The Institute of Tourism Studies opened the 2020-21 academic year last week with its highest intake to date. The institute welcomed a 22.2 per cent increase in new students when compared to 2019-20. The latter academic year had also been a record year for the ITS, when the new intake had increased 93.3 per cent. Thus, for the current academic year, the institute has had a 136 per cent increase in intake when compared to the 2018-19 academic year.

At a time when the tourism and hospitality industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, it is of great gratification to see these numbers in new students, who have understood that the industry will rise stronger.

Just over six months ago, the institute was challenged with a complete change from its normal way of teaching. It was a challenge that it successfully overcame thanks to the IT infrastructure the institute had already invested in, combined with the management, staff, lecturers and students who worked together to make it all possible. This meant that following the closure of the institute’s lecture rooms on March 12, the students could continue with their lectures online as from March 16.

Apart from the students who were conducting their studies in Malta, the institute had several students studying abroad. The institute made the necessary arrangements to repatriate the students and provided alternative ways in which they could graduate from their study programmes in view of this special circumstance.

In a survey conducted among its students in April, the ITS found that 85 per cent of students were satisfied with how the institute had handled the COVID-19 situation, and 88 per cent said they had no difficulty in following lectures online. Besides this positive feedback, the institute also handled students’ requests for assistance and concerns to adapt to this new normal, so that they were all able to continue with their studies in the best possible way.

Throughout the past months, the institute has been closely monitoring the situation and following the health authorities’ guidelines to be able to issue the necessary protocols for the opening of the institute’s campuses.

The institute opened its doors for a limited number of students in September for recovery sessions that could not be held online, such as practical kitchen and service sessions. These proved to be successful; in fact, despite a case of a student testing positive for COVID-19, no other students tested positive for the virus.

The ITS is very satisfied to see this increase in new students. It may be viewed as a certificate of trust in what the ITS has been working on over the past years – that of improving the institute’s offerings as well as providing higher-skilled personnel for a better-quality tourism. This is confirmed by the fact that the highest increase in applications is in the higher-level courses, those of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Earlier this year, the institute also launched three new study programmes, two of which are the first of their kind worldwide. These are the Diploma in Climate Friendly Travel, in collaboration with SUNx Malta; the Bachelor of Science in Diving Safety Management, in collaboration with DAN Europe; and the Preparatory Course for the Bachelor in Culinary Arts. Over 60 students will be reading for these programmes.

I wish all ITS students a great year ahead and look forward to see them spread their wings to a brighter and stronger tourism and hospitality industry.

Pierre Fenech, CEO, Institute for Tourism Studies

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