With less than 10% of normal peak season arrivals for English language schools this month, the industry is bracing for the worst with two schools already facing closure.
The situation could improve over the coming weeks, but FELTOM, the federation that represents 20 language schools, say October will paint a clearer picture of the pinch felt by pandemic closures.
“It’s a worrying situation once the summers over,” FELTOM CEO James Perry said.
The season for language students, which normally attracts around 18,400 students for July alone, started bleakly two weeks ago, recording just 1,800 arrivals.
And despite certain travel restrictions lifted, the industry largely depends on third-country nationals, particularly for the winter months, when students normally remain long-term.
“During our main winter months, schools largely depend on third-country nationals that stay long term. But we are not expecting authorities to open to these countries and this will give a bigger shake to our schools,” he warned.
Most third-country national students hail from Russia, Brazil and Japan, only the latter of which is open for travel to Malta.
In March, FELTOM estimated that the COVID-19 crisis would have an estimated impact of €2.1 million for schools and set the local economy back €5.2 million.
But, with more than 60,000 cancellations clocked, FELTOM CEO James Perry fears more losses and redundancies are in store.
“The survival of English schools has largely depended on the COVID-19 wage supplement and other initiatives by Malta Enterprise, but once that dries up come October, it is crucial that our industry is supported with a recovery package,” Perry explained.
And while schools face uncertain futures, internal issues of working conditions are also a sore spot, with staff from language school ClubClass holding a strike for better treatment in the industry.