ALTO pricing initiative and the threat of commoditisation. Is there really a risk?

“Plenty of schools nowadays fall into the trap of making assumptions about what students need, offering the broadest range of options possible”

The language travel industry is trying to get a step ahead by standardising the method schools use to deliver pricing to agents across the globe. Caetê da Silva, social business designer at Taea ry, writes about how ALTO’s plan for an industry standard for language travel bookings could help schools to innovate.

I remember a few years ago I was discussing this issue with some industry colleagues, including Mr. Carlos Robles (former BELTA president). By the time my main question was: Why do agents have to, one by one, input several pricing systems for the same school, many times during the year, manually?

Finally – and I have to give credit – followed by an initiative by ALTO board member Thiago España, ALTO is on the way to having language schools standardise their pricing system. The output shall be a one-fits-all file that allow agents to implement these pricing systems easily to their operations.

I could spend time here going over the operational advantages that this initiative brings, such as fewer mistakes, agility to agents operations and broader distribution range to schools.

But I won’t.

I want to use this space to discuss a possible issue raised by language schools regarding this innovation: commoditisation.

Said a language school owner during our recent conversation: “Listen, Cae: As great as it sounds to agents, what is being proposed here is that my school will just be another language school in a listing space. Why would I want that?”

“Is your school the same as the others?” I asked him. Of course, it is not.

Every school has its own sets of capabilities and strengths that are exclusive to it. If schools are not exploring these capabilities in full, there is where danger is.

Plenty of schools nowadays fall into the trap of making assumptions about what students need, offering the broadest range of options possible and more of these generic approaches.

What this new pricing policy and API from ALTO addresses for the industry is the true need to provide real and unique value to students.

Schools that currently fail to grow due to this generalist approach will face an opportunity to finally stop worrying with the insane process of educating agents about pricing policies.

They will finally be able to focus 100% of their efforts on creating real value and educating students and agents about what really matters about schools. Questioning their own assumptions about the market, go back to the drawing board and start to build the new reality of language schools: A reality that brings growth and profit back to schools based on delivering products that capture the needs of students and add huge value to them and to agents at the same time.