Malta looks back at bumper year for tourism


VALLETTA, Malta (eTN) – This year has brought with it a welcome turnaround for hoteliers and other tourism operators. Government strategy played a large part in this turnaround, during 2007 a number of low-cost airlines including Ryanair and Clickair commencing operations to and from the islands to mainland Europe.

Next year promises to be even more fruitful with the change to euro and with Easyjet and Vueling airlines adding their names to the list of operators who are seeing a potential for the individual traveler or family who prefer to compile their own itinerary. For the past forty years the islands have come to depend, rather heavily, at times, on tour operators. But, this mode of travel and marketing lacked the economies of scale that larger destinations such as Spain and Tunisia could support.

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All signs point to 2008 as the year that tourism in Malta and Gozo may go round full circle. The government has already started to adopt a new policy for tourism. Over the past three years, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has worked on a re-branding exercise that looks at around seven niche markets that embrace some of the attractions of the islands, such as culture, history and conferences. During the summer of 2007, the MTA, along with government support, hosted a number of concerts in and around the baroque walled town of Valletta. They included the music video Isle of Music and several pop concerts.

Also, improving hotel standards has been going on for a number of years. With the apparent change in market trends, a need has been felt to update a number of the hotel services and features. In 2008, two five star hotels are to open their doors for the first time to reveal a number of state-of-the-art features. One of the hotels is located in a suburb of Valletta with fantastic views of the historical bastions built in the 16th century to defend the islands from the Ottoman invasion, while the other hotel is in the residential town of Sliema, developed in the mid 20th century.

Further, a number of other projects include the Tigne and Gzira commercial and residential centers; the Smart city on the south with substantial investment from Dubai; the twenty projects proposed by the government and the ongoing infrastructure works all focused on adding value to the Malta product.

The tourism statistics for Malta and Gozo over the past years have remained somewhat static; the peak came some ten or twelve years ago when the islands received over one million visitors in any one year. This figure has not changed over the past few years, except for a slight drop in 2006.