Genevieve Abela speaking at the launch of the Feltom Deloitte report
Feltom pushes for visa concessions in Malta

Malta's ELT association Feltom is lobbying the government for work-study permits and walk-in applications to boost the number of international students coming to study English, following the release of its annual report showing a decrease in student weeks and operating profit.

At the launch of the 7th ELT Industry Report - compiled by Deloitte and based on research on Feltom's 22 member schools - Genevieve Abela, CEO of the association, said, "Feltom is constantly on the forefront lobbying for a number of issues and is currently exploring policies which tackle accessibility to efficient visa processes, the introduction of work-study permits and walk-in applications."


She argued all of these measures would boost local intake and increase international student recruitment from different non-EU markets. Following increases from Italy, France and Spain in particular, the share of EU students in Malta's student week mix increased in 2016 to 55 per cent, the authors showed.


Genevieve said she was pleased with the on-going collaboration with the various ministries and the Malta Tourist Authority (MTA). "Although there is still more we can do, we have achieved much and are looking forward with confidence to furthering our relationship and cooperation in coming months."


The Deloitte report refers to the recently announced annual data from the National Statistics Office (NSO), showing a slight (1.6 per cent) increase in international student numbers, compared with 2015.


However, the authors also highlight that student weeks declined by four per cent to 229,005 due to an increased share of junior students, well below the sector peak of 245,587 in 2014. The average stay of 20.9 days was down 5.5 per cent compared with 2015 and was the shortest since 2012.


The report also showed that continuing declines from Libya and Russia, with a combined drop of more than 13,500 student weeks, were particularly damaging for the sector in 2016. In contrast, the largest student week increases came from top source country Italy (3,937), France (3,788) and Japan (3,368).


Expenditure by ELT students in Malta was estimated by Deloitte to total EU139 million in 2016, 8.1 per cent of the overall tourist spend on the island.


Total gross revenue increased by 2.8 per cent to EU73.9 million, compared with 2015, and revenue per student week jumped by seven per cent to EU323. But direct costs increased at a higher rate, leading to a 15.1 per cent decrease in gross operating profit per student week to EU36.


The majority of the revenue increase came from an 8.1 per cent rise in accommodation revenue, with tuition revenue growing by only 1.1 per cent.


The amount spent on agency commission by Feltom schools increased by 9.6 per cent to EU10.6 million, representing 28 per cent of tuition revenue. In StudyTravel Magazine's recent Market Analysis feature on Malta's ELT sector, agents accounted for 59 per cent of student enrolments.


"With circa 8.1 per cent of total tourist expenditure and 10.7 per cent of total guest nights, this sector continues to be a very valid contributor to Malta's economy," said Genevieve. "As always, Feltom tries to keep one step ahead looking towards the industry's future in the interest of its members. The international scene in 2016 has not been without strife, and as indicated in these statistics, this has unfortunately had, and will continue to have, a backlash on the local industry. This is why it is important that Malta is prepared to counter this with diversified, unique and collaborative measures."


Genevieve said it was necessary to reflect on why Malta registered only minimal growth last year, despite the marketing initiatives of the schools and the MTA.


"Notwithstanding adversity and a constantly evolving international market, this industry remains a success story thanks to our member schools' commitment. Feltom believes in all it represents and will always push for constant improvement when possible. It will continue lobbying for more support and recognition that will not only benefit our members but also ensure that Malta's recognition as a destination continues to grow."


At the time of writing, EU1 = US$1.07



By Matthew Knott

News Editor