The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Summer 2020 to be bleak for ELT industry - FELTOM

Friday, 5 June 2020, 14:32 Last update: about 2 months ago

English language schools are expecting a bleak summer in spite of the re-opening of the airport and the re-start of business. "We are 100% sure that it will not be enough to sustain the industry and the schools," James Perry CEO of the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisation Malta (FELTOM), said.

“We will surely not reach or even get anywhere close to the 40,000 student mark of previous years, but it is more likely to be just a few hundred at best,” explained Perry.

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On Monday, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced that as of 1 July the airport will reopen to and from 19 different destinations. Tourism is one of the key sectors for the Maltese economy, and summer is peak season for most tourist establishments and businesses. Back in March, FELTOM stated that the estimated financial impact of 4,000 student cancellations will result in a devastating €3.4 million loss for the economy.

As most businesses and establishments open their doors, English Language (ELT) schools remain firmly shut, with no indication as to when they will begin to operate once more.

As of yet, FELTOM has not been contacted by the Prime Minister or Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli about any indication as to when ELT schools will begin to operate. “We are currently drafting a position paper which clarifies our industry’s current situation. The ELT industry is totally reliant on business generated during the summer period as it constitutes 50% of the total yearly business (approx. 40,000 students in eight weeks) which in turn gives schools the possibility to remain open during the low season.”

Perry explained that as the school closures happened during the low season, the majority of marketing and sales for the coming summer period had already taken place. With such large cancellations, the schools will not manage to gear up in time for summer and the major concern is that once ELT schools do reopen, government support may be reduced.

 “As a federation, we are urging the government to familiarise itself with the ELT model, which is unique, and recognise that opening too early and without continued financial support may lead to mass redundancies and the possibility of school closures,” said Perry. He stressed that the ELT industry has been contributing to the local economy for over 60 years. 

If any schools are to reopen during this summer, they will be apprehensive and need support from the government. “If this support is terminated, there is a good chance that the industry will collapse leading to mass redundancies and closures. For this reason, we urge the government continue supporting this industry.”

When asked whether the chosen 19 destinations chosen to travel to Malta will see individuals from those countries coming to study English in Malta, Perry explained that from those destinations only two are ‘feeders’ to the ELT industry, Germany and Austria. “These two countries do not constitute the main summer market, and we have been informed that they may have some restrictions imposed. While some may suggest that this is a good time to explore new destinations, one must bear in mind that education travel is different to normal tourism and time is needed to develop a connection with agents.  This relationship surely cannot be built in a 3-week period and expect arrivals as a result.”

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