The latest BONARD Blog Series focuses on the current market state and the reconstruction of English Language Travel.
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Surveys of language providers around the globe carried out by BONARD point to a 55%-60% recovery in 2022 and 90%+ recovery in 2023, as compared to 2019 levels.
The ravages of Covid-19 set back the number of students travelling abroad to learn English to levels unseen in the past decade. In 2020, 416,200 students took an English language course at a language school in one of the eight main destinations (Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the USA). Yet still, over 60% of students were deprived of fully face-to-face tuition and studied English either via a hybrid delivery model or purely online.
According to BONARD, a global market intelligence and strategic advisory firm that specialises in international education, English language student numbers dropped by 70% between 2019 and 2020, while student weeks declined by 56%. The more dramatic decline in student numbers was caused by a sharp fall in the junior segment, which had been continuously growing before the pandemic. In fact, three of the eight major destinations, namely the UK, Ireland, and Malta, were already hosting more junior students than adults.
Despite the halt to international student mobility, the industry has not witnessed as many school closures as one might have anticipated given the harsh market conditions. Between March 2020 and March 2022, BONARD registered 242 permanent closures (8% of approximately 3,100 English language schools operating before the pandemic in the eight major ELT destinations). Meanwhile, M&A activity sank to the lowest level seen since BONARD started to measure transactions in the sector in 2015. On the other hand, with recovery underway, BONARD predicts more joint marketing activity and strategic alliances, perhaps best represented by the recent merger of ILSC Education Group, ELS and Berlitz Corporation into Language Education Holdings, which was announced in February 2022.
Source: BONARD, 2022
It is safe to say that 2021 marked a switch from pandemic impact management to proactive business development and paved the way for initiatives aimed at rebuilding student pipelines. Some of these have already had a positive effect on bookings, as student numbers in those destinations which had opened their borders started to rise in Q3 and Q4 2021. There is cautious optimism in the industry, as language schools accelerate their staff rehiring processes to rebuild teaching capacity. In addition, we saw the first face-to-face B2B fam tour in late January 2022, which brought 30 selected Brazilian agencies to Canada, with a similar event for Mexican agencies taken place in March 2022.
Source: Languages Canada’s Inbound Missions from Brazil and Mexico, 2022
Looking at possible market reconstruction scenarios, incremental recovery in demand levels is predicted to continue. Surveys of language providers around the globe carried out by BONARD point to a 55%–60% recovery in 2022 and 90%+ recovery in 2023, as compared to 2019 levels.
Going forward, the market landscape will be determined by those who have adapted to and can navigate the circumstances and are able to work with partners and prospective customers by offering certainty in an age of uncertainty. Doing so will include contingency plans, continued flexibility in start dates, hybrid delivery modes, joint marketing activities, advanced information provision and, last but not least, student-oriented support schemes.
To secure its further development, the sector also needs to rally support from both education and tourism ministries, as it has become connected to both as never before. The English language sector often provides the first point of contact with a destination for young travellers and makes lasting future impacts, such as contributing to a stream of returning travellers and serving as a gateway to other international education sectors, including higher education and vocational education and training. For many destinations, the pathway effects of the ELT sector are greater than the value of the sector itself. Research conducted by English Australia and BONARD in Australia quantified that the loss in future pathways to other sectors was greater than the imminent loss for the ELICOS sector (AU$1.5 billion vs AU$1.2 billion).
Source: English Australia – Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the ELICOS Sector in Australia, 2021
Another imperative reason to regard the ELT sector as part of a broader, well-connected international education sector is that, given language schools have established partner networks and connections overseas as well as vast student recruitment experience and appeal for all age groups, they can be a significant force for destinations as they rebuild this sizeable export industry.
BONARD International Education Team
Head of Research
Head of Education
Senior Research Project Manager
Research Project Manager
If you are interested in more data and analysis from BONARD, you can now request the presentation on State of the sector in Canada by Samuel Vetrak, our CEO, shared at the Languages Canada Annual Conference in March 2022 as well as our latest company profile below.
Previous Int’l Education Releases
Welcoming international students and improving their language skills are essential for Canada to achieve its economic goals, the minister of immigration told the Languages Canada annual conference on Tuesday.