Market Analysis
After losses from two key sources, Malta's sector is targeting new markets and longer stays.

According to figures released by Malta's National Statistics Office (NSO) last summer, Malta's ELT industry suffered a 2.6 per cent decline in international students in 2015 to 75,524 students.


And provisional feedback from the sector suggests that last year was similarly challenging. Joe Acquilina, Managing Director of Clubclass, explains, "2016 to date has been quite flat and it is likely that we'll close the year with fewer student weeks than 2015. Our young learners market suffered and we also took a hit from the major markets which have contracted for the whole of Malta."


Genevieve Abela, CEO of Malta's ELT association Feltom, advises, "The market in 2016 has proven to be a very volatile one, especially given the geo-political situation in the Mediterranean as well as the political situation vis-a-vis Russia.



"The markets which have been affected negatively were Libya and Russia, where we have seen a sharp decline of arrivals. This decline in fact, has been reflected in the figures for July and August."


These declines were apparent in StudyTravel Magazine's survey of Malta's ELT industry for 2015. Russia represented 12.6 per cent of incoming students, compared with 17.1 per cent two years previously, while Libya dropped from 10.9 to 2.8 per cent.


More encouragingly for the sector, Genevieve comments, "On the other hand, thanks to the long-term strategies adopted by our member schools investing to diversify their markets, Malta has managed to attract many students from new markets such as Colombia, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Turkey. Malta is stronger on shoulder months, therefore, we are looking forward to the coming few months with anticipation."


The traditional markets of Italy and Germany remained the mainstay of business in 2015, with 20 and 13.4 per cent market share respectively in ST Magazine's Status survey.



One noticeable positive trend from the survey was a longer average stay for students: four weeks in 2015, compared with 3.4 weeks in the previous year. Joe explains, "Clubclass is predominantly an adults-oriented school with longer than average stays, and yes we did notice this slight change in this trend. I think that Malta is becoming more popular for longer stays because of the good value for money offered by the destination and the good all round quality of teaching, accommodation and infrastructure of Malta."


In terms of innovations at Clubclass, Joe explains, "We are in the process of developing a mobile app which students can install on their phones; the app will 'listen' to student's conversations and remind them to speak in English when they switch to any language."


Looking ahead, challenges still remain for English language schools in Malta, as Genevieve explains. "The sector remains a very competitive one. Feltom is currently gearing up to give additional impetus to its call for more simplified and efficient procedures when it comes to the issuing of visas as well as the possibility of granting 'work and study' visas for long-term students."



Commenting on currency trends, Genevieve adds, "Another competitivity issue is the weakening of sterling as a result of Brexit. However, although this could attract English language learners to study in the UK, we remain aware of the unique full-immersion and all-inclusive experience that Malta can offer - something that the UK and other destinations find harder to offer. This is why Feltom will keep pushing for Malta's competitive edge. "We have dedicated most of 2016 to supporting our schools to ensure that they can keep investing in the highest standards. We have worked to strengthen our accreditation procedures to ensure these remain stringent but effective, and we keep pushing for more improvements that benefit the industry and our members, namely recognition and support."



Genevieve Abela, CEO of Malta's ELT association Feltom

"The state of the English language teaching sector in Malta remains a healthy one. Total expenditure by English language students is estimated at approximately 161 million euros, representing circa 9.8 per cent of the total tourist expenditure in Malta, making the sector a very valid contributor to Malta's economy."



Overall average length of stay: 4 weeks

Average language tuition per week (hours): 18 hours



Participating schools:  Unilang International School of Languages; am Language Studio; inlingua School of Languages; Berlitz Language Centre; Chamber College Malta; IH Malta; English Language Academy; Gateway School of English; Institute of English Languages Studies (Iels); Linguatime School of English; ICTQ Malta; Global College Malta; Global Village Malta; Clubclass Malta; Sprachcaffe Malta; Maltalingua School of English; English Domain; NSTS English Language School