MW: I actually started in 1979. I was a student myself in Cambridge, and a few friends of mine wanted to go to Cambridge to study and I asked the school where I was if I could get some commission and they said ok, if you start an agency you’ll get some commission; so I started my agency. But really professionally, as a job, I started in 1985.
The PIE: So, what happened between 1979 and 1985?
MW: Oh I went back to study and had a few jobs in Switzerland and then, as I said, 1985 was the real start as a professional agency.
The PIE: And which agency was this?
The name of the company at that time was Media Touristik AG Ltd. and it’s still the same name, Media Touristik. And what we did [to grow the company], we started different brands actually. So in every city, we had another brand, so like Linguline in Zurich, Linguista in Winterthur – those are all agencies for the direct market.
And then we started – maybe 22 years ago – Globostudy and Globostudy is a product whereby we are a tour operator and this a product for the Swiss travel industry, for the retail offices and that’s a product we’re selling through travel agencies. So we have got two different lines: One is an agency for the direct market and one as a tour-operating company for the travel industry.
The PIE: So what proportion of your business now comes from the tourism market?
MW: It’s about half and half.
The PIE: And, I’m interested as to why you launched a different brand for each city?
MW: The thinking was, you know, in the old days, before we had the internet, you had to advertise and people were sending us coupons for different brands. It was always the same company but they asked two or three agencies [for quotes] and this was behind the idea.
“If you are not in the top ranking of Google as an agent for language schools, you have no chance to stay in the market”
But then when the internet came, let’s say 10 or 12 years ago, we realised that it’s too expensive to handle four, five, six brands as homepages. So now we have got two homepages, one is globostudy.ch for the travel industry channel and Linguista for the agents, for the direct market.
How have you seen the agency industry change since you started in 1985?
I think the main change is the internet. These days you really have to be strong on the internet, you have to have a good homepage, you have to have a good SEO and you have to be in the top ranking of Google. If you are not in the top ranking of Google as an agent for language schools, you have no chance to stay in the market.
The PIE: And what about the Swiss market? As a particular market in terms of its appetite for studying abroad…
MW: I think it’s quite a stable market because in Switzerland it is a very old tradition [studying abroad]. 50 years ago, 60 years ago people went to London, went to Bournemouth, went to Brighton… mainly to England or to France to learn languages. And as we have four languages in Switzerland so people know about the importance of speaking languages and if you want to get a job in a Swiss bank, in a Swiss insurance company, you need to speak three or four languages, otherwise you don’t get a job. [more..]