A motivation to work harder
Tourist figures for Gozo coming from multiple sources are all encouraging: a 2.8 per cent increase in tourists in the first quarter of 2016, a 3.8 per cent increase in bed nights, a 12.5 per cent increase in Gozo Channel trips in the first quarter with an 18.1 per cent increase in vehicles and 20 per cent in passengers. These positive results have been sustained so much that August has seen another 7.8 per cent increase in passengers visiting Gozo in the third quarter of the year with Gozo restaurants recording a 3.2 per cent increase in revenue, when their counterparts in other parts of Malta showed a decline. Yes, it is a good reason to celebrate because such results do not come by chance. They are the result of good planning and efficient delivery.
However, we should not, and we do not intend to rest on our laurels. If these positive results are a good reason to celebrate, they have certainly motivated us to work even harder. There is no storm to be weathered. There is just the perfect climate to do business, to work and achieve successes. Storms have been weathered through hard work and luckily, storms can – at least for the time being – be considered a thing of the past. Now it is time to maximise the benefits that we can reap while we are on the crest of the wave.
The next steps are the new berthing buoy in Xlendi and the fast ferry between Gozo and Valletta. The successful results we referred to have been attained with the existing infrastructure. The next step for growth in results should be growth in infrastructure. Therefore, the cruise liner industry that has been going from strength to strength now needs the new berthing buoy in Xlendi. So far, we were always happy each time we succeeded in attracting a handful of cruise liners and have them land their people in Mġarr. That was good, but it will not be good enough in the long term. Our next benchmark should be a situation when cruise liner passengers reaching Gozo would be the order of the day and, understandably so, this requires infrastructure. The Xlendi buoy that shall replace the current one, which does not serve its purpose, is the next step in the solution to this prosperous matter.
This will be coupled with the introduction of the fast ferry service between Gozo and Grand Harbour. The fast ferry service is another goal which the Ministry for Gozo is working hard to achieve. Everyone stands to benefit from the fast ferry – be it the native Gozitan population, Maltese people wishing to cross over to Gozo for a day or an evening, and foreigners. Making Gozo more connected, making Gozo more reachable brings benefits from each and every angle you look at– restaurateurs, hoteliers, Gozitan families with second and third generation living in Malta, Gozitan residents working in Malta, or providing services to the main island. The Ministry for Gozo believes that the fast ferry is another milestone in the long road to making Gozo fully connected. It will usher in a new era and a new reality which only the very few can foresee but which the many can eventually enjoy. I note with pleasure that this fast ferry issue is not just a wish on a bucket list but something that should happen within the next 12 months or so.
With positive sound results boosting our confidence and consolidating our efforts, now is the right time to build a sound infrastructure so that the good news we are enjoying can be sustained and further improved.