FDSV survey shows German outbound trends

The German study abroad market decreased slightly in 2016, according to data released by the association of language tour operators, FDSV, with English continuing to dominate business overall but increased shares for Spanish and Italian in the adult sector.

The annual FDSV survey was based only on responses from 24 association members this year, which the association said represented approximately a quarter of the active language agencies in the country.


The responding agencies reported an average 1.9 per cent business decline in 2016, FDSV said, adding to a slight decrease in the previous year and mirroring the static findings of StudyTravel Magazine's most recent Germany agency survey article.


English programmes remained the core business for German agents, representing four fifths of all bookings for FDSV members and some 93 per cent in the junior segment.


However, in the adult market, English slipped almost 10 percentage points to 58 per cent market share, while Spanish rose to 18 per cent, French increased a point to nine per cent, and Italian almost doubled to six per cent share.


Despite the stronger pound sterling in early 2016, the UK remained comfortably the most requested destination last year at 45 per cent overall -a three per cent decline compared with the previous year. The UK actually increased market share in the junior segment to 65 per cent, but this was mirrored by a drop in adults.


Analysing the results, Julia Richter, Managing Director of FDSV, said, "Despite Brexit in 2016, the UK lost only 3.14 percentage points. As no direct negative impact was immediately felt for language tourists, and the pound is weakening compared to the euro, the attractiveness of language travel to the UK is again increasing."


She added, "In 2016, Ireland did not experience a booking spurt as expected [it remained on 2.7 per cent share]. But other English-speaking destinations were more attractive and Malta, for example, recorded a one-fifth increase."


Corresponding with the language trends, there were increased destination shares for Spain, France, Italy and Latin America, while Malta's market share of 15 per cent saw it retain position as the second most popular destination.


In North America, there was a slight shift of business from the USA to Canada, which Julia attributed to the strength of the dollar in 2016 and uncertainty around the election results in the USA.


The junior sector accounted for 58 per cent of business for FDSV members, an identical ratio to the previous year, and the average stay overall was 2.06 weeks, a slight improvement compared with the previous year's 1.93 weeks.


According to the FDSV survey, an increasing number of German agencies are offering work and travel and volunteer programmes, and there was a large increase in companies offering summer courses at boarding schools, from 40 per cent of FDSV members in 2015 to 62.5 per cent last year. Julia said the agency sector was responding to growing customer demand for diverse programmes.


Looking ahead, Julia predicted a stable year in 2017 overall for FDSV members. However, she said, "Due to the tense security situation around the world, we are also expecting an increase in short-term, sortly prior bookings for 2017. This will surely also benefit the language camp offers for pupils in Germany. These offers for younger participants or for short stays a good alternative to classical language travel abroad, but also offer an interesting price/performance ratio.


In recent years, FDSV has tracked a niche but steady business of German agencies selling foreign language camps within German-speaking countries.


"In addition, the security aspect, the uncomplicated arrival and the proximity to the home place for parents are important selection criterion," she said.


The rate of complaints by FDSV's clients was less than one per cent in 2016, which the association said was pleasingly low given the complexity of language travel products.


At the recent Eaquals International Conference in Latvia, Julia explained Germany's consumer protection laws for study abroad during a special agent panel discussion.


The annual FDSV survey is conducted in collaboration with Heilbronn University of Applied Science, led by Professor Antonio Juarez Medina.


By Matthew Knott

News Editor