Language learners as cultural tourists: Development potential of the English language learning tourism market in South Africa
Travel in order to learn English has become an enormous global industry, and in recent years South Africa has started to feature more prominently in the plans of English language learning tourists from all over the world. While the academic product tends to be similar wherever it is offered, the potential for added value lies in the ‘English Plus’ market, where the learning of English is only part of the total product, the rest being made up of travel, cultural, sporting and other activities. While the international market for English language learning tourism is more than 1.4 million and growing, South Africa has managed to attract less than 2% of this market. A survey was conducted during 2015 among 250 English language learners at 16 English language schools throughout South Africa, the main objective being to gather information on the activity preferences of students. It was found that cultural activities feature prominently in students’ activity preferences. In the increasingly competitive world of English language teaching and learning, the tourism attractiveness of the destination is certain to feature more prominently in the decision making of those who want to learn English, but need to decide where. South Africa can create competitive advantage by packaging its English language learning tourism offerings into something uniquely African, with a focus on location-based cultural activities, that will enable it to distinguish itself from destinations offering similar academic products.
Keywords: English, language learning, tourism, South Africa.
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