Tourism has now established itself firmly as the key pillar of Malta’s economy, and last year’s official statistics show that this sector is as solid and robust as ever.
During 2014, Malta has hosted 1.71million visitors, a staggering 7.8 per cent increase over the previous year.
Moreover, the industry has retained, and indeed enhanced, its already considerable contribution to the Islands’ economic wealth and wellbeing. During 2014, Tourism contributed directly more than €1.5 billion to the local economy, or 6.1 per cent more than 2013.
2014 can surely be described as a landmark year for tourism, ensuring that this sector remains a success story for Malta. However, we are also aware that tourism can be a volatile industry, and we must keep our eyes on the ball. We need to continue developing further our tourism offer, particularly our islands’ accessibility, our overall tourism product, our facilities, and our attractions. We must continuously revisit and update our marketing strategies and policies, listen to what the market is saying, and to those working at the heart of it.
It is clear that Malta’s future tourism policy will rest on three pillars, namely accessibility, quality, and the intelligent and focused marketing of our tourism offer. We will be working towards enhancing further airline connectivity, a factor which has already facilitated our market reach and opened new markets for Malta. Air Malta will remain central to our tourism strategy, and we are committed to ensuring its commercial viability and that our national airline will retain its role as a major player in Malta’s tourism scenario. From a marketing standpoint, on the other hand, the Islands need to be presented and marketed as a vibrant, fun-loving and forward-looking destination, against a backdrop of a rich cultural heritage and warm, hospitable people. Events such as Valletta 2018 will surely prove invaluable in providing a context within which we can present our unique offer.
I strongly believe that efforts at ensuring quality across the board, covering the entire supply chain for the sector, must be sustained and improved. We need to ensure that we leave no gaps in terms of the quality we offer. Malta’s reputation as a safe and hospitable destination, regulated by the highest standards, needs to be safeguarded and even enhanced further, constantly and assiduously.
The extent of the industry’s success in 2014 is reflected right across all the tourism indicators for the year. In terms of the number of nights spent by tourists in Malta and Gozo, for example, 2014 saw an increase of nearly 5%, reaching more than 13.5 million nights. All categories of properties benefitted from this increase, with the number of nights spent in hotels and other collective accommodation experiencing an increase of 6 per cent, while those in private accommodation, such as apartments and farmhouses, rose by more than 9 per cent.
The tourism sector needs to consolidate upon its growth performance, exploit fresh opportunities and face upcoming challenges to sustain its future growth. Thus, I saw this as an appropriate time to commission a detailed and independent study on the impact of tourism activity on the Maltese economy. The study focuses on the impact of tourism activity on job creation within various sectors of activity and on the main determinants of its performance. The study furthermore focuses on key requirements for the economy to attain even better value-added from the activity generated from the tourism industry.
Years of hard work and effective collaboration between all tourism stakeholders, have led us to where we stand today. We are enjoying the fruits of a sustained and nationwide effort. Volumes have reached more record levels. Our inflows are neatly divided between tour operator business and independent travellers, and revenues are superior to what they were previously. We have now reached a critical mass of tourism activity, and the Maltese Islands are firmly placed on the European tourism map.
But where do we go from here? Whether we continue to grow or not is not at issue. The question is how to grow. I believe the answer lies in how we position ourselves on the market, how we manage to develop a strong Malta brand that blends and fuses seamlessly with our European Mediterranean character, while clearly differentiating us from the competition. A brand which carries a promise based on quality and value for money. That is the way ahead. To this end, recently, the Ministry for Tourism put in motion a consultation exercise tied with the revised edition of the tourism policy draft document for the Maltese Islands. Suggestions received are being carefully considered and analysed. Although this document will cover the period 2015 to 2020, the policy is also purposely based on a wider vision and strategy, extending to 2030. I believe that together we can sustain this industry’s growth path for our nation’s wellbeing for the many years to come, and the revised National Tourism Policy shall lay the basis for this to be achieved.