Defining Economic Attraction one ‘segment’ at a time
In last week’s Weekly Blog I questioned the relative importance of a place having economic attraction (being attractive) as well as having specific attractions.
I think that Brighton & Hove City needs more of both.
But what is attractive to one person may not be so attractive to others. I think that we need to define:
What does economic attraction mean for various groups of people in Brighton & Hove City and the City Region.
Attraction for International Language Students
In last week’s blog I offered a list of things that might drive attraction for; business people, students and families. But what about the large, transient, segment of the student population that is International Language Students? Maybe for them the chemistry of economic attraction is about:
- the quality of their ‘Homestay’ experience (e.g. Half-Board with local families)
- ease of access to London
- the City as an interesting cultural and tourist destination
- proximity to the sea-side and associated recreation and night life
- the amount of air conditioning!
- having a wide range of cuisines on offer
- ease of travelling around the City / Region
- a strong arts scene and culture offering as well as progression and innovation.
I’m curious that only the last two suggestions overlap with my previous ‘attraction’ list for business people, (other types of) students and families.
The chemistry of attraction for each group is likely to be different and potentially at odds with each other.
The ‘Homestay’ market in Brighton and the City Region
‘Homestay’ – where language students live with local families. This is usually on a Full or Half-Board basis, so that they can immerse themselves in the language in an informal, friendly environment.
I have heard many positive reports from hosts about the Homestay experience. Such as the opportunity to meet people from other countries and to learn about each other’s cultures. I have also picked up ad-hoc comments about the variable quality of hosted accommodation. Many student have to travel some distance from their homestay to their language schools. Also comments about the variable quality of public transport available to facilitate that daily journey. There is also anecdotal feedback that homestay may not always be very homely – with hosts doing little to look after their guests other than the minimum required.
I don’t have any proper data so I don’t know if there is a problem but there might be. Hopefully those who manage the homestay market in Brighton & Hove can confirm all is ok.
The impact of global accommodation portals
I do know that some language students are shunning the traditional homestay services provided by the language schools. They are booking their accommodation direct through the major online short-let platforms. Arguably they can find better, more central rooms with greater flexibility.
Is it cheaper? Possibly! It appears that Schools are making a significant margin on the homestay accommodation that is provided by families across the City Region. Looking at the prices charged to students and the fees paid to the hosts, Schools have been making between 10% – 28% margin on every homestay night.
Perhaps the language school market is so popular because it is as much about short-term property letting as it is about language education?
What is there left to hold on to when the market shifts?
Advances in online services have repeatedly disrupted and re-defined markets. Are we heading for a major shift in the homestay market? Will the online accommodation rental platforms take over the Schools’ Accommodation Officer role? Will they provide a more economically efficient market that improves quality and student experience? If the volume of homestay sold by the Schools falls, will profits in language schools tumble? Will this in turn drive a re-structure in the market to drive down tuition costs, create a new market in student experience services and increase the proportion of tuition that is done online? For example, by international teaching portals such as VIPKID?
When that happens the international language student market in Brighton & Hove could evaporate.
Unless the chemistry is strong.
When students can go anywhere in the world to learn English – why would they pick Brighton & Hove?
Key point: Unless we can make Brighton & Hove even more attractive to the various groups that frequent the City Region – we risk losing chunks of the economy to other more attractive destinations in the UK and internationally. This is illustrated by the scenario sketched out above.
Over 500 views of the last Weekly Blog on LinkedIn last week and the number of visitors to my website up 124% on the usual level – Thank you for your interest.