2014 was an all time record for tourism in Malta. It is estimated that arrivals last year reached a landmark figure of 1.7 million tourists. Malta’s tourism performance has been on the high side of European and Mediterranean performance, however, we cannot take anything for granted as the continued success of Malta’s tourism industry can only be sustained if it is well planned and supported by a sound tourism policy. Tourism demand is continuously increasing, yet it is being rapidly outpaced by growing supply as more and more countries and destinations view tourism as an accelerated path to job and wealth creation, investment and SME proliferation.
It is precisely for this reason that I felt the need to immediately enhance the Tourism Policy covering the period 2015-2020. The Ministry for Tourism has been working on this document for the past months in consultation, close collaboration with industry representatives and other stakeholders. The policy direction communicated within the draft document refers to accessibility; the generation of tourism demand through marketing activities; and the constant improvement and development of the tourism product. It also gives recognition to Gozo’s specificities as a distinct tourism destination, whilst also taking into consideration the growing importance and size of the domestic tourism market. Another important objective is to protect and promote what is truly indigenous to the Maltese Islands by showcasing the special distinctive features and characteristics of the destination rather than depending on mimicking what is available in competing destinations.
This Tourism Policy was formulated in view of the Tourism Vision until 2030 that, in turn, is based on three fundamental principles namely; managing visitor numbers; raising the level of quality across the entire tourism value chain; and reducing seasonality. These three fundamental principles are individually pivotal, while jointly inter-related, and forming the basis of successful and sustainable development of tourism of the Maltese Islands over the next years.
The issue of the relationship between ‘volume growth’ and ‘value growth’ is becoming increasingly pertinent, particularly as the destination reaches peak season. Our vision for tourism was developed on the concept of planned growth and the targeting of appropriate markets with the aim of achieving higher rates of ‘economic returns’ and a better ‘return on investment’.
The delivery of quality at all levels of the tourism value chain will become increasingly important in influencing travel behavior, as the quest for the low prices of the recent past has now evolved into a demand for value for money. Quality needs to be embedded in all aspects of the product ranging from mentality to attitude and from the most basic aspects of free amenities to the most expensive of products and services. In the coming years, quality is set to play a very major role in the visitors’ choice of a destination, which is why this is considered as a fundamental principle of our tourism vision.
Malta is already one of the least seasonal of the Mediterranean’s island destinations due to its success in developing a multitude of off-peak attractions to attract tourism volumes during the shoulder months. The months of October and November 2014 showed encouraging and positive results. These months under review registered a record amount of tourists. This is in view of the fact that more than 284,000 tourists visited Malta, meaning an increase of 3.5% on that registered in same months of previous year. The same positive trends were registered in nights spentand expenditure alike.
Nevertheless, reducing seasonality is the other fundamental guiding principle of our tourism vision. The substantial gap between the country’s peak season volume attraction and that of the low-season is indicative of the huge potential where the country can invest on different niche markets to attract more tourists in the shoulder months.
Government needs to guide development of the industry by establishing tourism policies that support measures that can bring socio-economic benefits and added value to our islands. This policy aims to improve competitiveness and also promote the development of responsible and sustainable high-quality tourism over the coming years.
Our aim is to provide the necessary vision and direction to all stakeholders so as to spearhead their own initiatives for the continued benefit of tourism for our Islands. This Tourism Policy for the Maltese Islands paves the way for the destination to adapt to these prerequisites for continued success. It leads Government and industry players to commit to plans in order to achieve the set objectives. Its success will help our country increase the benefits from the tourism sector and sustain its status as a modern economic European state.
This policy document, which has been released for public consultation, reflects the Government’s position for a sustainable development of tourism. The formulation of a national tourism policy is a comprehensive initiative that requires the broadest possible participation, feedback and acceptance by all stakeholders, be they political, commercial, public, private, directly or indirectly interested in the industry’s development. It is from all these parties that we seek feedback and inputs prior to finalising and launching this important document. I am confident that together we can keep this sector growing and ensure more economic benefits for the nations’ wellbeing for the years to come.