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Language Tourism

TRAVELLING to Cyprus to learn English could provide the tourist sector with a much needed boost during this period of economic crisis.

Although Cyprus’ English language tourism (ELT) industry is growing with rising demand from overseas students wishing to take various language programmes on the island, insiders say red tape and bureaucracy is blocking the industry’s attempt to expand further.

“This is a phenomenal new industry which appears to have bypassed Cyprus,” said director of the English Learning Centre in Limassol and Malvern House Cyprus, Yiota Kontolouca.

“Malta is one twenty-ninth the size of Cyprus and shares some of the same characteristics yet it is the fifth most popular destination worldwide for ELT,” she added.

According to statistics gathered by the centre, Malta benefits from 100,000 students a year, which in turn contributes to approximately 1.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The English Language Centre began bringing groups to Cyprus in 2004 and in 2007 formed a partnership with a British language school, Malvern House London. It offers courses all year round and currently co-operates with the Xenion School in Paralimni, American Academy in Larnaca and the Pascal English School.

In 2009 Cyprus had just 637 English language tourists but by the end of this year the number of tourists will rise to almost 2,000. According to Malvern House’s calculations that number could reach 16,000 by the year 2020 if the government adopts the centre’s suggestions. In 2012 the estimated contribution to the Cyprus economy is around €3 million but that figure could sky rocket to approximately €124 by 2020.

“The infrastructure already exists on the island. There are hotels and educational institutes, but there needs to be more help given by the government,” she explained.

The key sticking points to expansion were presented to the House education committee recently.

“It’s a very positive idea,” the head of the committee, Nicos Tornaritis told the Sunday Mail. “The ministry of education, the ministry of commerce, industry and tourism and the Cyprus tourist organisation (CTO) need to co-operate and get approval from parliament for this proposal that will help the economy,” he added.

The CTO says it’s interested, but says it cannot act without government input.

“This is a scheme that definitely interests us, but it is down to the government to promote it,” said head of CTO, Alecos Ourountiotis.

Once the big hurdle of official government recognition is overcome, the English Learning Centre would be able to set up a regulatory body to assure quality standards on the island. This would not only deal with the quality of teachers and teaching institutes but how students are picked up from the airport and treated while they are here.

“This is not a quick, Mickey Mouse set up,” Kontolouca added.

Another vital point that needs to be addressed is the issuing of visas to students who are looking to visit Cyprus to learn English.

Students from non-EU countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Japan and from the Middle East have shown an interest in the programmes offered by Malvern House Cyprus, but due to visa restrictions they are not always able to attend.

Courses last anywhere between one week and twelve weeks and the English Language Centre hopes to prolong the length of students’ stay from an average of two and a half to nine weeks.

“Students from non-EU countries can only stay 12 weeks, therefore we only offer courses lasting that long,” Kontolouca said. Many of these students do not receive visas or struggle to renew their visas as the industry is not recognised yet according to Kontolouca.

“Once these issues are resolved then we can move forward and raise awareness of Cyprus as a credible ELT destination.”

 

Source : Cyprus Mail