Welcome to our newest member – EBI Consulting
Interview with Roger Charles, President
Tell us your story. How did EBI Consulting get started?
EBI Education Group Inc. started 22 years ago after I left the position of Director General of the ISTC in Copenhagen. I returned to Canada and with two partners, we decided to start a business that would help Canadian post-secondary institutions market their educational offerings on the world stage. International education, which is now a priority business for many educational institutions, was just starting to take off as a key financial driver rather than solely as a diversity enhancer for these organisations. Most Canadian institutions at that time were focused on Japan and Hong Kong. China was just opening up. We focused on the Caribbean. It quickly became apparent that specialising in such a small market would not be sustainable. So, we were the first organisation to take teams from Canadian post-secondary institutions into the US and Latin America as well as Africa to attract more students to Canada.
What makes EBI Consulting different from your competitors?
There are many consulting firms with many highly qualified partners and directors. In order to differentiate ourselves from the market, we focused on developing a risk management product that is available online. We have been testing the system with secondary schools to ensure it meets their needs. In addition, one of our teams is working with the Standards Council of Canada and the ISO community to help develop international standards globally. We are focused on the youth and student travel market and offer a spectrum of consulting services ranging from strategic planning to business development to change management, but we also have a key product offering. In addition, although headquartered in Canada, we have offices in Europe, Asia and Africa, providing a global perspective to our clients’ needs.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
Years ago, EBI Group won a contract with the Canadian government to help Canadian young graduates gain work experience internationally. Working with a member of ISTC at that time, M&J Travel of Ghana, we were the only organisation in the whole of Canada to offer real work experiences for Canadians in Africa in both French and English. We were able to place them in jobs across West Africa, ranging from the Ghana Stock Exchange to an International Research Centre in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. EBI was able to facilitate unique and positive experiences for the young graduates as well as the receiving organisations.
What can we expect to see from EBI Consulting in the future?
EBI Consulting will continue to work and refine its risk management product and it is our goal to be the premier consultant in risk management in the youth and student tourism market. In parallel, we will continue to grow our business in the consulting areas of market penetration, strategic planning and change management. Additionally, our team is working on a destination developing and marketing strategy. This strategy will help local communities fully develop their tourism potential by better connecting them to UNESCO World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves as well as youth accommodation and educational opportunities around the world.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
All the data we have been receiving and analysing recently indicates that the growth in the educational and active youth travel market will continue to expand more rapidly than the general tourism market as it has been doing for the past few decades. The key drivers and challenges for this growth are the growing wealth of the middle classes in China and India in particular and the populist barriers that are being put up in Europe and North America in particular. We remain fully optimistic that young people will always be able to overcome the barriers that events and circumstances sometimes impose upon them.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with EBI Consulting?
This is our business. We have developed a very comprehensive system of checks to ensure any young person and, anyone planning for a group of young people to travel can assess their risks in their activities and destinations in a methodical and realistic way prior to departure. In addition, our system addresses how to deal with concerns that may arise once the group is travelling and we provide back up support for them whilst they are travelling.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
We became aware that the WYSE Travel Confederation was trying to address the issues of risk for young people and we thought we had some insights that might be useful to the Confederation. We met at WYSTC in Montreal with the Travel Safety Advisory Panel tasked with responsibility of risk and they said they would be interested in having one of our team on the Committee. We saw value in having an active role in the youth and student travel community; as well, we saw a match between our expertise and the growing needs of this new sector within WYSETC. In order to participate, we needed to be a member, so we decided to join WYSETC.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? If so, what was your experience with the event?
I can honestly say I created WYSTC. As the Director General of the ISTC, I worked with Peter de Jong who was then the Secretary General of FIYTO, to put the first WYSTC together in Rio in 1992. So my connections to WYSTC go back to the very beginning although it has been more than 10 years since I last was involved with the organisation.
Moreover, a number of the EBI team members in their previous professional work have attended WYSETC events and had positive and successful outcomes. These positive outcomes were also a key factor in our decision to join WYSETC.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?
We are a small private operator with a certain expertise in risk management. The British Standards Institute as well as many other governmental or educational organisations offer simple guides for travel advisory and risk management. However, risk management is more complicated and detailed than these general guidelines would suggest. Most of the organisations in our industry as well as more broadly may feel they meet the minimum necessary requirements, whereas in fact they are just working within guidelines. In today’s world, parents are more concerned about the safety of their children and other young travellers; ironically, in my view, because of the ubiquity of instant communications. Organisations which are well prepared and with comprehensive tools will benefit commercially from promoting their risk management certification. Consequently, the challenge is to persuade tourism providers that to do a proper risk analysis of a given destination is more than just checking the advisory of the government about the destination. This is our challenge in the industry.
concerned about the risks of group travel particularly as they pertain to the youth and student international travel sector.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Service provider member
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