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Dwindling numbers: Language Schools New Zealand owner Guy Hughes, centre, with students, from left, Keiko Itaya and Ayaka Morita, both of Japan, and Adilson Silva and Leandro Alves, both of Brazil

By GUY WILLIAMS

Queenstown’s longest-running language school will go into hibernation next month after its last few students graduate.

Language Schools New Zealand owner Guy Hughes says he had about 90 students before the Covid lockdown in March, another 30 students enrolled for April and healthy forward bookings.

When Covid arrived, he got the students together and told them they had to decide
whether to ‘‘get on a plane or stay’’.

About 40 chose to stay, but because they were on a range of English courses ranging from a week to 48 weeks’ duration, their numbers have steadily dwindled to less than 20.

The wage subsidy has allowed him to keep on staff, and the students have been ‘‘well looked after’’, he says.

‘‘But at this stage, by the end of September, we’ll be out of students, and that’ll be it for now.’’

He’ll then put the school in hibernation, and look to sub-lease his Remarkables Park premises.

If there’s a language school operating anywhere in the country by the end of the year, he’ll
be surprised.

Hughes says he doesn’t know how long he can keep the school in hibernation before having to decide it’s ‘‘last drinks’’.

‘‘It just depends on what the border reopening looks like.’’

When international students are eventually allowed back in, he expects universities to be at
the front of the queue because of their lobbying power.

It’s a big blow for Hughes, who says he finds the business ‘‘utterly satisfying’’.

He started the school in 1993, and reckons he’s had the longest unbroken run of ownership
of a private language school in the country.

Besides his personal enjoyment of being around young, motivated people from through
out the world, he’s found it satisfying to be part of a high-value industry for Queenstown and the country.

Unlike tourists, language students stay and spend for extended periods, and are a valuable
source of income for homestay families, he says.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz