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Malta's Tourism Landscape

Published on Thursday, April 11, 2019

ELT Situation in Malta in 2018

Language students have become a mainstay in Malta’s tourism landscape. Over the past decade, Malta has managed to carve a niche in an increasingly competitive sector, thanks to its strong regulatory framework, its hospitality and the entrepreneurial spirit of the language school sector. 2018 saw a consolidation of the growth registered in previous years, with a total of 87,112 students following courses at local English language specialised schools in Malta, a very slight variation from 87,190 in 2017.

The language sector also helps Malta diversify its tourist intake. While most students attending English language courses in Malta came from Italy, Germany, and France - which account for 48.6% of total student visits - a large percentage of students hail from other countries. Russia ranked as the 4th largest market with a share of 6.2%, followed by Poland, Austria, Brazil, Spain and Japan, all above 4%. In this way, students from all around the world carry with them a memory of Malta in their formative years, possibly returning and encouraging others to follow in their steps. Students studying English as a foreign language in Malta accounted for 3.4% of total inbound tourists visiting Malta in year 2018. But students account for a greater share in emerging markets. For example, 4306 out of 10749 Brazilian tourists visited Malta for English language learning. Other markets with a high share of students per incoming tourists are Russia (with a share of 18.6%), Japan (with a share of 15.3%) and Turkey (with a share of 14.1%).

The language sector also contributes to increase tourism in shoulder months. The share of off-peak traffic is increasing – in year 2018, 18.6% of foreign students came to Malta during the winter months of January to March compared to 12.7% in year 2012. It also helps diversify tourism accommodation. As in the previous year, the larger share of students (27.0%) resided with host families, a sector which has given an important contribution not just economically but also in contributing to the educational and cultural experience of students. 21.1% of students chose to stay in hotels, mainly within 3-star hotels (12.2%) and 4-star hotels (8.8%). Other collective accommodation categories, including residences, hostels and guest houses, were utilised by 17.7% of students.

On average, language students also stay longer here than other kind of tourists. English language students stayed in Malta for an average of 2.5 weeks, down by 0.3 weeks when compared to the year 2017. The decline in the average length of stay is a common trend across the different source markets. This is especially the case with students from Italy and Germany. However, students from emerging markets are registering longer stays. For example, students from Colombia stayed here for an average of 11.0 weeks, while those from South Korea stayed for 8 weeks.

Sue Falzon, ELT Council CEO stated that there is still a lot of room for the local ELT industry to grow further. As an industry-led sector with strong government backing - including a regulatory framework - to ensure quality standards are secured, its growth depends on collaboration between all stakeholders with the aim of ensuring sustainable growth, which positively contributes to the economy and the local community. James Perry, FELTOM CEO, stressed the significance of the ELT sector. In 2018, the industry accounted for approximately 8.1% of total tourist guest nights and around 6.5% of total tourist expenditure. Deloitte estimates place indicative total expenditure by ELT students in 2018 at approximately €137 million. Moreover, FELTOM has commissioned Deloitte Malta to undertake a national economic, market and strategic review of the ELT sector in Malta. The objectives of this study are to examine the opportunities and challenges faced by the sector today, and evaluate how best to position the sector for the future.

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