. According to Lucas, whose agency, iAE Global, has six offices in the country, “Australia has a standardised educational system, which is of consistently high quality.” Standards are set by state agencies. “You have to be a government institution to be called a university here,” says Lucas. Plus, he adds, “We’ve been very, very good at marketing.” Government regulations encourage youth travel to the country. For example, Lucas says, “Students are allowed to work in Australia. They’re given a permit to work 20 hours per week while they’re studying, which means they can cover their costs. And our wages are quite high here, compared to the U.S. service industry.” 

New products, innovative approaches

Diversification / innovation Increased marketing Improving quality Cutting prices Cutting back on marketing Eliminating products and services None of these



Language and educational travel associations like WYSE Travel Confederation and ALTO are stepping up their programmes to help members market their products and to advocate for the industry on the governmental level. ALTO launched the first of its series of roadshows in Kazakhstan this May, with four more planned in new, emerging markets in the next 12 months. Along with meeting with leading and up-and-coming agents, ALTO members gain introductions to government officials who regulate scholarship programmes in these countries, under the quality umbrella of ALTO. 






General economic uncertainty Poor economic situation

Mandarin House, says Bian, “has added more intensive courses and offers tailor-made courses for groups.” Plus, she adds, “We increased the training of teachers and staff and have begun marketing more outside of China and have built up more partnerships.” The language travel and youth travel accommodation sectors are offering discounts for their products, special price incentives for groups, and, more than ever, they are marketing online, a cost-effective means of advertising globally. 

The Confederation also publishes the Youth Travel Industry Monitor, which are intensive, data-rich reports on the state of the industry.


Steps taken to address challenges in current market conditions

Visa issues

Whether they are one of the organisations whose business has grown, or among the majority facing reduced demand, language and educational travel professionals have been proactive in starting up new programmes to attract fresh business and to lay the foundation for growth once their economy gets back on its feet. For one thing, they are adding new products. 

The WYSE Travel Confederation and its sector association WYSE Work Abroad are developing a new online tool to enable members to trade with a more diverse range of organisations, which will be extended to ALTO members after an initial pilot period. WYSE Travel Confederation and its sector associations are also streamlining the sector association bureaucratic process to serve the community more efficiently; closely monitoring government policy and advocating on behalf of members; and issuing frequent market intelligence reports.


Exchange rates Controlling costs Increased competition Unemployment Availability of placements Availability of credit









Most pressing concerns regarding current market conditions

2 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10



South America


North America


Change in demand for language travel products and services by region, Jan - Apr 2009

In addition to ALTO’s roadshows, ALTO and WYSE Travel Confederation continue to sponsor major conferences, such as WYSTC—the World Youth and Student Travel Conference, to bring the entire industry together to encourage networking and trading, and present the latest in marketing concepts and tools. To minimize the negative influences on their businesses during the recession, respondents report that they are innovating to offer new products to the market, stepping up marketing efforts, and forming new partnerships. 

Meeting the needs of modern students To address the needs of its community, WYSE Travel Confederation and ALTO will be offering a full spectrum of professional development seminars at WYSTC in September, including seminars on innovation and marketing—and, special for the language travel community, seminars on currency hedging and broad business indices.  


WYSTC’s keynote speaker, Ian Jukes, an education guru and principal of the infoSavvy group, will also address the industry’s need to adopt cutting-edge concepts, methods, and technologies to meet the modern student on his or her level. Jukes states that the first step is to recognize that the 21st century student is a new breed entirely.

Out Now ALTO’s Global Directions in Language Travel 2009

“If you look at kids today, outwardly—with the exception that they may have pierced ears and their music may be different—they look essentially the way we do on the outside. But it’s difficult to comprehend how different they are on the inside.” Having grown up with computers from day one, says Jukes, “They’re digital natives, while we’re digital immigrants. These kids come with a need for speed. They have been operating at high speeds, multitasking on so many things at the same time for so long that they are conditioned to do some of these things in an automatic state. They don’t have to think about it—it’s an unconscious thing.”  Jukes adds that the generation gap we have now is more than just a philosophical one. “It is actually a neurological generation gap,” insists Jukes. Unfortunately, he adds, educators “nod our heads; we say we understand, but then go back to our classroom with our old practices, back to the way we have always done it.”  “While upgrading teaching methods and technology will involve some extra effort and expense, it is eminently doable”, says Jukes, “and we’d better do it right now.”  At WYSTC in Manchester, Jukes will present a multi-phase plan for revamping the programmes schools and agencies have in place right now in order to become more relevant to the current and future needs of young students.  Generally speaking, advises Jukes, “It’s time for everyone to commit to a digital diet, to take a series of small steps in order to be able to meet these people halfway.”  “We must try,” he adds, “to understand these students from our contexts, from our world—to determine what is important. Then we must discover how to use some of these insights and digital tools to connect with this future generation.”  As Global Directions respondents understand, to ignore the radically different mindset of the new generations is to do so at our own peril. The growth of youth and educational travel depends on changing teaching and marketing practices. “Our pension plan depends on how well we do it,” warns Jukes. 

Ian Jukes, keynote speaker at the 2009 WYSTC in Manchester, will present a multi-phase plan for revamping the programmes schools and agencies have in place right now in order to become more relevant to the current and future needs of young students.

One of the few publications of its kind dedicated to global language travel, the Association of Language Travel Organisation’s Global Directions in Language Travel 2009, the most intensively researched report on the state of the industry, is now available. In uncertain economic times, when, more than ever, knowledge is power, the 2009 report aims to provide language travel organisations data indispensable to setting a course for growth in 2010 and beyond by investing in language programmes, products, and marketing methods to reach today’s young travellers.  Based on the collective knowledge and experience of leaders in the language travel industry, the annual Global Directions reports are designed to identify, analyse, and forecast key market trends and developments and share intelligence with members, academics, corporations, government decisionmakers, and the general travelling public.   Begun as a members-only survey in 2004, the annual Global Directions report has grown into a broad-based, comprehensive survey. In 2008, the 146 respondents contributing to the report represented 239 language schools, which had a total of 330,000 students enrolled in 2007. In 2009, 272 respondents contributed to the survey, representing 663 schools.  The 2009 Global Directions report profiled students studying English and other languages abroad and the schools, agents, and destination countries serving them. The survey described the types of products most favoured by student travellers and destinations that are most likely to grow in the future.  Benefiting from five years of comparative data, the 2009 report presents an authoritative, up-todate picture of ever-changing characteristics, motivations, and needs of young travellers and is an invaluable guide to serving this vital demographic.  To view ALTO’s 2004-2009 Global Directions in Language Travel reports, visit

Author’s bio Steven Cutler is a professional journalist and former magazine editor who has written extensively about the New York City real estate and development markets, global architecture, and the international restaurant trade. He is based in New York City. ALTO


ALTO’s Roadshow to

Kazakhstan By Steven Cutler

© Olzhas Yestekov -

ALTO’s first ever Roadshow, held last May in Almaty, the commercial centre of Kazahkstan, and its capital Astana, introduced members from all over the globe to one of the world’s most rapidly growing new markets for language travel.



Market Spotlight

scholarship programme of the Ministry of Education, presided on by its President, Bektursyn Kaldayev. The scholarship has helped thousands of students study abroad. According to Jakitova, “Kazakh students are primarily interested in short and long-term holiday English Language programmes and academic programmes at all levels, including pre-university, degree, and post-graduate.” Many ALTO members were surprised by what they saw of Kazakhstan.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Areton, Cultural Homestay International

In addition to presenting ALTO members with a first-hand experience of this beautiful and dynamic country, and demonstrating its potential as an important source market for student travellers, the Roadshow— held in conjunction with a2’s student fair—proved to be an effective venue for networking. In part, this was due to the large turnout. “I was impressed by the number of competitors and students who came for the fair,” says Olga Demina, Marketing Director of Vancouver English Centre. But a more important factor, perhaps, was the easy, collegial environment the Roadshow provided. According to ALTO Chairman Mauro Biondi, “Kazakh agents were able to get to know representatives from the different schools in a familiar, cordial atmosphere.” “Meeting our partners face-to-face is the right way to do business,” says Tom Areton, Co-Director of Cultural Homestay International, a non-profit educational exchange programme. “Showing them the fair, our booth and our materials made them feel more trusting.” Plus, he adds, “seeing excited Kazakh youngsters mob our booth warmed our hearts. They all want to study in America!” Many new partnerships could result from the show. “We are signing a contract with ILAC Canada,” says Laura Jakitova, Marketing Director of LLP Fattah Travel, a recruitment agency based in Almaty. “And we are planning to make an appointment to meet with the Emerald Cultural Institute, Ireland.” Biondi opened a day of presentations from member schools and individual meetings with language travel agencies with a slideshow about ALTO. The presentation included a talk about ALTO’s mission and the value for Kazakh agents of partnering with its members. “The percentage of Kazakh students studying abroad has tripled over the past few years,” Biondi told the group. “There is a need for quality partnerships so that outbound students receive the best ‘in-country’ language experience.” Kazakhstan is affected by the economic downturn along with the rest of the world, of course. “People are not hurrying to spend their money,” observed Zhanbulat Toimanov, Director of Capital Education, a Kazakh agency. However, said Biondi in an interview after the Roadshow, “its vibrant culture and rich natural resources will ensure its future growth. ” Plus, adds Biondi, “as a developing country, education is very important in Kazakhstan.” Indeed, the government supports student travel with scholarships such as the Boloshak

“How this country has developed!” says Vancouver English Centre’s Marketing Director Demina, for whom this was the second visit. “It has so many new high-tech buildings now. And there is a common attitude and intent to study and focus on education.” “We want to be there,” she concludes.

Market Profile Kazakhstan Snapshot: Government: Republic Population: 17 million Capital city: Astana (pop 1.2 million) Languages: Kazakh, Russian People: 46% Kazakh, 34.7% Russian, 4.9% Ukrainian Religion: 47% Muslim, 44% Russian Orthodox, 2% Protestant The world’s ninth largest country, equivalent in size to all of Western Europe, Kazakhstan shares borders with China and Russia, from which it declared its independence in 1991. Since independence, Kazakhstan’s international prestige has grown, and its economy even more so, at a rate of almost 10 percent a year, in large part due to crude oil and natural gas production. It will likely become the world’s leading exporter of uranium by 2010. In 2000, it was the first former Soviet republic to pay off all of its debt to the International Monetary Fund, seven years ahead of schedule. Almaty is Kazakhstan’s most cosmopolitan city and one of the most expensive in Central Asia. The modern city, replete with shops, restaurants, hotels and casinos, is the country’s international marketplace. Education in Kazakhstan is universal and mandatory through the secondary level and the adult literacy rate is 99.5 percent. The Ministry of Education’s Bolashak scholarship, instituted in 1993, grants some 3,000 young students a year the opportunity to travel to 32 countries to attend 630 universities. The number of Kazakh students studying abroad has tripled in the past three years. Nearly 4,000 travelled to England alone last year for study.



©Robert Krueger -

Accreditation in the changing economy



Accreditation and Quality

Aligning with an accreditation scheme has always been an effective way for language schools to attain prestige and attract discerning language and educational travellers. But now, in an economic downturn, how valuable is accreditation when organisations are attempting to manage costs? “In these challenging times, quality is more important than ever,” states Johanne Lacombe, national executive director of Languages Canada. Perhaps as important as assuring student travellers that they will get the highestcalibre instruction, accreditation helps schools recruit well-placed agencies. “Agencies are assured that the product they are promoting is a quality product,” Lacombe explains. “It is without doubt an advantage to be accredited,” says Jan Capper, executive director of the International Association of Language Centres (IALC), a network of independent language teaching schools, “not just because it inspires confidence in consumers and business partners, but because of the internal benefits for your company, such as proud, motivated staff and a culture of continuous improvement.”

Lacombe adds, “Meeting stringent quality assurance standards ensures students that they can expect to receive excellent French or English language instruction and services in a well-run facility.” Kevin Warham, marketing manager for Sydney English Language Centre, which is accredited by Australia’s National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS) scheme, adds that in Australia, accreditation has provided value to schools that may be competing for a reduced number of students travelling abroad. “Agents who are looking to develop relationships with providers feel confident that NEASaccredited schools will be of a higher standard. I would say that the largest benefit of this kind of profiling is its recognition by new agents.”

“In these challenging times, quality is more important than ever. Agencies are assured that the product they are promoting is a quality product.” -Johanne Lacombe, national executive director of Languages Canada

Although accreditation is usually administered nationally, some associations conduct quality programmes across national borders, in order to promote quality assurance to schools which may not have a national accreditation scheme in place. Richard Rossner, chief executive of EAQUALS—previously a European association of schools—notes that it is expanding its operations beyond Europe. “EAQUALS is in the process of expanding to new markets around the world. We aim to offer our accreditation scheme in other continents subject to demand from schools,” he says.

Mauro Biondi, chairman of ALTO and managing director of Emerald Cultural Institute (ECI) in Ireland, notes that, “Accreditation is a challenge for an international association like ALTO, as almost every country has a different scheme.” ALTO keeps its 170+ member agencies and schools abreast of new developments in accreditation schemes around the world, advocating for increased standardization and highest quality. It is currently in the process of identifying best practices in accreditation for national associations wishing to institute their own standards of quality. While the only international quality certification system, ISO 9001, does not address language travel specifically, the ISO is currently



Accreditation and Quality

working on a standard for “providers of learning services in nonformal education and training,” which will cover the language travel sector. These standards are scheduled to be released in 2010. Before international standards are in place, ALTO uses its own Members’ Guarantees of Quality and the ALTO Charter, developed to assure the highest standards for treatment and protection of participants in language and educational travel programmes. “Accreditation schemes are essential in our business,” observes Biondi, “because they regulate individual sectors, providing the top criteria to deliver the best possible service in a given country.”

While changing economic conditions and internal cost-cutting are impacting the wider language travel community, schools are by and large coping with the costs to receive the larger gain: a recognisable symbol of quality assurance for students and partners, in an increasingly competitive environment. “By raising the standards of the industry in general,” says Warham, “I believe we have benefited greatly by having such a peak body overseeing accreditation.”

In some countries, the issue of quality is now also being linked to visas, and many language travel destinations are finding themselves affected by both stricter visa controls and rising visa fees. In the UK, for example, to enrol students who want a full Adult Student visa for the UK, schools must be accredited by an accrediting body approved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), and must be on the UKBA Register of Sponsors. These new systems will bring additional costs for accredited schools, which have to pay for both accreditation and entry onto the register. So far, over 2000 organisations have applied for accreditation, and around 460 have been rejected. Only reputable language schools licensed under Tier 4 of the new Points-based System will be permitted to act as sponsoring institutions on student applications. When asked if the economy was impacting the number of applications received by Accreditation UK, Tony Millns, CEO of English UK responded, “In the UK, the number of centres applying for accreditation has more than doubled over the last 18 months compared to ‘normal’ circumstances. This is because accreditation through an approved body, such as Accreditation UK, is required for a college to apply to be on the UK Border Agency Register of Sponsors, and only colleges on the Register can enrol visa-national students. “ “So the effect of the new visa requirements has entirely offset any impact of the global financial crisis on accreditation,” states Millns. “We have also seen an increase in students from countries like Saudi Arabia, which remain relatively unaffected by economic changes.”

AIRC Pilots Agent Certification While quality and accreditation have, until now, been largely issues for language schools, organisations like the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) are bringing agency certification to the forefront. The AIRC has begun its pilot programme for agency certification with eight international agencies from Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, India, Thailand, the U.S., and the UK, and intends on expanding its programme in early 2010. The AIRC’s efforts address a concern from U.S. higher education institutions, which have avoided partnering with international agents because of concerns of reputation and quality. AIRC founding chair and president, Mitch Leventhal states, “This is the first time that American post-secondary institutions, or their international recruitment partners, have had consistent and clear guidelines for ethical and best practice. We at AIRC are convinced that through the AIRC Certification process, American institutions will be able to make major headway in their global recruiting in the years to come.” Leventhal states the U.S. higher education industry has lost market share due to its avoidance of international agents, and that the certification process will help U.S. institutions ease their quality concerns. “We believe that the contribution of international students to the U.S. economy has been grossly underestimated. But beyond this, American higher education is the one sector which has capacity today to ramp up exports and foreign exchange earnings – something that no industry in the durable goods sector can claim in 2009. This is our time to get moving.”



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Contact: International Association of Language Centres, Lombard House, Upper Bridge Street, Canterbury, CT1 2NF, UK. T. +44 (0)1227 769007, F. +44 (0)1227 769014, E. In the space of just twelve months, many in the travel industry have gone from great optimism to complete disbelief at the speed with

Where nextout yti Magazine for YouthNo

Special innovation&issue Student

Travel? Cool Destinations Featuring: clever campaigns, cool destinations & Youth Travel Hot Spots & product innovations for the youth, student and educational travel industry

which the economy has served up a multitude of unpleasant surprises, with swine flu now having

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compounded the misery for travel operators worldwide.

Insightse from thry Indust

Youth travel organisations can take heart though

market share as many families and mainstream

from the general consensus that students and

travellers are attracted by their transformation in

backpackers have been less affected by the eco-

quality and good old-fashioned value for money.

nomic crisis - and for them - mundane realities such as the stock market. The latest industry

Amidst all of the confusion about the recession

figures reinforce this and show that the youth

and debate over when it will end (next year?…

travel sector was down just 3.5 percent during

or indeed the next decade?) YTI Magazine has

the first half of 2009 compared to 8 percent

sought the views of industry experts and leaders

for the mainstream travel industry (figures from WYSE Travel Confederation’s Industry Monitor and UNWTO’s Travel Barometer).

about what they think the next year holds, how young peoples’ attitudes to education and travel are changing, and what their organisation is doing to adapt to the current climate of uncertainty.

There is no denying that most youth travel com-



cat t & edu studen


confe travel



panies are suffering from a decline in market

Member Comments…

demand. Factors such as fluctuating exchange

Where do you see your sector heading in

rates and the knock-on effects of unemployment


on the availability of work placements are having

• 2009 Issue #42

a devastating affect on business - particularly

Language Travel & Education...

for travel retailers worldwide and work abroad

Mauro Biondi – CEO of Emerald Cultural In-

programmes in the US.

stitute, Ireland and Chair of the Association of Language Travel Organisations (ALTO)

However for other sectors, these factors seem

The Language Travel Market will continue to

to be having a positive effect in increasing

experience a period of great uncertainty with

demand for certain experiences particularly vol-

growth in countries where they have government

unteering, study abroad, intercultural exchange

sponsored programmes. The recession is reduc-

and GAP Year travel.

ing the length of period that students spend abroad on language programmes. So the most

12 youth travel international

WYSE TravEl ConfEdEraTion

th, the you next for cational Where and edu student dustry? travel in




important things our market must adapt to over

more affordable for foreign students, Australia

the next year will be developing more short-term

is experiencing unprecedented demand for

programmes for students, the strong euro and

working holiday visas, and au pair agencies

changes in visa regulations in various countries.

have enjoyed continued growth as young people

We are therefore focusing on government spon-

view cultural exchange as a valuable alternative

sored programmes and lobbying to reduce visa

to employment. Youth hostels are also gaining

restrictions for students.



Destinations such as The UK have now become

WYSE TravEl ConfEdEraTion

youth travel international 9

youth travel international 13

• Cultivating Trusted Trading Partners • Advancing Industry Standards


th the you next for cational Where and edu student dustry? travel in

• Promoting the Benefits of Work Abroad • Shaping Legislation through a United Voice

Pick uP a coPy at WyStc From the WYSE Travel Confederation Stand #415 or view it online at

• Developing Programmes of the Highest Quality


Join us!

Visit us at

WYSE Work Abroad Association Keizersgracht 174 • 1016 DW Amsterdam • The Netherlands Tel +31 (0)20 421 2800 • Fax +31 (0)20 421 2810



Member Focus: Every issue, ALTO Connect speaks to two ALTO members about new developments in their businesses. This month, ALTO talks to iAE Global and Study Group International about their strategies for resilience during a difficult economic year.

Š Olzhas Yestekov -

Member Agency & School Focus



ALTO Member Agency Focus

iAE Global Over the last decade, with O.J. Kim at the helm, iAE has established 35 sales offices in Korea, employing 220 counsellors/recruiters, plus 67 branches or joint-venture partner offices with 260 counsellor/salespersons in major markets around the world, including China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. The company also has support and on-shore offices in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Recruiting some 10,000 students a year in Korea alone, iAE Global is by far the biggest language travel company in that country, and, working with some 25,000 students worldwide, it is one of the biggest in the world. “A lot of the European agents do a lot more in numbers of students,” reports iAE Global Managing Director Mark Lucas, a partner in the company, “but they are very short term, say, two or three weeks in England, Spain, or Malta. Korean students tend to go for a very long time.” 

When iAE Global was founded in Seoul, Korea, in 1992 by O.J. Kim, it was a modest recruitment agency, connecting students with English language schools in Australia and, to a lesser extent, the United States. The company opened its first offshore office soon after that, in Sydney, Australia, as well as a franchise office in Busan, Korea.

iAE offices are set up to place students in other schools after they complete their language studies. “Many students come to Australia or Canada primarily to study language,” says Lucas, “ and then want to stay. So we continue to recruit them for other institutions.” iAE Global works with primary and secondary schools, universities and colleges with undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, two-year colleges, vocational institutes, and foreign-language schools teaching Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, and more.  Altogether, iAE has contracts with 2,500 institutions globally, working closely with some 500. “Australia, U.K., New Zealand, and Ireland are proactive in using agents to recruit for them,” notes Lucas, “while the United States and Canada are probably the farthest behind with regard to university centres dealing with agents. But the United States is starting to move that way.”    So far, despite the global recession, reports Lucas, “our onshore offices are doing quite well in Australia, and I think Canada and the rest of them are making out quite okay. China is still powering along, and Hong Kong seems to be fine.” 

“Of course, we have to be very careful,” he is quick to add. “We’ve ceased operations in a couple of the countries we had, and we’re focusing on ones that we think will continue to grow.” Accounting for iAE’s staying power in the language travel market, Lucas points to O.J. Kim’s sophisticated management protocols. “He’s got an amazing management and CRM (customer relationship management) system for handling an education business,” he says.  But perhaps more important, adds Lucas, “basically, it just comes down to training and a professional approach. Our staff are really well trained. We have a lot of information on Internet systems, and we continually have institutions coming through to train our staff on their products and their institutions and locations.”  iAE “Edu Planners” assist students and parents to identify appropriate courses and institutions, and they often maintain those relationships for years.  Another key factor in iAE’s success is its singularity of focus. “There are some very big operations in Europe and South America,” notes Lucas, “but they tend to be born out of the travel business and do education on the side. iAE is the exact opposite. We’re totally focused on education recruitment and marketing.”  

For more information about iAE Global, visit ALTO


ALTO Member School Focus

Study Group International Reaching some 50,000 students each year, the group runs 28 sales and marketing offices around the world, from Shanghai to Istanbul to Sao Paulo, and works with a global network of some 3,000 language travel agents. While it offers a broad range of educational services, from university preparation and placement to secondary and high school programmes and career training, Study Group is perhaps best known for its Embassy brand and dedicated state-of-the-art training centres, which have taught English to more than a half-million students from all over the world. “English remains the number one language of choice,” says Study Group’s CEO Heith Mackay-Cruise — “the one people need for business and career goals.”

Whether a Study Group school is based in England, where there are 10 centres; the United States, with seven centres; or Australia or New Zealand, according to Mackay-Cruise, “the Embassy model is to have the same look and feel and interactive experience for the students, so that they get a really good, rigorous academic outcome for their English language requirement.” In recent years, Study Group has concentrated on upgrading its schools to accommodate the 21st-century student. “The average age of a student for English language travel is probably about 18-19 years old,” explains MackayCruise. Inseparable from their mobile phones and computers, he says, “technology is their life. So we have to move from a chalk-andtalk age to an interactive age that meets that global consumer demand shift.”  Study Group classrooms are equipped with wireless Internet and embedded with computer-based Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) touch-screens, which take student/teacher interaction to a new level, involving students more thoroughly, accelerating comprehension and improving performance.  While stressing the importance of equipping their facilities to apply rapidly evolving teaching methods, Mackay-Cruise insists Study Group’s expansion over the past 20plus years is the result of its commitment to a more lasting ideal. “It’s all about quality,” he says. “The quality of our academic standards is foremost and paramount to our business success. At the end of the day, we are educators.”  Another key to their success, he says, is something Study Group calls “pastoral care,” a

personal approach to the travelling student’s experience outside the classroom. Whether arranging social activities, tours or cultural events, says Mackay-Cruise, “we have student counsellors and activity coordinators in all the schools on our campuses whose job it is to round out the experience a kid has as they come offshore from their home country, making sure they get to see and feel the city they’re living in for a short time.”  Even in this trying economic climate, “we’re holding our own,” reports Mackay-Cruise. “We’ve been able to leverage our position in the marketplace to capitalise on the students [who] are travelling to make sure they’re coming to our centres. We don’t expect to grow anything like what we have over the last two years, but we don’t expect a drop-off in the next six months.”  An ALTO member since 1998, Study Group has participated in ALTO’s Language Travel Forums, most notably at last year’s forum in Brooklyn, where they gave a presentation on the potential of the Chinese market for language schools in the United States. The group also contributes to the ALTO Global Directions in Language Travel research.  Mackay-Cruise urges ALTO members to work together to appeal to government agencies to encourage language travel to their countries. The first step, he says, “is to get the political sector to understand the value associated with language travel.” 

Founded in Great Britain more than two decades ago, Study Group International operates 19 English language training centres throughout the English-speaking world and maintains affiliations with more than 100 leading universities

He points out that, “beyond the teaching and support staff language schools employ, all the kids eat out and go to the pubs and the clubs. There is great economic value for the local economy that is associated with the short-term English language course.”

For more information about Study Group, visit 18


Academic Adventures in America USA • Accademia Europea di Firenze Italy • ACCESS International English Language Centre Canada • VIAJES COLON Costa Rica • Ardmore Group United Kingdom • Association of International Education Counselors Turkey • Associazione Lingue e Culture Europee Italy • Australian Council for Private Education & Training Australia • Berlitz Language Center Malta • Berlitz Languages, Inc. USA • Blueberry Språkresebyrå AB Sweden • Brazilian Educational & Language Travel Association Brazil • Bridge Lin-

Thanks to our members & global community

guatec, Inc. USA • Britannia Learning & Leisure Ltd (Kingswood) United Kingdom • Cactus Worldwide Ltd United Kingdom • CAMPS International Germany • Languages Canada Association Canada • Canadian International Student Services Canada • carpe diem / TravelWorks Germany • Central de Intercâmbio Viagens Ltda Brazil • Central Internacional do Estudante Brazil • Centre for English Teaching (CET)- University of Sydney Australia • Centre of English Studies Ireland • Centro de Lenguas e Intercambio Cultural Spain • Centro Internazionale Italy • Chamber College Malta • China Greenland Travel & Culture Co. Ltd China • Clubclass Ltd Malta • COINED International Argentina • Colegio Maravillas Spain • Computer Professional Learning Center (CPLC) USA • Cork English College Ireland • Cork Language Centre Internationa Ireland • Cosmo Educación Mexico • Council of International Education & Language Travel Japan • Cultural Homestay in Europe Ltd United Kingdom • Cultural Homestay International USA • DI.L.IT International House Italy • did deutsch-institut Germany • Disney Youth Group Programs USA • Domar Travel Education Ukraine • Don Quijote - Enforex Spanish in the Spanish World Spain • Dorset College Ireland • Dr Steinfels Sprachreisen GmbH Germany • Dublin School of English Ireland • EC Group Malta • ECELA Argentina • EDM Education (LONDONUHAK) South Korea • EducaCentre Russian St. Petersburg Tours Russia • EF International Language Schools Switzerland • Ekaterinburg Center “Education Abroad”Russia • ELS Language Centers USA • Embassy CES United Kingdom • Emerald Cultural Institute Ireland • English Australia • English Language & Travel Association of South Africa • English UK United Kingdom ESL - Ecole Suisse de Langues Switzerland • Estudio Sampere Spain • Eurocentres Canada • Eurocentres Switzerland • Euroculture Ltd (ICS) United Kingdom • European School of English Malta • Euro-Schulen-Organisation Germany • Experimento de Convivência Internacional do Brasil Brazil • FBItaly Italy • FDSVGermany • Federal Vacation Co. Taiwan • Foreign Study Travel Service Austria • Genki and Japanese Culture School Japan • Global Village English Centres Canada • GLS SprachenzentrumGermany • Good Hope Studies South Africa • High Schools International Ireland • Home Language International Monaco • Hong Kong Student Travel Ltd Hong Kong • Horizonte Germany • Horner School of English Ltd Ireland • I.M.A.C. Instituto Mexico Americano de Cultura Mexico • iAE Edu Net, Eduhouse Inc. South Korea • ICEF Germany • ILSONLINE “Circolo di Cultura Italiana” Italy • INFORT Instituto para la Formacion Spain • Institut Parisien France • Institute of English Language Studies Malta • International Association of Language Centres United Kingdom • International Centre “Education & Business” Russia • International House Berlin PROLOG Germany • International House Xi’an China • International Language Academy of Canada Canada • International Language Schools of Canada Canada • International Quest United Kingdom • Interway S.A. Spain • Intrax Cultural Exchange USA • Irish Education Partners LtdIreland • ISIS Education & Travel Group United Kingdom • Italian in Italy Italy • iTTTi Vancouver Canada • Jenny Braden Holidays Ltd United Kingdom • Joint Stock Company “Spectrum Travel”Russia • Juventud Y Cultura Spain • Kaplan AspectUSA • Karavan Travel & Trade Serbia • King George International College Canada • Kings Group United Kingdom • Kingsbrook Language Services Spain • La Ligue de L’enseignement France • LAL Group United Kingdom • Language Courses Abroad/Spanish Study Holidays United Kingdom • Language Network LTD Germany • Language School Worldwide S.L. Spain • Linguatime School of English Malta • Linguaviva Educational Group Italy • Link School of English Malta • Scuola Lorenzo De’ Medici 2 Italy • LSC Language Studies Canada Canada • Magister Russia • Mandarin House China • Martin Peters Sprachentraining GmbH Germany • MM Oxford Study Services United Kingdom • Montreal YMCA International Language School Canada • Mundo Joven Travel Shop Mexico • National Student Travel Foundation Malta • New LSF France • New York Language Center USA • Office National de Garantie des Sejours et Stages Linguistiques France • Omnicom School of Languages Canada • Open World Education Ltd Russia • Pacific Language Institute, Inc. (PLI) Canada • PractiGo GmbH Germany • Project International United Kingdom • Rennert Bilingual USA • Scuola Leonardo da Vinci Italy • Sehdev Travel & Educational Services India • Séjours Internationaux Linguistiques et Culturels France • Shanghai CIIC International Business Development Co. China • SHE Travelling Consultants - Spanish Heritage Spain • Soléxico Language and Cultural Centers Mexico • Spanish Abroad, Inc. USA • Sprachcaffe - Languages Plus Germany • Sprachdirekt GmbH Germany • Spring International Language Center USA • STA Travel Group United Kingdom • STAR Travel Russia • STS Student Travel Schools Sweden • Student Agency Ltd Czech Republic • Student Travel Burea Brazil • Study Group International United Kingdom • StudyGlobal Spain • StudyTravel BV Netherlands • Sydney English Language Centre Australia • Tamwood International College Ltd Canada •TANDEM International e.V. Germany • Thai International Education Consultants Association Thailand • The Language Academy, Inc. USA • Travel Active Netherlands • South Korea • UAB Idiomes Barcelona Spain • UNSW Global Pty Limited Australia • Vancouver English Centre Canada • Viajes Sanabria SA / Linguatur Spain • Vienna Group T/A Umi Hotels Ltd & Access Apartments United Kingdom • Village Camps SA Switzerland • Wish International, Inc. Japan • World Education Program Belgium • World Study Brazil Brazil • YA Language School Russia

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Optimistic Futures:

Building more value for customers in tough times

This month, ALTO Connect speaks to WYSE Travel Confederation’s marketing manager, Deborah Fitzgerald, on how the ALTO community is using strategic marketing to innovate their way through the economic crisis.  



Marketing and Innovation

Undoubtedly, it continues to be a challenging time for the language travel sector. As well as the economic impacts of decreased demand, fierce competition, and currency fluctuations, the sector has had to address mobility issues around visa regulations against the backdrop of pandemic and shaky consumer confidence. During these times, customers are forced into a dynamic process of reappraising what is important to them and, as a result, redefining what constitutes ‘value’. The greatest negative influence on the sector—ongoing uncertainty and its impact on consumer confidence, cited in both ALTO’s Global Directions and WYSE Travel Confederation’s Youth Travel Industry Monitor—is being addressed by many in the sector with a pragmatic, strategic due diligence, resulting in cost control, but also diversification, innovation and increased marketing efforts.  

Research by McKinsey showed that companies that beat the last recession in 2001/02 increased spending in these key areas. The research tracked 1,000 U.S. companies (across a spectrum of business sectors, weighted to reflect their contribution to GDP) over 18 years, including the all-important recession years. The companies that emerged in the top quartile after the recession actually increased spending on sales, innovation, and marketing. Although this reduced their cash reserves, the companies traded short-term profitability for long-term gain and it worked—their book-to-market ratio was more than 25% greater than their less successful peers. Investment in this climate is easier said than done —so it is important to take a moment to applaud the language travel sector for embracing bold, new approaches and seizing the opportunities that come with such unpredictable market conditions. From a marketer’s perspective, it is truly exciting to see innovation employed in heading off the challenges that tough times bring. This also reflects a deep understanding by leaders in this sector of the vital role marketing can play, particularly in understanding the shift in ‘perceived value’ that happens in the mind of the customer during tough economic times.   It’s a simple truth: The core purpose of marketing in most organisations is to translate human understanding into business advantage and we begin that by understanding behavioural shifts resulting from the perceptual shifts that have occurred in the customer’s mind. As the customer reappraises what constitutes ‘value’ to them, we are compelled to think about our offer and our customer differently.  We are empowered with this understanding of what ‘value’ now means, to innovate for the customer and to seek new customers with the same understanding in new markets. We can and should use these behavioural insights to improve the value we offer without necessarily increasing the cost of what we provide.   Enrique Helmbrecht of COINED International gives examples of strategies they are employing that have their foundations in this thinking :   “We are expanding our international network: We are establishing offices and sales representatives in different locations in order to broaden our network.”  

“We’ve created a new department to deal with our corporate prospects and universities.” ”We’ve focused on outbound programmes which use the same structure as the inbound programmes , so fixed costs are minimized.”   This combination of strategic due diligence and innovation can’t be achieved without a clear sense of what customers value.   As well as being behaviourialists, most marketers are connectors and collaborators, so partnerships and new collaborations are a great area for the marketer to exercise these skills. Encourage your marketers to think laterally and charge them with delivering ideas and innovations to the strategic conversations. The marketer has what the customer is thinking at the centre of their remit, so it makes sense to utilise that understanding of what ‘value’ means to the full.  In forthcoming issues of ALTO Connect, we’ll be interviewing members about their use of marketing and bringing you thought leadership from marketers around the world.  

Deborah Fitzgerald brings over fifteen years of marketing and communications experience to the WYSE Travel Confederation team, from strategy and brand development, to partnership marketing, communications, and PR. Prior to joining WYSE Travel Confederation in May 2009, Deborah was based in the UK as marketing director at the world leading brand consultancy Interbrand. Before that,  Deborah  acted as  Marketing, Media and Communications Director  for the Design Council,  and has held senior posts at Liberty Retail plc, Universal Networks, and MTV. ALTO


It’s 52 years since we welcomed the first students to Kings. The world has changed a lot since then, but we have always stayed ahead through investment and innovation. Next year will be our most exciting yet. New courses, new facilities, new technology and new residential accommodation. And we’re also launching a completely new website. Yet in a time of change and development one thing remains constant — our commitment to students and to our partner agents. 22


Your partner in international student recruitment

ICEF Workshops Fall 2009 / Spring 2010

Moscow, Mar 2010 Berlin, Nov 2009 Madrid, Sep 2009 Miami, Dec 2009

São Paulo, Sep 2009

Beijing, Oct 2009 Tokyo, Mar 2010

Dubai, Feb 2010

Melbourne, Apr 2010

The ICEF Higher Education Workshop, September 13 – 15, 2009 • Madrid For student recruitment agents with a proven Higher Education focus and international accredited Higher Education institutions The ICEF Latin America Workshop, September 30 – Oct 02, 2009 • São Paulo For student recruitment agents from Latin America and international educators The ICEF China Workshop, October 14 – 16, 2009 • Beijing For student recruitment agents from China, Asia, the rest of the world and international educators The ICEF Berlin Workshop, November 01 – 03, 2009 • Berlin For all quality education agents and international educators The Work & Travel Zone at ICEF Berlin, November 01 – 03, 2009 • Berlin For providers of work & travel, internship, apprenticeship, volunteer, au pair and gap programmes and organisations offering work & travel related services The ICEF North America Workshop, December 06 – 08, 2009 • Miami For international student recruitment agents with a focus on the US and Canada and North American educators The ICEF Middle East & Africa Workshop, February 01 – 03, 2010 • Dubai For student recruitment agents from the Middle East, Africa, Turkey and South Asia and international educators The ICEF Japan Workshop, March 03 – 05, 2010 • Tokyo For student recruitment agents from Japan and international educators The ICEF Moscow Workshop, March 26 – 28, 2010 • Moscow For student recruitment agents from Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus and international educators The Australia New Zealand Agent Workshop, April 21 – 23, 2010 • Melbourne For international student recruitment agents with a focus on Australia and New Zealand and educators from these two countries ICEF GmbH, Am Hofgarten 9, 53113 Bonn, Germany • Tel + 49 228 201 19 0 • Fax + 49 228 201 19 44 ► ►

The World’s Leaders in Language Education

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ALTO Connect Magazine - September 2009  

ALTO Connect is the community magazine of the Association of Language Travel Organisations (ALTO), which promotes in-country language learni...

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