The PIE: What about destination choice?
SZ: I think students won’t all be going to the traditional countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia. They will still be the most popular, but they are now looking at a much more diverse range of countries. We are already seeing interest in Korea, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Scandinavia, South Africa and Eastern European countries.
The PIE: And booking trends?
SZ: We’ve seen in Brazil that the number of people going through agents is actually starting to go down as a percentage. And more and more people are not having the fear of enrolling directly. In Latin America it was almost unheard of that you wouldn’t go through an agent because Latin American families are very close and they want someone to strangle if their kids had any problems overseas. Now when people have come back and people say they’ve had great experiences, it’s very safe you can talk to my director and so on.
“The percentage going through agencies is going down. But the numbers are increasing so agencies are not noticing”
I think that slowly the percentage of people going through agencies is going down. But at the same time the numbers are increasing so much that the agencies are not noticing that. They’re still seeing increases of 30-40% especially in Brazil in the last couple of years. But I think agents will always be very important and do much more than just send students abroad for a commission. They will still be sending the majority of students abroad for a long time.
The PIE: How does a good agency maintain its position in the distribution chain then? You know so many different education agencies, so who are the trend setters in our sector?
SZ: The agencies we know best are certainly in Latin America and they are very modern in their practices. I know some of those agents go to other countries and visit other agents to learn what they’re doing well. I don’t know many agencies in other countries investing just to send people on a fact-finding mission. And so, they have very, very good front office staff who really know the product. They often go on fam trips and actually know the schools that they’re selling. They’re very selective in who they represent.
“I don’t know many agencies in other countries investing just to send people on a fact-finding mission”
The PIE: And what do you think about this whole NACAC debate on per-head recruiting?
SZ: One of the things we saw [at our events] was that… a lot of universities were members of NACAC, or abided by NACAC guidelines, but they were all equally interested in meeting agents. I think a lot of them are preparing either to work with agents and hope that NACAC will issue guidelines and say no problem, you can work with agents. Or if they don’t then they’ll take their own individual decisions because they don’t want to fall behind in recruitment.
The PIE: How many education institutions make up your client base if you look at all your events?
SZ: We probably have about 1,000 institutions, 250 agencies and about 30 national organisations (like Education USA or Campus France) that participate in our events worldwide.