Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

It was my great pleasure to chair a very interesting panel discussion on digital marketing at the IALC 2017 Workshop in Boston last week.

The panel of experts comprised of representatives from digital strategy consultancies specialised in the international education industry, a StudyTravel Star Awards Super Star Russian language school, a ST Star Award-winning Turkish agency and a global search platform.


A number of useful tips were provided by the panel in this vital field, most of which were equally applicable to language schools and agencies as they respectively position themselves in front of an increasingly tech-savvy clientele.


Whether school or agency, the necessity of language travel companies understanding their search landscapes and aligning their website content with what their potential students are seeking is apparent.


What was less clear is whether digital marketing should be a method to recruit students directly, or a means of making the school more visible and bolstering business via all channels.


Walter Denz, Owner of Liden & Denz, for example, mentioned that while there is the potential for students to be estranged from the agency once they arrive at the school and their social media journeys begin, there is potential for incorporating agents into this dialogue. Moreover, he advised that his school creates exclusive, co-branded video content for partner agents to utilise.


Richard Bradford, who has previously worked on both sides of the industry and is now Director of digital marketing company Disquiet Dog, argued that the aim of a strategy should be to create demand and traffic to the website, regardless of where that booking comes from.


In a short presentation I made before the tips and subsequent question and answer session, I highlighted an important statistic gleaned from StudyTravel Magazine's regular surveys of students in the major language destinations: the percentage of students that book their course through an agency is always - without exception - higher than the ratio that initially find their course online.


Thus the agent has an integral role to play in the digital age, even if the student finds a prospective school first. Indeed, our regular status surveys of language schools show the enduring importance of agents as the predominant source of students.


My presentation highlighted one interesting aspect of recruitment channels: the destinations with the highest rates of direct website enrolment were non-English speaking ones, namely Spain, Italy and France.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on why this might be. Rightly or wrongly, English is clearly the dominant language of the web and the language travel industry in terms of disseminating information. But some of the major markets for these countries are English-speaking countries - the USA and UK are top five sources for Spain's language schools for example - so does this give them an inbuilt advantage in direct marketing?


That last fact about was gleaned from the 2016 full-year data released by Spanish language school association Fedele, which reported another positive 12 months. And despite the aforementioned proficiency of Spain's language schools in recruiting directly, Fedele Director, Ana Cózar, was keen to highlight the importance of agents and the measures they have taken to attract more.


She says the federation is eyeing progress in the Asian markets in particular, and this is likely to require agent support.


Elsewhere this week, we have news of further growth of international student enrolment in Germany's higher education sector; a new pathway partnership between NCUK and British Study Centres; two new residential locations in the UK for PGL Travel.


And we ourselves have launched another bold step into the digital marketplace: you can now catch up on the StudyTravel news in a new video format! You can now see myself and my colleague Clarissa Waldron as newsreaders in the first edition of the weekly StudyTravel video news round-up!


Happy reading or watching!



Matthew Knott

News Editor