Bethan Norris, Senior Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion from the Senior Editor
Fresh back from a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, with the ST Alphe conference team I am reminded afresh of the importance of personal contact in this business.

Over the weekend I met with a number of Russian agents and was able to gain a valuable insight into the workings of the industry within this key student provider market. Times have been hard for the Russian market in recent years with an unpredictable ruble making the planning of study abroad trips, particularly for junior group programmes which are often booked at least six months in advance, extremely difficult. Thankfully agents told me that 2017 was better for business with more currency stability ensuring a growth in bookings throughout the year.


Two comments from Russian agents stay with me however. One was from an agent who told me that he was feeling quite energised by the hard times that they have all just been through as he was having to travel a lot more and get out into the market place to find new programmes that would work for his clients. He said that he hadn't done so much travelling in years and was exhilarated by the challenge of finding solutions to the difficulties he faced. I thought this was an admirable approach to facing diversity and reminded me that we could probably all do with being forced from our comfort zone once in a while as a means of business development as well as personal satisfaction. Russia is a fascinating country with a rich history and one thing that always strikes me about agents in the country is their remarkable resilience, with many telling me that they remember the soviet era and therefore were well able to cope with any difficult visa and currency situations that came their way.


Another comment from an experienced agent who had been in the business for many years reminded me that the study travel industry can be unpredictable. This particular agent said that in order to foil the recent currency fluctuations, she had been offering programmes in cheaper, less traditional destinations, such as Finland. Despite believing that this was what the market wanted, she was surprised that these weren't popular with her clients at all. The USA and UK remained the first choice destinations for language and study travel and despite the increased cost involved in studying there, as well as current visa issues with the USA, clients will often overcome large obstacles in order to fulfil their ambitions to travel and study there.


Each student provider market has its own nuances and it takes a good experienced agent to know on what basis students make their study abroad choices. It's also up to the agent to inform the students about the different types of programmes and destinations out there and it is interesting to see in the news this week that another provider has set up in the preparation sector, with ILSC Education Group launching its GlobalFoundation brand. This is definitely a sector that doesn't seem to have reached saturation point yet and is growing among languages other than English too. Accent Francais has launched a new academic year programme at its school in Montpellier with the intention of appealing to students wanting to study in further and higher education in France.

It's good to see the industry responding to market trends!


Bethan Norris
Senior Editor