VALETTA, Malta (eTN) – The prime minister of Malta and Gozo, Dr. Lawrence Gonzi, visited the offices of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and thanked each and every one of the employees for their prompt and excellent work during last week’s public transport strike.

Strikes and industrial action have been a rare occasion over the past few years and certainly a public transport strike could have had a negative impact, in the long run, on the tourism industry. Malta and Gozo depend heavily on tourism for their economic growth and investment.

The work of coordinating the arrivals and transfer of tourists to the islands was carried out by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Tourism as well as the Malta Tourism Authority, both of which fall within the office and responsibilities of the prime minister. This work was appreciated both by the tourists, by the tourism associations as well as by the general public and the press have since been full of letters of thanks for this effort.

Prime Minister Gonzi also lauded the manner in which employees from the authority and the ministry exerted all their efforts to make sure that the tourist was given a warm welcome and suffered minimal or no hardship during the strike action. Dr. Gonzi stated, “This must be the only country in the world where tourists get the chance of meeting the prime minister in the capital city during their walkabout visit!”

He also said that everyone needs to have a sense of pride in themselves and in their country, that same sense of civic pride that creates a hospitable and service oriented.

Certainly these are the characteristics that make the islands unique and different to any other Mediterranean destination. The focus of the Malta Tourism Authority has been to enhance the mainstream tourism markets during the summer months, for sun and sea, but to extend the markets into the shoulder months with a variety of segments such as: ecological, historical and film tourism.

The support services, such as public transport and taxis are a vital part of the tourism product, and the MTA has sought to address this issue over the past decade by offering awards of recognition for sterling work by a number of those working directly and indirectly in the tourism industry.

The MTA also launched the STAR award scheme to recognize those persons who had been nominated by tourists for their sterling service and attitude, the persons who were nominated and rewarded included public transport workers.

The issue of public transport is one that is a priority action for the newly elected government led by Dr. Gonzi, since it involves an important aspect of traffic management, a subject very important on an island such as Malta and Gozo.

Last week, while speaking at a press conference at the end of the industrial action by public transport employees, Prime Minister Gonzi said that government will open discussions to liberalize this sector and make it more sustainable.