Group bookings are a treat for any Language school to receive and there is no doubt that the students traveling will have many expectations of what they will experience in a foreign land.
Good Hope Studies has been privileged to receive many groups and when a group chooses to visit your city or your school a great sense of pride takes over you and a feeling that the school is being recognized for past performance and organizational skills.
When dealing with a potential group booking the most important thing to establish is the reason for the planned trip. We would always advise the agent involved to establish the composition of the group, once you establish this, you will be on your way to creating a package for them. Will the group travel for research purposes? Are they a cultural exchange group? Are they university students completing a project? Or are they a junior / adult group interested in excursions and activities to enrich their lives? Often groups travel for leisure purposes and they carry in their mind a proposed itinerary they would like to follow.
In the many years that I have been a group’s coordinator at Good Hope Studies, I have had the pleasure of dealing with groups from all across the world including Angola, Algeria, Italy and the United States. Requests that are brought to our table are never too odd or abstract; we try our utmost to make any idea work. This is why it is imperative that the agency provides the comprehensive information on the reasons why the group is travelling from the beginning. Once this has been established, one needs to discern if there is a fixed or flexible budget. This will influence the type of accommodation that your group will experience as well as the nature of any optional extras.
Being armed with the stats relating to who will foot the bill, if the group has a subsidy or are they sponsored by a third party will go a long way towards preventing conflict. Information about payment is normally left to be surprise ammunition in negotiating a price but is far more useful if brought out at the very beginning of the group quote.
Group costs in our school are worked out around the biggest expenses first, what type of accommodation they want, whether they intend to study at the same time and what they will do in their free time. This bearing in mind that a group booking will entitle an agency to a higher discount and less administrative costs. One should never under estimate the appeal from the schools’ side; we are more likely to say yes to a group and all to their requests than to see them going someone else.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to have picked up on group trends and have had one major realization; adult groups do not have to report to anyone and are less flexible with their assignment help needs. They tend to not want to compromise on anything but are more financially flexible and as such they can leave decisions to arrival at their destination. They require less administration and planning but want specific ideas realized.
With the junior groups however the financial freedom is not there and as such the school would need to incorporate as many expenses in to the quote as possible to avoid added extras on arrival. Parents and guardians of juniors appreciate a detailed run-down of the entire group itinerary even as far as requesting that times for breakfast and dinner be added. As complex as the requests are they make for ease of understanding in addition they give a clear idea of what is included in the costs. In such a way any parent can decide if they are going to commit to a group travel or not. Leaving out
important details of an itinerary only results in repeat editing and huge amounts of administrative work.
To facilitate the success of a group course we also require the English language levels of the clients that have chosen to study with us. This is needed to enable us to compose material that is relevant to the age and the English ability of every individual student. It would be shortsighted for schools to only offer one set of material to each group. In the same way as we need to revise our offering and our prices, so course material is adapted to suit the market of the clientele.
While I feel most language schools are flexible and will do as much as possible to assist with requests and needs, agencies also need to allow the schools to give them practical advice. They also need to be aware that there are limits to the things that can be done on a budget. Agencies should give the group the information that they need about their selected destination prior to departure. For example such information includes weather patterns and cultural practices. Relatively little can be done to change the facts but it is better to be armed with them than to cause offense. To make any group visit a success agents need to heed advice from the school they are dealing with, be practical from the word go and also be upfront about finances.
Once these things are clear the results will speak for them selves in a thousand happy photographs that the groups will send upon their return.
Brenda Nyathi is Homestay & Groups Manager with Good Hope Studies (school profile | www.ghs.co.za). Located in Cape Town, South Africa, GHS offers a variety of English language courses and volunteering programmes to students from around the world.