Published on 20/01/22 – StudyTravel Network
Agents and educators expressed optimism for recovery in 2022 as the industry gathered in Malaga last week for the ST Alphe Spain In-Person+ 2022 conference, as well as joy at being able to meet colleagues face-to-face again.
StudyTravel Ltd hosted more than 200 delegates, including 104 agents from 29 countries and 77 school representatives for three days of business meetings and networking at ST Alphe Spain 2022 InPerson+, the first face-to-face ST Alphe Conference in almost two years.
Matthew Knott , News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine, spoke to agents and educators at the event, and presents some comments below…
“Everybody is positive after two years of negativity. I think it will be a good year. There is a lot of pent-up demand. There may be a few issues in the first half of the year – some schools may be overbooked, and there will be some teething problems, but the second half of 2022 should be strong. Turkey, Chile and Argentina are showing great pent-up demand.”
Kevin McNally , Managing Director of International House Torquay in the UK.
«The demand for English with families is definitely picking up, we have noticed. Families feel more secure travelling together and we are the only school offering this year round. We are cautiously optimistic. I think the 30-to-40 age group will be the first to start travelling again.»
Michele Bianchini , Senior Trainer and Student Advisor at Language International agency in Germany.»
It is a nice feeling to be back and seeing everyone’s faces – it has been two long years. Things are starting to look normal again, and we have gathered a lot of very useful information from schools at this event. After Christmas, there was a peak in demand and things are looking pretty good. We are hiring staff again, and we are optimistic about the way things are going.»
Ramón Villa Menendez , CEO ofLanguage Kingdom agency in Spain
«We have around 70 groups booked and we have a busy summer ahead. The summer looks very promising, maybe stronger than 2019. If we had 500 more J-1 (US high school year) slots, we would sell them; there is such strong demand for this product. We have launched a public-private cooperation with the local council to develop and promote year-round Spanish language programmes in Avilés (see news story here). We are focussing on quality of the programmes and getting the local community involved.
Thomas Roth , Owner of Language Peps agency in Germany and Bildungsurlaub Approval
«Students are going all over the world at the moment. Latin America is doing well as there are relatively few travel restrictions. There is some pent-up demand, and people don’t want to lose their Bildungsurlaub (educational leave). As soon as a country opens, some students start to go there.»
David Milner , Director of Marketing and International Relations at Sedbergh School in the UK.
«Things for the summer school have picked up big time since we returned after Christmas. The year-round school is the biggest it has ever been. We have launched a new Leadership and International Relations Academy summer programme for 2022.
Mario Calvo , Owner and Director of Academia Contacto Spanish language school in Madrid
«There was a strong last six months of 2021, and an increase in students from the USA, France and South Korea. And students are booking longer courses; the average stay in 2021 increased by 50 per cent compared with 2019. Omicron slowed things down a little, but maybe the spring and summer this year will be good. I’m glad to be back at an in-person event!»
Oscar Porras , Director of Midleton School agency in Spain, and President of Spanish agency association ASEPROCE
“High school programmes are selling well. For us, Ireland is already at the same level as in March last year. There are lots of enquiries now for the summer – probably around 60 per cent of pre-Covid levels.»
During an ASEPROCE presentation on the outbound Spanish market at the beginning of the conference, Oscar told delegates that the Spanish market was growing quickly, especially for high school programmes, and that families are booking earlier. “This is a good moment for schools and agents to communicate,” he commented. He also outlined challenges that agencies face in markets such as Canadian and US high school programmes and summer schools, including homestay quality and capacity, mediation channels and restricted availability on the US J-1 scheme.
In feedback, delegates indicated that they were delighted to be meeting colleagues again. David Girecourt of VGC International College in Canada said, “Being back to face-to-face meetings, seeing friends and making new ones,” was a highlight. Katie Denton of International House Bristol in the UK said, “After so many online meetings, seeing people in person again was a breath of fresh air.”
Attendees also praised the Covid protocols and organisation of the event. David Sampere of France Langue commented “I want to thank the organisation for the safety measures. To test every morning is not the most fun thing, but I think it was crucial for a safe event., The number of agencies was correct and the quality of agents good. Also, to start sharing some positivity was very important.”
Maria Pia Salcito of Bell in the UK said, “Strict Covid procedures made me feel very safe,” while Sonny Kennedy of CEC – Cork English College in Ireland commented, “In my opinion, the event ran smoothly. I felt very much at ease.”
Ash Rees , ST Alphe Conferences Manager, said, «We were delighted to host so many of our valued clients, in person and online, at ST Alphe Spain InPerson+ last week. Overall, the positive feedback has been overwhelming and we couldn’t be happier. It’s been just shy of two years since we opened our doors to in-person meetings, and it felt great to be back in the saddle. We love our online events, but there really is something special about seeing delegates shake hands and form partnerships over the course of an in-person event, and we look forward to many more to come in 2022 and beyond.»
Click here to see photographs from ST Alphe Spain InPerson+ 2022.