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Boom Malta: launching an international travel to study start-up in a pandemic

Author Joaquin Pinto Ferrand CEO

In a late night in Paceville, Boom Malta’s founders Joaquin Pinto Ferrand (Peru, 36 years old) and Juan Ruiz Gómez (Colombia, 29 years old),  then studying an UK MBA diploma in Malta, discussed  the lack of quality services offered to Malta’s international student community. 

There was an opportunity to develop an innovative business model focussed on providing the highest standard in assistance and advice to international students coming to Malta. The model is to become a trusted agency which is the intermediary between service providers and students. Boom Malta is helping them have the best international experience and facilitating customer flow to partners.

The team decided to focus on a target market they know well, in order to validate the MVP: Latin America, a 600M+ people market, with an increasing interest in improving English skills and studying higher education programs abroad. Their personal experience identified an opportunity in that Malta as a study destination was not very well positioned among the Latin American audience.

We reached the breakeven point when the pandemic reached us all

Founded in July 2019 to launch operations in November of the same year, Boom Malta developed an attractive visual identity and secured alliances with the best schools in Malta in only a few months. The first 4 months of operations saw the company thrive, nearly reaching break-even in March 2020 when the pandemic hit, and Malta Airport closed for  nearly a quarter. 

While leading a start-up in the international travel and education sector during a pandemic is challenging, the 6 months following the airport closure were an opportunity to consolidate our position as one of the leading student agencies for the Latin American market.  

360º Personalized advice to study and live in Malta

How did we do it? Our approach has been to provide premium services, offering support in all areas of concern for students: travel arrangements and Covid regulations, support with visa and residence processing, housing, employment and events, and rolling out corporate social responsibility programs, such as mentoring program for people looking to enhance their career with an international experience, or a pandemic migratory helpline for international students stranded in Malta so they could extend their visas or be repatriated.

Together with an active and distinctive social media presence, Boom Malta has become a reference as an agency and as a go-to source for the latest and most relevant Spanish content about Malta. Boom quickly reached milestones such as biggest audience in FB, and SEO positioning, including being referenced by Google in certain topics. 

The agency assembled a solid network of partners to provide quality services, as well as reliable information, which is one of the most sought-after services by students. This is why we operate under a Malta’s Tourism Authority (MTA) license and we seek advice from diplomatic representants of the communities we serve. 

Business model and Boom Malta activity

The start-up is built on a scalable and replicable business model, with low fix costs and operating on a simple platform that allows international students to access quality content and easily reach-out to our representatives. Being present both in Malta and in Latin America, they cover a wide range of time-zones and allow students to go grab a coffee with a Boom representative in the source or destination country, strengthening confidence in the brand. 

These efforts have now paid off as international travel resumes. We have surpassed our financial forecasts for Q1 2021, our market share keeps growing and we have managed to attract investors despite working on one of the most impacted economic sectors worldwide. 

All of this has been possible thanks to the team’s ability to understand and identify our customer’s needs as well as being able to provide easy-to-use technological solutions and quality information. In these circumstances, the start-up has incorporated resilience in its DNA, which depicts a bright future on an ever-changing environment.  

Customer satisfaction has been our priority since founding Boom Malta. This is also embedded in our corporate culture: our main purpose is to support students to fulfil their dream of travelling and studying abroad, and we get to do it in this wonderful island in the heart of the Mediterranean. This mission is even more gratifying in these challenging times. Just as important to us is to be one of the drivers of a better travel experience to Malta, aligned with the island’s strategy of making tourism and travel more sustainable. With summer approaching, we are ready to grow and look forward to new challenges. Let’s go!

 Boom Malta’s four founders in July 2019 in Valletta.

Founding team

Joaquin Pinto Ferrand – CEO, Director of strategy and Founder

  • Sciences-Po Paris graduate (Ranked n°2 worldwide in top political sciences universities) + MBA from University of Suffolk.
  • Entrepreneur and innovator with 15 years cross-sector experience (NGOs, mining, sustainable development, pharma).
  • Stakeholder engagement and strategy specialist.
  • Fluent in 5 languages.

Juan Ruiz – COO and Founder

  • Industrial Engineer, University of ICESI and MBA graduate from University of Suffolk.
  • Business and sales drive, vast experience in sales, B2B and B2C.
  • Outstanding team leadership skills.
  • Consumer insights’ specialist.

Martín Vieira – Managing Director and Founding investor

  • Sciences-Po Paris graduate 
  • Multi-sector experience: NGOs, UNESCO, public and private sector
  • Stakeholder engagement and relationship management, mediation skills
  • Fluent in 4 languages

Nicolas Horry – Founding investor

  • Master of Music, Conservatory of Saarbrücken
  • Bassoonist at the  Saarland State Theatre and Assistant teacher at the Conservatory of Saarbrücken (Germany)
  • International European professional track record
  • Fluent in 4 languages

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