Hospitality Malta 02 - Page 13

I t is a pleasure for me to be writing this brief foreword to the second issue of this magazine. Having just recently been entrusted with the ministerial responsibility for steering the Maltese tourism sec- tor forward, I feel indeed privi- leged to be addressing the readers of this publication who, for the most part, are themselves protag- onists in one way or another in this important industry. Over the past few years, tour- ism to our islands has gone from strength to strength, with 2016 being the seventh consecutive year delivering overall increases. In- bound tourism increased by 10%, totalling almost 2 million. Besides this, a further 620,000 cruise passengers visited Malta, up 4% over the previous year. Perhaps more importantly, expenditure grew, with tourism contributing over 1.7 billion euro to the local economy. In the first four months of 2017 arrivals increased by more than 100,000 visitors (or 22.9%) compared to the same period last year. In addition, nights stayed by tourists and tourist expenditure also increased, resulting in an ad- ditional 58 million euro in terms of income. These are impressive numbers, but we feel we can do even better. HOSPITALITY MALTA In fact, going forward, we are aim- ing to not only consolidate these gains, but also achieve further sustainable growth, especially in the off-peak months, by attract- ing visitors from untapped source markets, including long haul, and focusing on improvements in quality, both in the levels of prod- uct and services offered, as well as in our visitor profile, whilst con- tinuing to improve the seasonality spread. Speaking of reducing seasonality, this is one area where Malta has managed to make significant in- roads. Statistics for the past years demonstrate how the islands have managed to move away from be- ing a typical Mediterranean sun- and-sea holiday spot to becoming an all-year-round destination. Of course, our visitor inflows still peak in July and August, and this is understandable given the attrac- tion of our beautiful seas (recently certified to be the second clean- est bathing waters in Europe) and climate. But we have managed to extend the season substantially, so that one could say that our sum- mer now stretches from May to October. Even the winter months are attracting growing numbers of visitors. Weather-wise, our mild winters offer springlike tempera- tures which are particularly attrac- tive for our visitors from Northern Europe. And even in those rare days where the sun isn’t shining, there is such a variety of things to Prospects for the foresee- able future are good and there is reason for all of us to look forward with op- timism do and enjoy, with a rich cultur- al offer and a varied calendar of events, that the risk of our visitors feeling bored is practically nil. There is a lot going for Malta as a tourism destination. Prospects for the foreseeable future are good and there is reason for all of us to look forward with optimism. Nonetheless, we are also aware that ours is a volatile sector, where we should never feel complacent about our achievements. Ultimately, the crucial element which makes all the difference in a visitor’s experience is the service offered by each and every one of us, not only those who are direct- ly employed in the tourism sec- tor, but also the public in gener- al. One of the things which make our islands truly special is the fact that our visitors from abroad are not closed in secluded resorts but mingle with the local population, interacting at various levels, and experiencing the real and authen- tic Malta, Gozo and Comino. SEPTEMBER | 2017 11