2016: Breaking record year in tourism with over 1.7 billion euro injected in the Maltese economy
2016 was another remarkable year for the tourism industry, a year where we attained the two million tourists milestone. This is an achievement that should make us all proud, irrespective of political background.
During these past weeks Malta and Gozo featured regularly, within highly respected foreign publications and other media, as top destinations to visit in 2017. We are lucky to have a unique product to offer and to exploit our features and, furthermore, seek new source markets and new tourism niches.
Refining and improving our tourism product is clearly on Government’s agenda aligned with our objective of attracting more quality tourists to our islands thus further enhancing the contribution of tourism to our already very buoyant overall economic performance and growth.
2016 was a record breaker also in terms of tourism expenditure, with a growth of 4.3% over 2015, equivalent to a total of more than €1.7 billion euro that were injected into our economy. Such optimistic and positive tourism indicators also act as means to encourage and incentivise the tourism industry at large to invest further both in their human resources and also in improving our product. As we proved many times during the past few years, Government will continue to actively collaborate and work hand in hand with all the different stakeholders in this respect.
Put simply, what previous administrations attained within a span of twenty years, that is a growth of half a million tourist arrivals, a Labour led Administration achieved in mere four. We kept breaking our own tourism record year after year, reaching another milestone in 2016 with two million tourists arrivals also thanks, among others, to our efforts aimed at creating the best and most encouraging overall conditions for the industry to invest consistently and wisely.
According to the latest UNWTO barometer, the average inbound tourism growth in 2016 over 2015 registered by Europe was just 2%, within EU28 growth was 4.4%, Southern and Mediterranean region grew 1.4%, whilst Malta registered a far healthier growth of 10.5%. December alone registered an impressive growth of nearly 33% of inbound tourists over 2015.
During an event attended also by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, we both expressed our satisfaction at achieving these outstanding tourism results while renewing our commitment on working even harder to maintain, if not improve, this very positive trend and momentum.
This Administration has not only succeeded in achieving breaking records tourism numbers, but we have also succeeded in extending tourism seasonality, an issue that was previously plaguing the industry, and hindering growth, for many years. We witnessed growth in all our regular source markets while registering postive performance from new ones. The results and growth that we are achieving during the winter months confirm that we are ever getting closer at virtually eliminating the issue of seasonality.
Such positive results only encourage us to look ahead with much optimism and clearly guide us to continue improving our overall product while ensuring that this sector remains competitive and sustainable also in the long term.
A strategic pillar for tourism growth remains air connectivity, where we are succeding too at reaching our objectives. We increased new routes for new markets while increasing frequency in existing ones focusing particularly on the winter months. This winter we introduced 17 new air routes while during last summer we introduced 15 new ones.
I must also mention the cruisliner industry, a sector which is also on the growth path. In 2016 alone our ports received over 682,000 cruiseliner passengers, an increase of two percent over 2015. Our forecasts for 2017 are that we supersede 700,000 cruiseliner passengers.
We can only remain competitive if we enhance the value of our human resources. We are working with all stakeholders to keep investing in the tourism work force and attract more individuals to this dynamic, yet exciting, economic sector. The role of the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) is key in all this we are aiming for the institute to become a regional center of excellence. Government is investing roughly around 70 milion in the new ITS building at Smart City, the largest amount ever spent in human capital in relation to the tourism industry. The new premises will offer excellence and new opportunities to our students giving them broader opportunties in finding work
The results achieved in 2016 is also thanks to the excellent spirit of collaboration with all related stakeholders including all associations, unions, and all the private sector players and workers at large. While I thank all of them for their sterling work, my message to all is simple – let us keep on working together with the same enthusiasm, energy and drive to ensure that 2017 will be another positive and record year for tourism.