Malta’s EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dency could be a shoul­der month boon for ho­tels

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - He­lena Grech

A num­ber of Malta’s four and five star ho­tels have hiked up prices for the months of Jan­uary as the coun­try gears it­self for the many con­fer­ences to take place while Malta holds the EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dency between Jan­uary and June 2017.

Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary are typ­i­cally con­sid­ered to be shoul­der months with tourism lev­els slow­ing down between the Christ­mas sea­son and the spring/sum­mer months.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent com­pared the prices of 15 four star and five star ho­tels around Malta for one night in the sec­ond week of Novem­ber and one night on the third week of Jan­uary. Out of 15 ho­tels, nine had in­creased their prices, four left the prices un­changed and two had ac­tu­ally de­creased their prices.

The price in­creases range from a sig­nif­i­cant €79 to a measly €6 in­crease. This news­room also com­pared ho­tel prices of Si­cil­ian four and five star ho­tels, for one night on the sec­ond week of Novem­ber and one night on the third week of Jan­uary. Si­cily was cho­sen be­cause it is nearby, has a sim­i­lar cli­mate and that is also deemed to be a safe hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion as is the case with Malta.

It was found that the ma­jor­ity of Si­cil­ian four and five star ho­tels re­viewed had cheaper rates in Jan­uary then they did in Novem­ber.

Malta Ho­tels and Restau­rants As­so­ci­a­tion CEO An­drew Agius Mus­cat was con­tacted to gauge his views on whether the price hike dur­ing these typ­i­cal shoul­der months could be viewed as a deter­rent for the reg­u­lar tourist who would or­di­nar­ily visit the ho­tels sur­veyed.

He im­me­di­ately said that the MHRA does not in­ter­fere in busi­ness de­ci­sions of each in­di­vid­ual ho­tel, and added that ho­tels set their pric­ing based on their own strate­gies and fore­casts.

The Malta Tourism Au­thor­ity, to­gether with the Tourism Min­istry have re­peat­edly spo­ken about pro­mot­ing niche mar­kets and push­ing for con­fer­ences to take place in Malta in order to gear up tourism dur­ing the shoul­der months.

In line with this Mr Agius Mus­cat said that “in re­al­ity, it (the con­fer­ences in Malta tied with the EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dency) came at a good time be­cause the shoul­der months are when we need peo­ple. If it had come in July, it would have been very dif­fi­cult to ac­com­mo­date all that de­mand.

“This is why the MHRA in­sists on host­ing events in the shoul­der months, it is good news that in Jan­uary we are see­ing all this move­ment.”

On 3 Fe­bru­ary, the EU Coun­cil will be host­ing an in­for­mal sum­mit to dis­cuss Brexit. This is just one of the nu­mer­ous con­fer­ences that will be held in Malta through­out the ro­tat­ing Coun­cil pres­i­dency.

“Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary used to be very weak. Rome was not built in a day, first you strengthen the core months, now we need to pol­ish the core months for bet­ter tourists and ex­tend to the shoul­der months.”

He con­tin­ued to say that if there are an, “in­crease in a num­ber of tourists busi­ness op­er­a­tors feel con­fi­dent so they opt for bet­ter pric­ing. Not ev­ery­thing is au­to­matic, in July there was a re­duc­tion col­lec­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion (mean­ing stan­dard ho­tels) there­fore some ho­tels might want to keep their prices on the low side.”

The re­duc­tion in bed nights cou­pled with the in­crease in tourist ar­rivals show that more tourists are opt­ing for pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion, such as the ser­vices of­fered through Air BnB.

“The MHRA is not against the Air BnB – oth­ers abroad took them to court, we are not against the ser­vice but rather that there is a level play­ing field. A free for all is a risk and cre­ates mis­bal­ance”, Mr Agius Mus­cat said.

He also shed light on the fact that there are not many op­tions for large con­fer­ences that need to take place in­doors.

In view of the lim­ited com­pe­ti­tion, ho­tels with large in­door halls are likely to take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion.

He ex­plained that the sit­u­a­tion for out­door con­fer­ences and events is very dif­fer­ent, as there are a much larger num­ber of out­door venues.

The re­duc­tion in bed nights cou­pled with the in­crease in tourist ar­rivals show that more tourists are opt­ing for pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion, such as the ser­vices of­fered through Air BnB.

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