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Germany’s outbound study travel market holds steady despite Brexit unease

The German outbound study travel market remained steady last year, according to an annual agency survey, which shows that the number of students going abroad for language study fell by just under 2%.

GermanyDemand for Malta is expected to continue to grow as it's closer to home and more value for money, said FDSV's managing director. Photo: FDSV

"We expected Great Britain to be much more down"

The annual analysis by German agency association FDSV reveals the decline in interest in the UK as a destination continued last year, but the impact of Brexit was dimmer than agencies expected.

Overall interest for English fell, however, as other languages gained ground.

The number of students going abroad for language study dropped 1.93% last year from the year before, the survey found, based on 24 responding agency members of FDSV.

“We expected Ireland to be much more up in numbers, this didn’t really happen”

The average length of stay also remained fairly consistent from 2015 to 2016, increasing just marginally from 1.93 weeks to 2.03 weeks.

And while the UK remained the top destination of choice for almost half (45%) of German language students, interest in the country has consistently fallen year on year.

In 2015, 48% of language learners went to the UK, with over half (54%) opting for the UK the year before.

The drop is less than agencies feared, however, as they had prepared for a Brexit fallout, explained Julia Richter, managing director of FDSV.

“The big surprise was we expected Great Britain to be much more down,” she told The PIE News. “In the end it wasn’t that bad.”

She went on to say, “We expected Ireland to be much more up in numbers, this didn’t really happen,” and credited the maintained interest in the UK to the weakness of the pound.

Malta meanwhile was the second most popular destination for German students, accounting for just over 15% of all language stays, and increasing by just over 2% from the year before.

“For the German market it’s always been a very positive destination over the last 20 or 30 years,” said Richter. “It’s always second in regards to English speaking countries.”

English overwhelmingly remained the top language of choice for study travel, according to the survey, accounting for almost 80% of all bookings. Among the junior market this proportion was as high as 93%.

“In the US and UK it’s quite uncertain how things are going to develop and Malta is so easy to reach”

Still, the overall proportion of German English language learners fell by around 2.5% last year, as interest in other languages increased.

Spanish remained the second most popular language for Germans, followed by French and Italian. And while both accounted for less than 1% of language learners, interest in Chinese and Russian also increased.

The highest proportion of language learners (47%) were from the 14-17 age cohort. Those aged 18-30 made up of just over a fifth of all language students. And the group of 31-49 year old language learners displayed the biggest growth, up 14%.

2017’s numbers are shaping up to be consistent with previous years, according to Richter. However, lengths of stay may shorten and destinations may shift closer to home as political uncertainties and concerns about security impact students’ choices.

“In the US and UK it’s quite uncertain how things are going to develop and Malta is so easy to reach, and flights are quite cheap,” she commented. “In Malta you get much more for your money [compared with the pound].”

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