The United Nations World Tourism Organisation defines quality as the central objective of tourism development and interprets it as: “The result of a process which implies the satisfaction of all the legitimate product and service needs, requirements and expectations of the consumer at an acceptable price, in conformity with mutually accepted contractual conditions and the underlying quality determinants such as safety and security, hygiene, accessibility, transparency, authenticity and harmony of the tourism activity concerned with its human and natural environment.”
Consumers expect that the tourism services they purchase, irrespective of the price paid, will be of a superior standard. Achieving customer satisfaction involves a wide range of service providers, from the moment a customer makes the booking enquiry, to getting here and back home. Therefore quality standards need to permeate every aspect of tourism operations. Consumers are rightly becoming more sophisticated and increasingly self-assured regarding their rights and this result in an increasingly critical attitude towards the provision of quality. This calls for greater awareness amongst all those involved in tourism in its totality; and a combined effort to improve the level of quality across all its dimensions. This is a challenge I am determined to overcome together with all the stakeholders involved.
Achieving tourist satisfaction adds up to value for money, and this should be a main objective for the industry’s service providers. My first objective is to focus on the Tourism policy which will lead us to succeed in our goals. On Friday 04th July 2014, we launched the first meeting of the consultative committee that will start planning for a new comprehensive and updated policy. The Ministry for Tourism will be taking the lead, will revise the present policy dated 2016 and will publish the new tourism policy with the Government’s vision. This will be a challenge which will create a number of projects and initiatives that will need to be implemented moving forward. The participants for the consultative committee are composed of various representatives from different entities and associations, namely the Malta Tourism Authority, Air Malta, Institute of Tourism Studies, MHRA, and other stakeholders. The main goal for the committees is to discuss the ideas brought around the table during the meetings. In tandem, the Ministry will also be consulting with other important entities and associations.
Improved tourist satisfaction will also lead to improved profitability for operators and the drive to provide better quality should also stem from believing that quality eventually always pays off. I am positive that visitors’ satisfaction is increasingly determined by the perceived value of quality and experience of their stay. Therefore, scoring high on the overall visitor’s satisfaction will give leverage to repeat business, extended stays and consequently increased expenditure.
The responsibility for the provision of quality in tourism lies with everyone, not just Government and private entities. The delivery of quality implies greater awareness, cooperation and commitment at all levels from individuals directly or indirectly involved in the tourism industry to members of the host community.
The Government’s role and contribution towards accomplishing targets are, of course, essential. Government has the responsibility to ensure that the country’s overall image and the major factors associated with tourism mirror value, particularly in relation to public infrastructure, public services, safety and security, and consumer protection. In response to this challenge, Government has established Tourism Zones in the southern, central and northern parts of Malta. Furthermore, the Ministry for Tourism appointed a Tourism Zones National Committee to address its concerns, which is made up of representatives from various Ministries and Governmental entities, Local Councils and the commercial sector. The objectives for these committees are to mainly focus on the tourist areas and identify key areas for maintenance, cleaning and waste collection. Much work has been done, but there is a lot more to do to enhance our product.
The private sector has to, on the other hand, offer and provide high caliber tourism products. Such products need to be reviewed consistently and meet, and beyond, the needs and expectations of our visitors. Our private partners need to make sure that the services they offer are provided by well trained, cordial, motivated and committed personnel, as this is a main resource that will influence quality. The foundation for quality in this respect is comprehensive training for both management and staff. The Institute Tourism Studies will play a crucial role to step up our efforts to improve the professional skills of workers in this field to meet our customers’ expectations.
Beyond the provision of value of the products and services we offer, my priority is to attract further quality-tourism to our islands. Here again, quality-tourism is not just about higher spending tourists, but about the socio-economic benefits this can bring to our islands and which can be achieved in many ways. This makes it vital for the development of the sector to follow sustainable development principles and a process of qualitative change, which has to be adopted across the islands. The Ministry for Tourism together with the Malta Tourism Authority, in collaboration with the Malta Hotel and Restaurants Association, has been working on a voluntary scheme to provide a quality assured seal for licensed restaurants. The quality recognition scheme will make no attempt to enforce restrictive criteria but will promote on different styles.
To the face of increased competition, I believe the provision of quality in tourism is not an option but a must. Quality service delivery will become more and more significant for tourism and will undoubtedly influence travel choices. Added value will, in turn, help us to promote the development of responsible high-quality tourism, taking advantage of the islands’ unique selling points, in particular the diversity we offer, our extraordinary cultural wealth, heritage and local hospitality.
Together we can, and must, make this quality leap.