The global language travel market, despite being hit hard in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated decline of 80%, has shown resilience thanks to the rise of online language learning platforms, indicating a persistent demand for language skills, particularly in English. Before the crisis, the market was strong, with around 3 million bookings a year and a value in the billions. The main players were language travel agencies, associations and specialist agencies with their own language schools. English remained the main language of interest, fuelling a market largely dominated by the UK, USA, Canada and emerging destinations such as Malta.

The French market, in particular, although in need of rejuvenation, generated 300 million euros in revenues and was mainly aimed at the 10-25 age bracket. The number of working professionals seeking to improve their language skills to enhance their career prospects is on the rise, with a marked preference for different language learning formats and rapidly evolving digital booking trends. The market remains highly fragmented, with a trend towards consolidation among established organizations.

Evolving trends in the French language travel market

The language travel market in France shows an interesting pattern, characterized by traditional demand combined with a search for innovative offerings to rekindle interest. initially, the market's main demographic was the 19-25 age group, but recent trends point to growing participation from young people, and adults over 30. Growing interest in language learning, particularly English, remains an unwavering motivation for participating in language holidays, with three quarters of the market focused on improving English proficiency. Key figures suggest that between 300,000 and 350,000 young people take part in language courses, 10-30% of whom are over the age of 30.

These language stays often last between two and four weeks, which is the classic duration preferred by learners. Market dynamics show that while around 80% of professional participants have their language stays financed by their company, local authorities and associations also step in to facilitate these educational trips for students, depending on family income. It's clear that language skills, particularly in English, are considered essential in the workplace, with an overwhelming majority of French companies recognizing a growing need for English-speaking employees.

What's more, booking methods are changing significantly, with a growing trend towards last-minute online bookings, which account for between 30% and 40% of total bookings. This move towards digitization and the Internet-induced competitive landscape have made price a crucial factor for consumers, fostering a market that is increasingly sensitive to cost-effective offers. The multiplicity of language stay programs is vast, ranging from multi-activity, family, immersive, home-stay, university and work experience programs. This eclectic range responds to the diverse objectives and preferences of language learners who, today more than ever, appreciate the addition of cultural and leisure elements to their educational activities.

In terms of regulation, the French market is well protected by certifications that serve as a benchmark for quality. Bodies such as the Office national de garantie des séjours et stages linguistiques (ONGSSL) and the Union nationale des organismes de séjours éducatifs et linguistiques et des écoles de langues (UNOSEL) play an essential role in ensuring compliance with strict quality standards. These bodies not only guarantee the excellent quality of courses and the safety and reliability of host families, but also play a key role in maintaining consumer confidence.

Overall, the language travel market in France is going through an evolutionary phase, marked by the diversity of consumer demands, digital booking trends and a constant desire to adapt to an increasingly competitive environment The French language travel landscape features a wide range of reputable organizations, each with its own history, portfolio of services and approach to offering immersive language experiences.

Several major historical players, which have evolved over the decades, dominate the scene, along with dozens of smaller agencies and associations that cater to the nuanced demands of language learners. Here's a look at the pillars of the language travel industry.

  • Nacel: With a heritage spanning more than half a century, Nacel is a veteran of the language travel industry. It offers a wide range of programs, from classic language stays to high school exchange programs, and caters to a broad spectrum of language enthusiasts. Nacel's emphasis on cultural immersion is in line with its mission to promote language skills and global citizenship.
  • ESL - Language Travel: ESL is a global entity renowned for its wide range of language courses and destinations. It tailors its experiences to learners of all ages, ensuring that a teenager or adult walks through its doors and a suitable and rewarding language adventure awaits. ESL's personalized approach and extensive network of partner schools guarantee a wide selection of language learning contexts, from bustling cities to serene villages.
  • Education First (EF): Renowned for pioneering the "learn while you travel" concept, EF's scope extends from language courses for all age groups to university programs. EF's commitment to innovation in language teaching is evident in its use of technology and in the establishment of EF schools in various international locations, which serve as centers of cultural exchange and language development.
  • Cap Monde: Cap Monde brings flexibility and diversity to the language travel market. It prides itself on offering educational trips that go beyond language learning to include cultural appreciation and personal development. Adapted to groups and individual students, Cap Monde's programs are infused with a spirit of adventure that makes language learning an exciting experience.
  • Go and Live Group: A modern entity in the language travel business, Go and Live Group embodies a conglomerate of brands, including NACEL and CLC. It focuses on dynamic and innovative educational experiences ranging from language camps to internships abroad. The group's growth and diversification strategies reflect its commitment to meeting the changing needs of today's language learners.
  • PEEP: As an association governed by the French law of 1901, PEEP (Association des parents d'élèves) is committed to language learning
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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Market definition and presentation

The language holidays are stays of varying length by young people and adults in a foreign country, in order to to learn or improve their learning of the language of the country .

This market is developing in an era of globalisation and the need today to speak several languages, particularly in the professional world. Thus, language trips represent a fun alternative to this learning, whether they are carried out in total immersion in a family, in a language school, in immersion in a foreign school, between one week and one year, or in the context of a summer camp punctuated by daily language classes

And indeed, this market is very fragmented, because of all the travel alternatives that exist, but it is also a very promising market. It is estimated to be worth several billion euros with approximately 3 million bookings each year

Among the major players in the market are traditionally language travel agencies s, of the associations and specialized agencies owners of their own language schools.

In recent years, the offers and proposed formulas are evolving, as well as the audiences involved. The offer has expanded to include more countries, even though command of English remains the primary motivation for this type of stay.

The coronavirus crisis in 2020 has had a strong impact on this market which, with travel restrictions, falls by around 80% compared to 2019. Nevertheless, during this economically catastrophic year, many French people have registered on online platforms and applications to learn languages. This shows a growing interest in language learning, especially English, making the language travel market all the more promising in the aftermath of the crisis


List of charts

  • Destination des séjours linguistiques
  • Âge des étudiants en séjour linguistique
  • Matières les plus essentielles selon les parents
  • Langues étrangères les plus étudiées dans le monde
  • Motifs du choix des séjours linguistiques et des cours de langue
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Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Cap Monde
CLC (Go & Live Groupe)
Verdié Voyage
EF International
ESL (Kaplan International)
ESL ALPADIA Language Schools (Kaplan groupe)
Langues Vivantes
Action Séjours

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