The Malta Independent on Sunday

Tourism: towards sustainabl­e and continuous growth


With the official statistics for the first six months of 2016 already in hand, we now have a clearer picture of where our tourism industry stands today. The data for the tourism sector for the period January to June indicate that Malta hosted more than 835,000 tourists, an increase of 9.7 per cent over the same period last year. The record number of tourists, excluding overnight cruise liner passengers, registered between the first six months of this year is the largest growth in the number of tourists ever recorded between the months of January and June since 2011. Furthermor­e, for the same period, tourism expenditur­e reached a total €656.4 million, equating to a considerab­le growth of 5.7 per cent over last year.

There is also no doubt about the growing importance of the cruise line market within the context of Malta’s tourism sector. Among others, cruise-liner activity breathes life into our harbours besides acting as an incentive for urban and economic regenerati­on in this area.

Everything indicates that the record performanc­e registered by the cruise liner industry last year will be actually exceeded this year too, with projection­s of 700,000 cruise liner passengers’ arrivals for 2016. According to the latest published data by the NSO, nearly 240, 000 cruise liner passengers arrived in the first half of this year, meaning an increase of 6.2 per cent on 2015. I am also pleased to announce that next year we will be welcoming the second cruise company that will be operating on home-porting basis from Malta.

We cannot speak of our success in tourism without mentioning our sister island, Gozo. There is no doubt that Gozo is a key element of the Maltese Islands’ tourism offer and package. Tourism in Gozo has great strengths and opportunit­ies in areas such as quality accommodat­ion – both collective and farmhouse-style self-catering – wellness, relaxation, scuba diving, and outdoor activities. Gozo’s potential as a destinatio­n for rural tourism is substantia­l yet it remains relatively untapped, while its distinct natural environmen­t means that it is capable of attracting tourism flows that vary substantia­lly from Malta’s, including domestic tourism flows, and substantia­l volumes of day trippers.

Last year was also a record year for Gozo as more than one million people visited island, with nights spent also reaching the one million mark, equating to an increase of 14 per cent on the previous year. During the first quarter of this year, Gozo welcomed 136,000 visitors, 28 per cent more than that registered in 2015, again showing that the adverse seasonalit­y factor is being largely mitigated in Gozo too as in Malta.

With regard to the cruise liner industry in Gozo, I also believe that Gozo can sustain its own cruise liner industry by improving its berthing infrastruc­ture to be able to attract its own unique mix of visitors as distinct from those visiting Valletta harbour. Last year was the best ever registered in Gozo for cruise liner operations. There were 18 port calls in Gozo in 2015 that carried more than 9,800 passengers, meaning triple the amount registered in 2012 and 14 times as much that registered in 2014. I can also confirm that according to Transport Malta data, there were nine port calls by cruise liner vessels registered in Gozo between January and June 2016, carrying almost 2,500 passengers.

We are going through an unpreceden­ted period of continuous growth which has improved seasonalit­y patterns and profitabil­ity levels as well as sustained confidence, which is evident due to the continuous and important levels of in- petitivene­ss.

My vision and direction for the immediate future of the industry is to invest more in our human capital, improve diversific­ation in our source market, work closer with the private sector and create more PPP initiative­s. Furthermor­e, I am also determined to focus more on the product, including our country’s infrastruc­ture and service. Finally, another top priority is to continue to reduce the seasonal gap in the sector.

This perfect synergy between the government and the private sector continues to be a determinin­g characteri­stic and important component of our industry’s single equation for success. This further boosts our resolve to pursue our strategic objectives with greater intensity and confidence in the months and years to come. Together we can make it!

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