Malta Reaches For The Sky

By: Roger Munns

Malta's slow pace of life might have contributed to the late introduction of low cost flights compared to her competitors, or it could have been politicians and the tourist authorities more interested in protecting the island's national airline with attitudes that the rest of Europe began to shrug off in the 80's, but whatever the reason, now that Malta has allowed the low cost airlines, they can't get enough of them.

The number of visitors to Malta is up nearly ten per cent this year, thanks mainly to the extra arrivals being delivered by the low cost airlines. And the extra holiday makers couldn't have come at a better time as the island has seen steadily decreasing tourists numbers in recent years - the ultimate factor in the decision to allow the flights in.

With tourism numbers up, tourism chiefs have seen the magic bullet that has driven the statistics, and embraced the concept of low air fares whole heartedly.

While Malta has previously received most of their visitors from the UK, the idea of diversification has become possible as low cost airlines operate from most European countries, and the island is already receiving flights from Germany and Spain.

The country has let it be known that they will welcome applications for flights from Scandanavia and other areas of Europe.

The u-turn is now complete, from a backward looking slow to respond tourist office, to one that sees a quick fix to Malta's previous declining popularity as a holiday destination.

German tourists make up an important part of the European holiday market, along with the British.

A low cost airline in Germany, Germanwings, started flights from Germany to Malta in late March, and with good bookings is looking to increase the number of flights to the island.

Commenting on the expansion plans, the airline said recently that it was very happy with its Malta route, and that the peak summer months were looking particularly good.

At the moment the flights to Malta are from Stuttgart and Cologne, and they would like to start flying from Hamburg in the autumn. Whether this will be allowed to happen though is problematic as Air Malta already serves the Hamburg route.

If flying from Hamburg to Malta doesn't prove possible, the airline hopes that it will be able to increase the frequency of the routes it already has.

As well as boosting the Malta holidays and hotel market, the arrival of increased numbers of tourists from Germany could also impact the Malta property market.

Property inflation in Malta has been high in recent years, with joining the EU a factor, and joining the Euro currency another.

The majority of sales in the past to overseas property buyers have been to the UK and Irish markets. But if German tourism rises it's possible that this will add presuure to property prices again if the German tourists decide they like Malta enough to invest in a villa or holiday apartment.

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