Educational tourism: prospects for the season

Sergey Vladimirov, 18.06.2014 11:12
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Experts’ estimations differ when it comes to assessing the prospects of the 2014 summer season in the sphere of educational tourism: some maintain that its volumes will stay the same or even increase, others remain cautiously pessimistic. Political problems and growing foreign exchange rates are the main reasons for doubts.

This sphere of tourism is currently underdeveloped in Russia. According to the estimations of J’son & Partners, the educational tourism market takes up only about 1.5% of the estimated total Russian tourism market volume, which was about 1.35 trillion rubles in 2013.

Even the most optimistic estimates put the market share of the educational tourism at about 200 million euros, while the volume of the global educational market has already reached $60bn (with the US accounting for about a third of it).

At the same time, Russia’s foreign educational tourism segment is one of the fastest-growing in the world (+20-30% a year).
According to the WTO’s expert estimates, this firmly puts Russia in the top ten countries where this kind of tourism has been actively growing and taking up a larger share of the market.

Still, this summer season the sphere (meaning here short-term language courses and educational programs to the children’s and youth camps) has seen some problems. The reasons are clear: the majority of countries that offer Russians short-term summer educational services are situated either in Europe (Malta, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Finland, the UK) or in America (the USA). The demand for the segment is affected not only by the growth of exchange rates, but also by difficulties associated with getting a visa (which has lately been especially true of the UK).

This results in experts’ forecasting a preference for ‘holidays + education’ programs to be the main trend of the 2014 summer season, since these offers are the most effective, while also combining business with pleasure. However, experts’ opinions differ when it comes to the prospects of this trend.

‘The main problem that is hindering the growth of the outbound ‘educational’ tourist flow this season is the increased euro exchange rate,’ believes Tamara Ro, CEO of ‘Rossita’ tour operator. ‘In the face of volatility, clients hold on to their money, fearing a change for the worse. In such conditions reaching last year’s volumes can be considered a success: getting each client will be a small victory.’
Her counterpart from ‘Ivolga’, CEO Iveta Shefler, has a different opinion. She even believes that demand in this sphere of Russian tourism can grow, despite the growth of exchange rates and some political complications.

‘The majority of potential clients see learning a foreign language as an investment in a better career future as opposed to an expensive holiday, which is why, I think, demand for such kind of tours will be growing even amid unfavorable economic and political conditions.’
According to experts’ forecasts, the most favored summer educational programs among Russians will be language courses in Malta, summer children’s and youth camps in Bulgaria, and also short-term courses in the UK and the US. The general trend is as follows: the bestsellers are either relatively budget-friendly ‘holidays + education’ packages, or expensive, but high-quality tours to the UK, Switzerland or the US.

However, even a two-week trip to Malta as part of a children’s educational program that includes ‘submersion’ into a language environment and 40 English classes will hardly be budget-friendly, since its price starts at 1.5 thousand euros. A similar program in the UK will cost the same, but in pounds.

‘Assessing the situation objectively, I can conclude that the most optimal solution in summer of 2014 both for children and for adults will be an educational tour to Malta,’ says Iveta Shefler. ‘High quality of education, security, a wide range of holiday opportunities, straightforward visa procedures and transport affordability all speak in its favor.’
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