Back from the brink Rotorua English language school reopens after Covid shutdown when roll fell to nothing
The Rotorua English Language Academy is open again after a long closure due to covid.
An English-language academy is set to reopen after Covid collapsed the business and took $2.5-3m in revenue with it.
However, Rotorua English Language Academy is one of the lucky ones
according to figures from the industry association, English New Zealand, membership has fallen from 22 to 17 schools. The English-language sector injected $738 million into the economy before the pandemic.
Academy owner Chris Leckie said it was “beyond” thrilled to reopen on Monday after a turbulent few years which involved staff layoffs and saw its numbers drop from 600 students a year – to none.
She had to sell the former premises of the academy after the exhaustion of public funds “to save the school and the company” created in 1993.
”Rotorua has lost the input and the life that international students have brought to the city for so long. Our activity providers, around 20 local businesses, as well as food businesses, have lost significant revenue from our students.”
So big decisions were made to ”recover what we could”. She said the loss of business revenue due to Covid was $2.5-3 million.
”At first it was so hard to believe that Covid could change all of our lives so quickly. It was a very stressful time for our staff who had to deal with months of uncertainty and had to find ways to maintain their livelihoods.”
”The uncertainty was also very hard for future students, some of whom had been waiting for two years to be able to enroll with us.”
It officially went into hibernation on July 26 last year, but fought for 18 months before with a small number of local migrant students.
She said she had “no choice” when it came to closing doors and “a number of schools like ours have closed permanently”.
”To save the business we needed to maintain our NZQA registration, accreditations, compliance levels and some of our staff. NZQA offered hibernation to allow us to do this.
Leckie said she hopes the academy will grow again from small beginnings.
”We have planned the opening for a long time, and we believe that the time has come. The world is opening up, people are traveling again, and Rotorua is getting its mana back.
Japan was the first market to come back in force and next week students from China, Tahiti and Taiwan would arrive.
There were also entries from New Caledonia, Chile, Germany, Colombia, Spain, Czech Republic and Saudi Arabia. Their South American scout had just returned from promotion in Colombia and Chile, which were strong pre-Covid markets, and Leckie expected them to rebound strongly.
”We love what we do and we love seeing our students thrive and have life-changing experiences in New Zealand. We know that our students contribute significantly to the economy and cultural life of Rotorua.”
”We have great confidence in Rotorua, and we want to join in the effort to restore the attractiveness, dynamism and reputation of the city.”
English New Zealand said the border closure had a significant impact on all suppliers and some chose hibernation.
He said, in a written statement, before Covid, the combined number of enrollments in New Zealand English schools was 20,000 students a year, which had fallen to around 4,400. [including offshore online delivery] in 2021.
In 2019 Education New Zealand estimated the value of the English language sector to be $738 million and financial figures for 2021 have yet to be released, but in the Bay of Plenty there has been a 98% drop in the number of students from 2019 to 2021.
New Zealand English President Darren Conway said the reopening of Rotorua English Language Academy was great news.
”This is a highly respected and high quality supplier in a very popular tourist destination. Their history and expertise will help them meet the challenges ahead and the students they attract will contribute significantly both financially and culturally to the region.”
Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell said it was great to see the return of international students choosing Rotorua as their destination of choice.
”We have a great lifestyle and community and we welcome them here. I am happy to see institutes such as Rotorua English Language Academy able to resume their main activity, we hope to see many more as we begin to recover from the pandemic. ”
She knew that many other businesses would also be excited as international students brought a wealth of experience, skills and diversity to the city.
Rotorua Business Chamber chief executive Bryce Heard said this was great news as the past few years had been a lot tougher than people thought.
“There’s been some well-meaning talk about pivoting and rebuilding…to see that transforming into reality is fantastic. ”
• The Rotorua English Language Academy is now located in the Hinemoa Tower on Hinemoa St.