English UK's first inward mission to include agents from all over the world has been such a success that it is likely to be repeated.
12 agents from 11 countries including Iran, Sweden, Spain and South Korea spent a week visiting member centres in central and eastern England and experiencing tourist highlights including the World Heritage site of Ironbridge. Until now inward missions have focused on agents from particular markets.
"It was very worthwhile," said Roz Rozidor, international manager for English UK who led the trip. "The agents who came really wanted to know more about these regions, and loved what they saw. Our members remarked on what a great group they were, and have already had some interest in bookings. For them, what matters is having agents who really want to be there and seeing what they have to offer, and this group were very keen indeed.
"In addition, the agents told us they particularly liked it because they rarely get to meet colleagues doing similar work from other parts of the world. So it worked well for everyone, and we're likely to adopt this approach again in future."
The mission's focus on destination marketing, with plenty of sightseeing as well as visits to a mixture of member centres paid off. Many of the agents said they would send clients to this part of the UK in future, and 90% confirmed they are now considering working with one or more of the institutions they visited or learned more about during the mission.
"The trip was fantastic. It explored areas that are not known to many agents …the schedule was well organised and the places were an absolute pleasure to visit," said Osama Bala from Addiwan Agency for Educational Services, Libya one of English UK's Partner Agencies.
Experiences included visiting Acton Burnell Castle, where England's first full Parliament met, punting along the Cambridge Backs and walking tours of Shrewsbury, Peterborough and Cheltenham.
Visits to nine English UK member centres included sample lessons, class observation, and chances to meet students and host families, as well as to see facilities - including the world's most advanced whiteboard at Bell Cambridge. A workshop and two regional group dinners, hosted by English UK East and by English UK Central, provided more networking opportunities with an extended group of educators.
From feedback, 90 per cent of participants said they were more confident about promoting UK universities, colleges and private language centres as a result of the mission. Aigerim Izbassarova of King's Speech in Kazakhstan added: "It was really useful for me. First, I met new partners with whom I am planning to work. Next, during the mission I had a chance to talk to the students from my country and got their opinion about study in the UK. Finally, although the trip was very intensive, it was planned really well and agents had a chance to enjoy the Cambridge atmosphere, to go shopping in Cheltenham, to walk around English city centres, to get our own experience of England."
English UK members were pleased too. One member who attended the initial workshop has started working with two new agents as a result, while another said it was "useful, informative and money well spent." Janine Faulkner of St Michael's College, one of the showcase centres, noted the great nationality mix in the agent group, adding that: "All agents seemed to take an interest in the school."
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