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Malta: ELT tourism spend slips as enrolments stall

The contribution English language students make to Malta’s tourism sector has dropped on the back of stagnant ELT enrolments. According to an annual report from Deloitte, ELT students accounted for 8.1% of all tourist expenditure last year, down from 9.8% of total tourist spending in 2015.

FELTOM is currently looking at policies to ease the accessibility of the visa process, said Genevieve Abela (pictured). Photo: FELTOM

ELT students accounted for 10.7% of all total guest nights in the country

ELT students in Malta spent around €139m last year, down from €161m in 2015, and accounted for 10.7% of all total guest nights in the country.

Profitability of the ELT sector fell for the second year in a row as well. Profit per student week was predicted to have dropped to €35.86 per student, a fall from €42.2 in 2015.

Last year, the country welcomed 76,730 students to the country – a minor increase of 1.6% on the previous year.

“The international scene in 2016 has not been without strife”

This cohort of visitors accounted for 3.9% of all tourist arrivals. The country’s ELT body, FELTOM, argues that the sector is facing challenges as a result of visa policy for long-stay students outside of the EU.

Speaking to The PIE News earlier this month, Genevieve Abela, CEO of FELTOM, said the country does not have “enough valid government policies to encourage length of stay.”

Non-EU students who wish to enrol in a language program for longer than 90 days need to change visas in-country, but the process is reportedly challenging for students.

Abela said at the Deloitte report launch that the association is currently looking at policies to ease the accessibility of the visa process, including “the introduction for work-study permit and walk-in applications – all of which would give an essential boost to local intake opening up for international students from different markets”.

A 4% decline in student weeks was in part attributed to the visa situation.

“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,” said Abela.

“This is why it is important that Malta is prepared to counter this with diversified, unique, and collaborative measures.”

Despite the fall in profitability, gross revenue has grown consistently since 2013, reaching €322.7 per student week in 2016. However, expenditure has risen alongside the revenue, increasing to €286.85 per student week last year.

Direct cost elements rose by 6.1%, according to the report, and overhead costs increased by 4.5% “driven mainly by increases in marketing spend, rent and non-teaching payroll cost”.

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