Agencies looking for compensation from Malta over ELT school closures
The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca), the global body representing more than 700 agencies, has written to the Prime Minister of Malta, seeking compensation over the sudden closure of ELT schools in July and assurances on future bookings.
In a letter sent to Robert Abela, the Prime Minister of Malta, and Clayton Bartolo, the Minister for Tourism, Paolo Barilari, the President of Felca – which comprises of 15 national agency associations – outlines the “immense damage” of the events of July on the agency sector.
Following a spike of Covid-19 cases, some of which were connected to English language schools, the government of Malta announced on July 9th that ELT schools would close on July 14th, and that all unvaccinated arrivals would be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own cost.
In the letter, Paolo writes that the closure news came without warning and “as an utter shock for the whole industry”, and that students, schools, parents and agencies were impacted.
“In a matter of hours, more than 15.000 bookings were cancelled, not to mention flights which in most cases could not be reimbursed. Thousands of hours of work were thrown in the blue waters of Malta, millions of euros lost for all concerned, not to speak of the disastrous image on Malta as a study travel destination that your Government’s decision caused,” he writes.
When it was announced that English language schools would close on July 14th, Malta’s ELT association FELTOM said that schools were “unprepared and shocked by the government’s unexpected and rigid decision to close down ELT schools”, and warned that that the move would be problematic for the wider industry.
Felca estimates a loss of around €10 million for members affected by the sudden closure of schools in Malta, and is calling on the government to negotiate compensation for those agencies.
“All our member agencies lost considerable money in commissions and flights, not to speak of the time spent to book and then to cancel and all the stress: our members had to let parents and their children know about this brutal news, sometimes less than 24 hours before their departure flight, organise return flights at their own cost for those already in Malta, and reassure their parents,” he said.
In the letter, written on behalf of Felca members and approved by the board, he argues that there were more sensible measures than the sudden closure of all schools on the island, and that schools should have been allowed to continue teaching those who tested negative and vaccinated students.
Schools in Malta were allowed to reopen to teach vaccinated students in late July, and from August 16th could start to welcome and recruit new students who are fully vaccinated.
On July 1st, Malta launched a promotional voucher scheme as an incentive to encourage English language students to travel to Malta, which has apparently been withdrawn. As a minimum, Felca called for the honouring of the voucher promotion for students who booked a course due to the promotion and have not yet arrived in Malta.
Click here to read the full text of the letter.
Established in 2000, Felca represents 15 national agency associations: ABELIO , Belgium; AMTE , Mexico; AREA (Alliance of Russian Educational Agencies ,; ARSAA – Argentine Study Abroad Association ; ASEPROCE , Spain; BELTA , Brazil; FDSV , Germany; IALCA , Italy; IECA – Taiwan ; JAOS , Japan; KAEA (Kazakhstan Association of Educational Agents) ; KOSA , Korea; L’Office national de garantie des séjours linguistiques et éducatifs , France; TIECA , Thailand; UED – The Association of International Edu , Turkey; and VIECA , Vietnam.
At the time of writing, €1 = US$1.17
By Matthew Knott