Dubai, UAE: A new company is hoping to break into the booming school travel industry by offering customised, curriculum-based overseas packages to pupils.
The Teach Company, formed six months ago after a merger between two school travel operators in India, has spent the past week meeting parents and schools in Dubai proposing its educational tours.
“There is no big brand in this market. There is no established brand in the educational experiences space,” said K G Vishwanath, the company’s chief executive, who left a job as Jet Airways’ vice president to lead the venture.
Last year, about 220 million young travellers, or about 10 per cent of the record-setting 1.1 billion international tourists, set out on overseas school trips, according to the World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation, an association of school travel companies.
In 2013, student travel generated an estimated US$230 billion (Dh845bn) worldwide, the association said.
The demand for international educational travel experiences in a safe setting is such that some schools have resorted to dedicating full-time staff to organising them.
“It is demanded by the students and the teachers and the schools encourage that,” said Richard Monterio, principal at Bilva Indian School in Al Qusais.
At Gems Modern Academy in Nad Al Sheba, about 40 per cent of the pupils take part in one of the many travel opportunities offered by the school.
“We firmly believe that education outside the classroom is as important as what happens inside the classroom,” said Nargish Khambatta, the principal.
Mrs Khambatta said the school offers both themed tours focused on a specific topic and more general ones.
Members of the school’s orchestra will soon go on a violin tour, in which they will perform in Vienna, Austria.
Science and space buffs can visit Nasa, in an annual trip, to meet astronauts and get a first-hand lesson in rocket science.
Foreign language students can fly to Nice to immerse themselves in French for a week.
“We try to link it to the curriculum,” Mrs Khambatta said. “They go to Nice every year for the Centre Mediterraneen d’Etudes Francaises course and they live there for a week, they do all sorts of traditional French classes and they get the experience.”
Some experiences, such as mountain trekking, are not directly linked to the curriculum but are just as enriching, Mrs Khamatta said, as the children gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the environment and ecology.
Repton School Dubai, in Nad Al Sheba, said it used British travel agencies to help it plan overseas trips.
“We also have the capacity to organise in-house trips,” said Graham Malkin, the school’s outdoor education and events manager.
“We are one of the only schools in the UAE who employ staff with qualifications in mountaineering, kayak, canoe instruction and backgrounds in risk assessment.”
Although most the school’s trips have been within the UAE, Mr Malkin said interest in international travel has been on the rise.
The school offers an annual ski trip to Switzerland, trekking adventures through the jungle in Borneo and volunteering trips to Ethiopia and Nepal.
Even if they are not directly linked with the curriculum, international travel experiences “form a vital part of our pupils’ personal and social development”, said Mr Malkin.
© The National