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Brazil’s agency survey shows study travel slouch

Brazil’s flailing economy has hit the study travel sector from several angles creating a tough trading climate that shows few signs of improving.

Almost 31% of the students' exchange lasted under one month, with close to 24% lasting a year or more. Photo: Belta Seal Market Research

Top selling study countries have shifted towards more cost-effective destinations

According to a recent survey of education agencies and students, the economic crisis, decreased purchasing power, unemployment and currency depreciation all hindered language travel sales in 2015.

The study, commissioned by the Brazilian Educational & Language Travel Association, surveyed some 135 agencies representing 882 points of sale across the country equalling about 75% of the country’s study/travel market. Almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) said compared to the previous year, 2015 sales figures reduced or maintained.

Only 36% of respondents reported growth in sales last year.

With the real dropping to as low as four to the dollar last year, more than three-quarters (76%) of agencies said favourable currency conversions were the number one influencer for their clients when choosing a study destination.

Three-quarters of agencies said favourable currency conversions were the number one influencer for their clients

Unsurprisingly, the top selling study countries have shifted towards more cost-effective destinations compared to the organisation’s previous survey taken in 2013.

Canada tops the list followed by the US. Australia replaced the UK as the third most popular destination, up from 5th place three years ago.

“The survey we have conducted validated what we already experience routinely: Canada is the first most popular destination due to cost-effectiveness and currency quote, even though United States is still the dream country,” said Maura Leão, president of BELTA.

Ireland remained the fourth most popular country, the UK fell to fifth and for the first time Malta entered the top 10 at number seven. South Africa, another price competitive destination, meanwhile rose two places to eighth.

“Various aspects influenced the choice for these countries: cost of living and more favourable currencies, as well as the possibility to participate in study programmes combined with legalised jobs,” Leão said.

The student opinion snapshot, based on 1,915 student survey responses, 42% of whom had already been on one study travel exchange, shows that language students continue to seek education benefits as well as cultural experiences in their exchange programmes.

The top three exchange goals listed by students were investing in international education, fulfilling a dream to know a different culture and investing in language learning.

“Employability is a crucially important factor during the crisis we have being through”

With English becoming a standard job requirement in the country, Leão added that career benefits also motivate most students.

“Exchange is clearly shown in the survey as a way to obtain a differentiator element in their careers in order to increase employability, which is a crucially important factor during the crisis we have being through,” she said.

Data shows that language courses and courses paired with a temporary job continue to be the main products sold by education agencies in Brazil while higher education remains in the realm of high school counsellors.

Exchange rates continue to hover around 3.5 real to the dollar and news is yet to be released on how the country’s successful scientific mobility programme will continue to be funded after budget freezes were announced last autumn.

Neila Chammas, institutional relations director at BELTA, confirmed 2016 will be another difficult year for the industry but maintained the optimism characteristic of Brazilian education agents.

“We can say that 2015 was a challenging year and for sure that 2016 will be as well,” she told The PIE News. “But it’s good for us, Brazilians are known for being creative.”

During this “sensitive time” Chammas said the organisation has introduced training courses to “refresh some points to work better” and are promoting the BELTA seal to student clientele.

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