Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports the business?
Linguastay is a small family-run organisation, so my role is split between sales and operations, depending on the season. On the sales side, I liaise with overseas travel agents and manage the bookings calendar. I’m also responsible for marketing directly to agents, notably our summer ‘English Friends’ programme where we integrate local teenagers into all aspects of the overseas students’ activities.
I also oversee all elements of programme delivery, from initial booking to departure. This includes not only sourcing and booking activity provision, but also researching and developing new programmes. It is my job to coordinate providers and students to deliver the best and most enjoyable educational experience.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
This isn’t advice, as such, but something I try to bear in mind every day, especially navigating the challenges Covid-19 has posed:
“It is the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.” from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, reminds me that the relationships our students and host families cultivate, during stays, are at the core of our ethos and that our role is to facilitate a experience that is (as the quote continues) “unique in all the world” by “creating ties”, connecting these individuals together. This is our motivation to continue working hard every day.
If you were not working in this sector what other industry would you have pursued a career in?
I would have been delighted in any role that involved working with young people. After completing my BA in French and Spanish, I considered undertaking a PGCE, but after a few stints in summer camps both in the UK and Spain, I found an organisation with strong ties to my local community of Chester and knew I would be very happy!
What is coming up for your company in the next 12/18 months?
We are really excited to introduce Virtual Homestay where we have been working with our existing families to deliver a linguistic experience which maximises the opportunities for language learning in a digital environment. This can work independently or to complement a trip, so that students can gain confidence by talking to local people before they arrive. Participants so far have said it helped them improve their English a lot.
We are also busy preparing to welcome groups to our new London centre. We are originally based in Chester, but have recruited lovely new families and a setting that is warm, welcoming, and ideal for overseas visitors to learn in Homestay. Spaces will be available from Autumn 2022.
As an association what one thing do you think we have done that has made a real difference to our members during the crisis?
Before we joined BETA, we had found that homestay organisations, such as ours, were not well represented. We are firstly grateful for the moral support, which has been invaluable, and also for keeping us informed of any initiatives to support our sector.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry, what is the one thing that you have learnt personally or professionally during this time?
On a personal and professional level I have learnt that we work best out of our comfort zone. We know there is a need to come back more efficient and ‘attractive’ than ever. This has meant undertaking new projects including an overhaul of our presence online, including social media, and commissioning brand new CRM software, to make our clients’ and families’ experience as seamless as possible. On both these projects we have been very fortunate to work with recent graduates on placement through the University of Chester.
What are your crystal ball forecasts for the period ahead and how quickly do you think your business can recover from the pandemic?
It’s reassuring to hear that the desire to travel has never dissipated, but there are still barriers. Individual travellers may take advantage of last-minute changes and deals, but parents, students, teachers, and travel agents need time to plan.
We hope that, by offering as much flexibility as possible, we can give clients the confidence to travel and hope to operate on a smaller, more bespoke basis next year, and to recover in 2023.
Published 01 November 2021