OVERSEAS STUDENTS A HUGE BOOST FOR PLYMOUTH
FOREIGN students present a major economic opportunity for Plymouth but they need to be welcomed for their spend to spread around the city, an expert says.
James Deacon has just joined North Hill-based Clever Student Lets as sales manager with a brief to build the firm’s work with overseas students.
And with a background as events manager at the Pavilions and on the board of Conference Plymouth, Mr Deacon said maximising the economic opportunities presented by students was as key as attracting conferences and expos to the city.
“It’s about bringing people to Plymouth one way or another,” he said, “but expanding from a national target to an international target.” Mr Deacon said the UK had, in the past, treated students as “almost second-class citizens”.
But a new generation of overseas students was bringing huge amounts of cash to the UK – and Plymouth.
He said they were wealthier than their British counterparts and the challenge was to persuade these students to part with that cash in the city – and throughout the city.
Mr Deacon hopes Plymouth’s businesses and organisations can work closely to ensure the city provides an attractive draw for that money.
“We want to make sure we see students as an asset,” he said. “I want to see them treated like delegates, like guests in this city.
“We have students with a spending power of £25,000 a year – it’s a huge amount of money.
“We want to make sure that is not just going to the big chains, but pushing it around so it goes into the city.
“The whole city can benefit from the influx. We need, as a city, to provide accommodation, retail, restaurants, and start working together to produce a better offer so that spend comes to the Plymouth and Devon area,” he said.
“Then we need to push their spend around the city.
“And there are ways we can spread it.
“We need to make students feel the city cares, make them feel it’s a home, not just a stopover.
“Part of the reason I have been brought on board here (at Clever Student Lets) is because I’m a specialist in selling the city.
“We want to shake things up and offer the city on a platter to international students.
“Plymouth is an asset and if it works together it can shout about how good it is.”
Mr Deacon has left the board of Conference Plymouth, but is still involved in some projects.
During his time with the organisation he was involved in bringing the conferences of the GMB union and Rotary 1110 District to Plymouth, and also marketing the city at the huge International Confex show in London.
He said the 2020 anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to America 400 years before would provide an opportunity to attract US students.
And he said that if foreign students could be persuaded to stay in Plymouth after completing their degrees that would benefit the city too.
“If we can get people to see the benefits of the South West we retain them,” he said.
(Publicity generated by Dorcas Media).