Low Cost Airlines Bring In 2007 Big Spenders

By: Roger Munns

Official statistics have shown the holiday island of Malta has enjoyed a ten per cent rise in arrivals this year compared to last.

Low cost airlines started flying to Malta in November 2006, and as well as showing the rise in visitors, the figures show that the tourists haven't diluted the amount spent per person.

One of the concerns some in the tourist industry had before the island agreed to allow low cost flights was that the amount spent per passenger arrival would be lower than the status quo.

But these fears have proved to be unfounded as expenditure from tourists rose 12 per cent, with inflation taken into account the figures show that the passengers arriving on a low cost flight were spending as much as those on more expensive travel.

With the main summer holiday season still to be taken into account the overall rise in visitor numbers for Malta could be as high as 15 per cent.

The airline that first brought low cost airlines to Malta has done well enough to start new routes to the island.

Ryanair, the Irish based low cost airline, were the first airline to win the right to fly to Malta from the island's main markets for tourism of Ireland and the UK.

The first route launched has been running between London's Luton Airport since November, while the Dublin route had its inaugural flight in March. Both routes have attracted good seat occupancy levels, with tourist numbers in Malta rising.

The new route will run between Bremen in Germany to Malta and will be a welcome addition for Malta's attempt to attract more German tourists to the island. Operating three times a week, it is hoped that the first flights will begin in September.

Before the new flights began last November, estimates suggested that the low cost airline could add an extra 80,000 tourists to the island in 2007, but this figure has been radically upgraded to double that.

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 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.

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