“Most” study travel agencies in China describe the impact of Covid as “under control” despite a drop in enrolments as a result of the pandemic, according to new BONARD research.
In its fourth annual update, BONARD’s Agent Marker Report, which was presented in a webinar chaired by COO Igor Skibickij and China branch manager Grace Zhu, research showed that two in five agents in the country are even optimistic for 2023.
“The world needs China and China needs the world, metaphorically speaking,” Skibickij told The PIE.
“We think this year the administration will find a recipe on how to gradually open the borders with reasonable contingencies in place,” he continued.
“In a way, it’s similar to buying and selling stocks – when they go down in value you don’t sell; you buy more. “In China now it is more affordable to set up recruitment; there is less competition, less pressure – this is the time to build up your capacity,” he added.
The setup in the country looks at the cities in a tier system of one to four. Tier 1 Cities include Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, while cities in tiers 2-4 include Tianjin, Nanjing and Qingdao.
With 439 active agencies surveyed, it was found that 97% were still actively promoting higher ed in their product lines in tier 1 cities – and, for the most part, are promoting the UK over the US. Short-term programs are only promoted at 34% of establishments, and 29% promote K-12 pathways.
In terms of tier 2-4 cities, all agents surveyed were found to promote higher ed, and 81% also work with K-12 programs. However all but one have given up promoting short-term programs.
Despite the drop in promotion of short term programs in all cities, Grace Zhu said:
“Most agents remain optimistic following the impact of the pandemic.”
“I am happy to get in touch with providers in all destinations because I know it will get better sooner or later; we’ve already seen bounce-back in the UK and we just prepare for it,” one agent said when they were surveyed.
On the future, trends show there is optimism that the economy will open gradually and new projects will begin to get off the ground.
“We have reason to believe that Xi Jinping will continue to promote international cooperation and development, and accelerate opening-up of China’s economy,” said Skibickij.
“We believe that, to a certain extent, this will also drive emergence for new fields of study and new study destinations for Chinese students,” he added.
Agents are also scoring well in the eyes of students in China, too. The research covered a student survey which revealed that they are still the preferred channel for “organising a study abroad experience”. Destination-wise, North America is still the preferred choice for university students.
However, it was noted during the webinar that interest in the US has suffered as a result of recent events. “There is a safety concern and anti-Chinese sentiment in the US, which makes it more difficult to convince Chinese students to pursue studies,” said Skibickij.
Australia, however, has a “very strong recruitment and momentum” in China.
For K-12 students, the UK and Western Europe are still the first choice, with UK boarding schools being the “most competitive” in terms of destination. “But US should become attractive again once the situation normalises and juniors are more encouraged to travel abroad,” Skibickij made clear.