- Tell us your story. How did CHE Intercultural Exchange get started?
CHE started out back in around 1991 as a not-for-profit company under the name ‘Cultural Homestay in Europe’ (abbreviated to C.H.E.). It was a small but successful family-run business which gradually grew from offering homestay programmes in one area, to multiple areas across the UK.
In the late 1990s the company was purchased by ISA Inc, Japan and became part of the ISA Group, specialising in educational programmes exclusively for Japanese school groups and individuals. The operation diversified and in addition to our short-term homestay programmes, C.H.E acted as agent for ISA here in the UK; outsourcing groups to other providers such as language schools and offering a guardianship scheme for long-term Japanese students.
Business continued smoothly, and in January 2019, the company’s status changed from being a not-for-profit organization. However, due to government regulations, the company’s name also had to change. Therefore, the name was changed to CHE Intercultural Exchange Ltd.
CHE Intercultural Exchange Ltd continues to offer the same services across multiple homestay areas and outsource several school groups to trusted partners and language schools.
- What differentiates CHE Intercultural Exchange from its competitors?
CHE specializes exclusively in serving the Japanese market. Our attention to detail at every level and customer service, provided in both English and Japanese, for our Japanese clientele are exemplary, even in comparison to well-established, large Japanese travel agents. Our area of expertise is specific to educational tourism for 12–17 year olds, where we have accumulated in-depth knowledge in this niche market.
We also have close links with a few UK secondary schools, with whom we collaborate to introduce extraordinarily successful exchange trips.
- What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
On a personal level, the work we have done with UK secondary schools to promote Japanese-UK exchange trips is incredibly rewarding. I have been working here for nearly 17 years, and during that time, I have witnessed numerous British children embark on international careers in or connected to Japan, inspired by the experiences that CHE has made possible. Similarly, Japanese students have been introduced to the UK and have developed a greater global awareness, leading them to work overseas. It may sound like a cliché, but attending the certificate presentation ceremonies for these school exchanges always evokes strong emotions within me. Perhaps it’s because of my own experience living overseas, but I can genuinely see the positive impact our programs have on not only the students but also everyone involved in delivering them. Our work breaks down barriers and fosters a deeper understanding of other cultures.
- What can we expect to see from CHE Intercultural Exchange in the future?
After a challenging couple of years, CHE is now focused on expanding our homestay areas and building new relationships with language schools and other providers to meet the growing demand. Japan was one of the last major economies to fully ease its COVID-related travel regulations, and we are now seeing a surge in business as Japanese travellers seek to now go abroad.
- Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
Japanese youth travel focuses on instilling the notion of fostering individuals with a more global perspective. Traditionally, Japan has been perceived as a culture that looks inward, and its education system has been criticized for suppressing individuality. However, there is currently a movement to cultivate more globally aware young individuals, following the lead of other countries that have been doing so for a longer time. The current trend in Japan is to develop programs that cater to this demand.
- How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with CHE Intercultural Exchange?
CHE adheres to a child protection policy and complies with regulations established by the UK Government, including group ratios, DBS checks, regular visits to host families, and more. Our parent company in Japan also comprehends these policies and has implemented systems to ensure thorough participant screening and the collection of complete medical information, among other measures.
- What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
Joining WYSE Travel Confederation allows me to stay informed about news relevant to our sector and seize opportunities to establish connections with other organizations.