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Compass International takes the Lead on Educational Tours

Direction determines destination is the perfect adage that describes the passion, Lissy Donald, managing director, Compass International has for promoting educational tours. In a candid interview with TBMEs Charmaine Fernz, she talks about her love for moulding students into independent individuals through focused tour programmes and what lies ahead…

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Compass International is all about giving direction to students and youth of the country. The company strongly believes in the phrase ‘direction determines destination’. With the ideology of providing a pathway for success to students at a young age, the word ‘Compass’ was adopted in its business title.

Donald is of the opinion that today’s students need to keep up with the pace at which the world is changing. This will not be achieved with just the regular schooling. Previously, parents/student put a lot of emphasis and dependence on book knowledge but today, it is all about world knowledge and innovative technology.

To cater for this ever-evolving world, Compass International offers a range of packages and programmes to mould a kid’s identity using travel as its medium. The first step adopted is the understanding of a students’ perspective in terms of their career. However, according to Donald, it is important to recognise the gift a kid possesses. Citing a personal example, wherein she wanted her daughter to be a doctor or an engineer but she had other plans. My daughter was keen to pursue a career in business. Though reluctant, I supported her decision and today she has a successful business career. Another facet is that Donald also encouraged her daughters to travel on educational tours which opened their minds and made them independent thinkers.

NASA Space Camp

Charting the Course

With a deep passion for the business, Compass International ensures that every package designed for students have an educational takeaway. The team that puts the programmes together focuses on aspects such as time management, finance management and teamwork. Students opting for the NASA Space Camps are amazed by what they learn during their visit. The programme certainly takes the limits off their thinking. If one has to go by statistics, Compass International has successfully handled more than 4,000 students on the US trips.

An analysis of students are also gauged pre and post tours. Many kids prior to going on these tours may suffer from low self-esteem, low self-confidence or even lack teamwork. However, travelling with other students opens their mind, builds their confidence while simultaneously brings to life their credibility. The educational tours also ensure students learn something new every day through different experiences and not just merely sightseeing.

By adopting these methods, students are moulded to face the world more confidently and not get bogged down with pressures. It is also very satisfying to see students who have attended our programmes take up leadership roles in schools, be part of debates and scholarship classes. We are proud that we are helping students build not just in their knowledge but also life skills.

The Concept

If one has to gauge the overall upbringing of UAE kids, it undoubtedly in a very protective environment. With this mindset, the tours are designed to help students explore their skills and have a stronger grasp of worldly knowledge. The tours also ensure a safe environment with teachers and the company’s team members. It is truly amazing to see some underestimated students just open up.

In the tours conducted, there is a programme conducted titled – ‘Week without Walls’. This is a one-week programme encouraging students to learn how to communicate and work as a team. The tour destinations are also selected based on focus areas. For example, students interested in drama and theatre are offered UK tours, wherein they are given an opportunity to attend a Shakespeare workshop; If it is arts, the Italy tour is on offer. For music enthusiasts, Austria and Budapest fit the bill, giving these students also an opportunity to perform at some main events. All programmes are thought-out with a reason and purpose. With the focus areas ranging from sport, music, adventure, business, entrepreneurship, science, English and much more.

With a lot of hard work and perseverance, the UAE schools are more accepting to the concept and this involves low budget schools too. Subsequently, parents’ apprehension was also being addressed when they see a change in other students who have participated in these tours.

Students participating in educational activities

The Product

Having well-established ourselves in the education segment. The company is being recognised by the travel trade for its detailed tours. The approach to schools is direct as Compass International is the regional partners for the NASA space camp. Some travel agents who directly book the space camp tours from Compass are also assisted in their bookings.

In terms of the product, the average duration of tour ranges from five night six days to 10 nights 11 days or even 12 nights 13 days trips. In an effort to make these tours more accessible, parents can opt for the instalment schemes. Overall, the average cost that a family will incur per kid would range from US$ 5,000 up to US$ 15,000 depending on the destination, duration of tour and most importantly, the time of travel. Asian destinations are more cost-effective and fit into the US$ 5,000 budget while Europe would fit into the medium-range budget at US$ 8,000-10,000. The US tours priced at US$ 15,000 though expensive offer tours to the NASA Space Camp along with excursions to other cities in the US. All tours offered are inclusive of airfare, accommodation and insurance.

Students that participate in these tours are normally accepted from grade 7 to grade 13 (12 – 18 years). However, some enthusiastic parents send kids who are even in grade 5 (9 years old). Ultimately, it must be understood that the investment incurred give parents live results.

The students result is the outcome of persistence and the result is our partnership the GEMS Group, wherein Compass International are the preferred service provider for all their schools (almost 48) in the UAE. The company also works with Innoventures Education Group. A recent assignment involved handling six groups simultaneously to six different countries from DIA. These were to Nepal, China, London, Germany, Georgia and China.

The Way Ahead

Compass International is of the opinion that there is a lot of growth potential for this segment. This is evident from growth over the years. Some of the Royal family kids have also been part of the tours which encourages local families to partake in such activities. Plans are underway by Compass in terms of working with the KHDA and Ministry of Education to showcase a product titled Destination Imagination. This is a 30-year-old institution which focuses on 21st-century learning skill programmes to equip students to face any new challenges. The company is their regional strategic partner.

In terms of product, constant innovation is the only solution. New destinations are constantly explored and some of the new additions to the list are Croatia, The Netherlands and Australia. Compass International is keen to work with travel agents who understand the benefit of conducting these tours. As Donald concludes, “Our objective is that travel agents should see the students benefit and not just consider this a regular tour being organised. We are also working on a complete product list to be distributed to travel agents. Finally, we are open work exclusively with travel agents who can and know how to distribute our products.”