Paolo Barilari, Felca President

This week, Paolo Barilari, President of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca), shares a letter sent to the Maltese government about the recent sudden closure of ELT schools.

As reported by StudyTravel Magazine, Felca has written to the Prime Minister of Malta in relation to the sudden closure of ELT schools. Read our news story on the development here. Below is the full text of the letter sent by Felca: 

Dear Mr Abela,

My name is Paolo Barilari, I am writing to you as president of Felca , the Federation of Education and Language Consultants Associations, representing 15 national associations and more than 700 language travel agencies all over the world.

The news without warning on Friday afternoon 9th of July to close all ELT schools from Wednesday 14th of July on the island of Malta came as an utter shock for the whole industry. This not only affected students – lots of minors – already present on the island, but also their parents in total panic; the schools and their representative association FELTOM, which had not been consulted; and finally, we, the agents from all over the world.

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.

Of course, health matters most. But there were obviously other more sensible ways to handle the matter instead of closing ALL schools. In most member countries, schools where a cluster appeared were temporarily closed (if not a classroom only) and students tested as a matter of urgency. An alternative could have been to only allow vaccinated students as from the following weekend instead of closing all schools, a decision which your government waited one month to take.

The damage to the industry is immense and unfortunately done.

FELCA is the head association which represents 15 member national associations totaling some 700 language travel agencies spread over three continents: Europe, Asia and Latin America. Most our members have lost trust in Malta as a study travel destination. And to tell you the truth, after a quick survey, most will not promote Malta before some time.
Moreover, your Government courted students in early June with one million euros worth of vouchers scheme, to which you also put an end without any explanation.  What can our members say now to those students who were already enrolled before the 9th of July and due to arrive at the end of August or in September? Our members encouraged our clients to choose Malta instead of another destination with the extra bonus of up to €300 in vouchers. The minimum would be to reintroduce the voucher scheme for all those who maintain their enrolment.

As previously said, 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. Worse, some bad press came in the news about the difficulties of some agencies in organising repatriation flights while their young clients were locked down in Maltese hotels without any support. We estimate our total loss to be around 10 million euros for our members. And this can easily be proved by all Maltese ELT schools.

You will understand that we cannot let this pass without any reaction from our association. Therefore, we would like to establish a contact with your government to envisage a sort of compensation for our members, and to reassure our agents that something similar won’t happen again.

Looking forward to hearing from you, dear Mr Abela.

The above letter was sent by Paolo Barilari , President of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations ( Felca ) to the Prime Minister of Malta, the Head of Secretariat at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Tourism and the Head of Secretariat at the Ministry for Tourism. 

Click here to read StudyTravel Magazine’s news story on the letter. 

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