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Learning English Pays Malta Dividends

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Malta government statistics show that over 65,000 foreigners visited Malta in 2006 to learn English, with the figure set to increase for this year.

The rise in overseas students learning English is the fourth rise in as many years, and increasingly plays a contributory role to the island’s economy. The language schools in Malta are privately run, with no subsidy from central government.

Speaking at the opening of a language school, the minister for tourism commented that the learning of English is one of Malta’s main tourism segments that contribute significantly to the island’s tourism industry. He added that this sector is run by private enterprise since all English language schools are privately owned and offer not only work for full time and part-time teachers but are also a source of revenue to host families.

With many students counting their time in Malta in months rather than the weeks from traditional tourism, a student studying English is particularly valuable for the economy.

The increase in foreign language students visiting Malta to learn English is being partly driven by the opening of new routes from various countries to Malta, including low cost airlines.

The overall number of visitors including the language students for Malta is up nearly ten per cent this year, thanks mainly to the extra arrivals being delivered by the low cost airlines. And the extra holiday makers couldn’t have come at a better time as the island has seen steadily decreasing tourists numbers in recent years – the ultimate factor in the decision to allow the flights in.

With tourism numbers up, tourism chiefs have seen the magic bullet that has driven the statistics, and embraced the concept of low air fares whole heartedly.

While Malta has previously received most of their visitors from the UK, the idea of diversification has become possible as low cost airlines operate from most European countries, and the island is already receiving flights from Germany and Spain.

The country has let it be known that they will welcome applications for flights from Scandanavia and other areas of Europe, which would help the language schools increase their numbers even more.

Before the new flights began last November, estimates suggested that the low cost airline could add an extra 80,000 tourists to the island in 2007, but this figure has been radically upgraded to double that.

The airline that first brought low cost airlines to Malta has done well enough to start new routes to the island.

Ryanair, the Irish based low cost airline, were the first airline to win the right to fly to Malta from the island’s main markets for tourism of Ireland and the UK.

The first route launched has been running between London’s Luton Airport for nearly a year, while the Dublin route had its inaugural flight in March. Both routes have attracted good seat occupancy levels, with tourist numbers in Malta rising.

A new route will run between Bremen in Germany to Malta and will be a welcome addition for Malta’s attempt to attract more Germans wanting to learn English to the island.

Operating three times a week, it is hoped that the first flights will begin in the autumn.

Not only has the choice of airline and airports serving Malta widened considerably, but the airline of choice for many business and holiday travellers, Air Malta, has fought back against the new low cost airlines with reduced fares and offers of their own.

In their traditional market of flights from the UK to Malta, the airline started a new route from Liverpool’s John Lennon airport in May, serving the north-west of England.

As part of their offensive to retain current passengers and to tempt new ones to use the airline, Air Malta are offering clients the opportunity to book flights in advance for this autumn and winter with prices starting from around 20 Euros (around US $25). Which is all good news for new students wanting to learn English at Malta’s schools, but also for the schools themselves which are proving to be an island success story.

For those considering Malta as a place to learn English a guide for Malta is available at YourMalta.com

The capital of Malta is Valletta and the guide includes a photograph gallery and a Milan weather forecast

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