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Were The Olympics Bad For Business?

Experienced TEFL recruiter Jon Duckett reflects on the impact this year’s games are had on the UK TEFL industry.

Summertime in London normally means a massive influx of foreign students to the capital eager to start their two week ‘TEFLcation’ and learn or improve their English. This year, however, the streets of London and the English language schools were a lot less busy than normal. Did the Olympics cause this significant drop in London TEFL student numbers, or was this only one of many contributing factors?

We’ve been hearing for months, if not years, that the Olympics would bring a lot of business to the UK. However at the end of the peak summer TEFL period London language schools actually reported a 35% drop in summer student numbers. What’s going on?

When you look at it, the most obvious reason students are likely to have stayed away from London this year is simply the increased cost of actually getting and then staying here. Flights into London from most western European countries in many cases more than doubled, compared with this time last year, and hotels also put their prices up by 50% or more. In addition to these basic price hikes, fear mongering in the media also served to impress on people just how unpleasant their stay could be once they arrive: due to chaos in the transport network or simply overcrowding in general in London. But are the Olympics at the root of all these issues?

I’m certainly of the opinion that hotels and airlines took the opportunity of the Olympics being in London to raise their prices, but I don’t think this is the whole story. We can’t forget just how strong the pound currently is compared with the Euro, or the weakness of many European economies right now. This means that Olympic price rises or not, coming to London to study English this year is simply more expensive at best, or unafforable at worst for many would be students.

Stepping back a bit further, it also becomes clear that, even with the right finances in place, some English learners simply can’t get into the UK. Since April 2011, Britain has made it increasingly hard for non EU citizens to enter the UK, and in a kind of crazy catch 22, keen English learners cannot get a visa to study in the UK because their level of English isn’t good enough. So what does this all mean for next year? Certainly by summer 2013 the Olympics will have faded into a memory, but that doesn’t necessarily mean London will be out of the spotlight. The increased focus the eyes of the world has given us this year may have repercussions well into the future and could actually help increase business in the medium term for UK-based private language schools. It doesn’t look likely that the visa restrictions will be relaxed any time soon, and who knows in what state the European and World economies will be in next year, but I for one am hopeful that the Olympics may well benefit UK Language schools in the coming years.

Jon Duckett is a director at London’s TEFL teacher recruitment portal <a href=”http://www.tefljobslondon.co.uk”>tefljobbslondon.co.uk</a>

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