VALETTA, Malta (eTN) – After being confirmed as the island’s prime minister for another five years, Dr. Lawrence Gonzi has announced that the new cabinet of ministers will include a parliamentary secretary for tourism who will be working within the office of the prime minister.

This announcement has brought some positive reactions from the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) and other stakeholders in the island’s primary economic activity. Dr. Gonzi’s Nationalist Party had been re-elected after 20 years in office mainly because of its strong track record for boosting the island’s economy with its numerous policies such as negotiating full membership for the islands within the European Union (the islands joined the Union in 2004) and creating economic stability that led to the island’s adoption of the euro earlier this year.

The Nationalist Party was also responsible for creating a more decentralized administration and restoring the democratic process to an island that had been threatened by the autocratic policies of Dom Mintoff in the seventies and early eighties.

During the 1960s, tourism was given an important role to play in supporting the vital transition of the islands from a military base to an independent state within the Commonwealth. The Nationalist-led government introduced a series of initiatives and grants to encourage investment in the tourism sector and this paid off. From a mere 40,000 visitors to the islands in 1963, the number of tourists grew to almost 400,000 by 1971. Today, this figure has trebled and the sector generates over 25 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, one of the highest percentage rates within the EU.

Prime Minister Gonzi has placed tourism and the environment at the top of his political agenda after ensuring that the islands made a smooth transition to the EURO by creating a stable economy. In fact, some political analysts in Malta have stated that the Gonzi government is the only administration that has succeeded in being reconfirmed for another term in office after the euro adoption in any EU member state.

Perhaps this was due, in the main, to the strong policies of the Nationalist Party manifesto that are based on creating a better and more productive workforce whose core competency is continuous professional development.

Making the islands more competitive in the tourism sector is seen as being dependant on the ability to create specialized niche markets and to attract visitors because of the islands’ unique characteristics rather than for its basic qualities as a sun and sea destination.

Prime Minster Gonzi has promised to make the islands a destination of excellence in the years to come. The potential is there; it is only with the collective contribution by all stakeholders including the 400,000 local residents, that this will be possible.

The slogan chosen by the Nationalist Party for the election campaign was “Iva, Flimkien Kollox Possibbli.” (Yes, Together everything is possible). On an island that is divided by political beliefs, the election results have shown that the Maltese are a determined people who take up a challenge and do succeed.