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Babbel announces move into the language travel market

Language learning app Babbel has announced it will launch a language travel booking platform in 2019, after having acquired Berlin-based start-up LingoVentura, which handles bookings for 200 language schools in over 100 cities and countries.

The platform will be launched in German but Babbel anticipates adding other European languages soon. Photo: StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay

There is no fee for schools when they join the platform, but a fee will be incurred when bookings are made

The platform, Babbel explained, will connect language learners with a “curated selection” of language schools in a range of countries, creating an international booking platform.

The final aim is to open up the language sector to “untapped” segments of the market, specifically the “millions” of Babbel subscribers that potentially already have a strong interest in language travel.

“We will start with high-demand European languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish, before looking into further options”

“Connecting our audience with the great partner schools we are going to feature on the new platform benefits the whole market,” Babbel CEO Markus Witte said.

“More than any other brand Babbel has managed to take language-learning into the mainstream, reaching millions of people that would never have picked up a language otherwise.”

This, according to Babbel COO Martin Kütter, who initiated and managed the acquisition of LingoVentura, could benefit the entire language learning industry – rather than disrupt the market.

“Moving into this new market, it is important for us to keep with our philosophy of strengthening the already-existing language learning market instead of trying to disrupt it,” he said in a statement.

The new platform will work as a “go-to place” for language learners, addressing a growing demand for integrated services and helping the language travel market become more digital, Florian Oberleithner, corporate strategy manager at Babbel, told The PIE News.

“Customers want integrated solutions, in that they want fewer apps but ones that are able to do more things. By combining Babbel and travel, we’re addressing this need,” he said.

“The language travel market is not as digital as the separate language learning or travel markets. Features within travel apps for example, such as real-time availability, are not currently standard.”

“This area is where we can add real value because we’re able to digitise and bring the market up to par,” he added.

Another area of the language travel market that will be expanded with the new platform is demand from professional learners, Oberleithner explained.

Currently, the market’s focus is towards the younger, educational market, he said, but in line with Babbel’s customer base, there is growing demand from those who need to learn languages for work, as well as people of all ages looking for a cultural experience.

“This area is where we can add real value because we’re able to digitise and bring the market up to par”

The website is currently available in German, specifically for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, allowing German speakers to book language travel in nine languages across 35 countries.

It will be launched in that format, but Oberleithner said that Babbel has plans to expand further in the following months, rolling out other display languages on the platform post-launch.

“We will start with high-demand European languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish, before looking into further options,” he said.

“We always put the user at the centre of our business, so will research and base the expansion on their growing demands.”

When asked how partner schools will be selected, Oberleithner said that Babbel will continue to “develop and refine” selection processes in collaboration with LingoVentura.

“LingoVentura has always taken relevant measures to ensure that its selection of language schools meet high-quality standards,” he explained.

“Following the Babbel acquisition, we will continue to develop and refine such processes, utilising the experience of our 150 linguistic experts, from all around the world.”

There is no fee for schools when they join the platform, but a fee will be incurred when bookings are made, Oberleithner added. He said he invited schools looking to be part of the platform to get in touch with Babbel, even if they are not yet part of the markets covered at the moment, in view of the platform’s future expansion.

The platform is expected to launch in the first half of 2019.

An anecdotal rise in non-commissionable bookings for UK ELT providers was noted at the English UK annual conference earlier this year.

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