Destination Malta

By: Edward Penza

Malta tourism is booming. Hotels are full; so much so thatsome tourists have had to be sent to Gozo — and the odd one even as far asSicily! Yes, the figures show that 2007 is turning out to be the best year fortourism in Malta in at least the last six years, with increases not only interms of arrivals, but also in hotel rates and occupancies. National StatisticsOffice figures for September showed that arrivals were 17.8 per cent up on lastyear.

“Until then, the problem was how to fill rooms; but now,it’s a question of sorting out overbookings," laughs the President of the MaltaHotels and Restaurants Association, Josef Formosa Gauci. Indeed, he could thinkof worse problems.

Year on year, the first nine months of 2007 have seen anoverall increase of 7.6 per cent in tourists visiting Malta, with August beingone of the best months in the history of its tourism. Figures are constantlybeing churned out and they keep on looking good.

Indeed, the best isn’t over yet positive results havecarried on up to the end of October, with Malta International Airport figuresfor that month showing a 16 per cent increase in passenger movements over thesame period last year, while figures for November are also showing increases.The rest of the winter is envisaging a good rise in seat capacity— in excess of10 per cent — partly resulting from new low-cost routes offering cheap flightsto Malta, including Ryanair, German Wings, Clickair, which stopped itsoperation in October and is scheduled to start again in April, a Norwegianairline from April and the possibility of another from Madrid. Increases overthe normally quieter shoulder months are, therefore, also being expected.

Needless to say, Mr Formosa Gauci is “very satisfied withthe turnaround we have seen although he insists on the “need to keep our feeton the ground", encouraging all players in the industry to continue to worktogether to face challenges ahead.

Tourism is, after all, a highly dynamic industry and thingschange constantly. Of course, it would be impossible to continue seeing thesame rate of growth as Malta has its limits. But the country would definitelynot be holding back on working to maintain the levels achieved and aiming forgrowth in the shoulder and winter months.

The state of the product is also a critical aspect of theindustry and the MHRA acknowledges that quite a bit has been done on that fronttoo. “But it is an area where it is never enough" says Mr . Formosa Gauci - andit is probably this attitude that contributes to improvement..

The Association welcomes the fact that EU funding is nowgoing to be used to continue to upgrade the product, and be poured into, forexample, better beach facilities and the restoration of Maha’s magnificentbastions.

The government’s budget for 2008 has allocated an extra€11.6 million to improve the tourism product. It voted a record sum of €39.1million to the industry, with €24.5 million going to the Malta TourismAuthority to continue its work.

But Tourism and Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimechattributes the success achieved in 2007 to the proactive collaboration of thegovernment, the MTA and the stakeholders.

While expressing his satisfaction with the results, he sayshe knows only too well that “now we should and shall go for further growth andwork together in that direction to achieve as much in 2008 and beyond.

“On our part, we took three conscious decisions and arereaping the positive results: the introduction of low-cost carriers in a bigway, while keeping in mind the interests of legacy carriers, including AirMalta, and tour operators; increased investment to market Malta moreeffectively overseas; and the organisation of a wide array of cultural andentertainment events that render Malta a unique experience for the Maltese andtourists alike."

And the national airline is doing its part too. Air Malta isfocusing on its marketing campaigns and aggressively promoting value-for-moneytravel opportunities, running successful campaigns in the core Europeanmarkets, where it is offering the island as the best short-break alternative,said its General Manager, Marketing & Product, Brian Bartolo.

In the UK, it has just launched Malta the Break Escape,which has been running since the last week of October and is presenting anunbeatable travel opportunity to incoming UK tourists. In France Italy, Germanyand Benelux, Air Malta’s recent advertising campaigns have resulted in a marketincrease in inbound travel bookings to Malta in the previously quiet Novemberand December periods, Mr Bartolo notes.

Air Malta is an active network airline, seeking code-shareagreements with global carriers — a key investment in connectivity by theMaltese national airline. The latest addition to the list of code shares wasAir One, with whom Air Malta code shares on Rome Fiumicino, meaning its marketreach now covers every Italian domestic airport.

The successful code-share agreement signed with Lufthansa inNovember 2006 allows both carriers to offer two daily non-stop flights toFrankfurt and a daily flight to Munich, with connectivity to every Germanregional airport, as well as offline European, American and Asian.

The move has generated substantial new traffic into Malta,with a positive direct impact on the tourism industry. The code-shareagreement, which initially was solely operative on the direct Malta-Frankfurtand Malta-Munich routes is now covering every German regional route, Mr Bartolosays, adding that, recently, the code- share agreement has also been extendedto the Scandinavian cities of Oslo and Stockholm. Through the code-shareagreement with Lufthansa, there are non-stop daily services from Malta toWashington Dulles International AirportFree Web Content, via Munich.

These developments are extensively increasingthe accessibility to the Maltese islands from major European and internationalgateways.

Europe Destinations
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Europe Destinations