The tourism sector’s success in the coming ten years is not solely based on recovery from the pandemic, but also on increasing the quality of the islands’ tourism product and services, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said during the launch of the proposed Tourism Strategy for 2021 to 2030 on Monday.
The proposed strategy is based on the three-pronged approach of ‘recovering, rethinking and revitalising’.
The vision for this strategy is to align tourism with sustainable principles which make best use of the country’s natural and cultural attractions. It aims to do this in a way that finds a balance between the welfare and well-being of the country’s residents and the maximisation of visitor economic value and satisfaction.
There are 22 strategic aims in total which the authorities would like to implement in order to achieve their goal. This includes strategic aims on the economic contributions to the country’s GDP, on Gozo, on marketing and on emerging and developing segments of the tourism market (like education, healthcare and film).
Additionally, the strategy includes plans for the islands’ brand positioning and brand footprint, the environment and climate as a tourism product, tourism accommodation, promotion of the island as a quality destination, industry human resources, conventions and events and finally, governance and implementation.
Consultation with stakeholders on the strategy will take place between January and February, and the government will open up the strategy to public consultation soon after. The aim is to have the strategy finalised by March 2021; and by the start of the second quarter the key emerging plans and programmes are to be launched.
“Great moments are born from great opportunities and this is what we have in front of us,” Bartolo remarked during his opening address. “We are closing a chapter of a ten-year story of record growth, which nobody would have thought would have ended with a pandemic.”
He said that the tourism sector needs to be at the forefront of the islands’ economic recovery, by being forward looking and unafraid of changes that are needed to make it more sustainable.
“The next decade of our economic history is based on these 3 pillars. In the recovery period, we will re-establish airline connectivity and relaunch ourselves in source markets, all the while addressing our vision for the quality of this sector’s future.”
Bartolo explained that bettering quality is not about forgetting one’s roots and thinking of the new, but taking note of the past and embracing diversity. “This is how we will revitalise our sector to make Malta’s economy future proof.”
Permanent Secretary Ronald Mizzi shared Bartolo’s sentiment, saying that this is a very important juncture in the country’s economy “and with tourism being one of the main drivers of our GDP, the responsibility we have as policy makers is to keep this sector sustainable and attractive to travellers.”
“Malta’s tourism was experiencing a peek when this pandemic struck, but the ever-increasing volumes might have made us take it for granted that we were supposed to live happily ever after.”
He said that suddenly, Malta is suddenly back to 1980s crisis levels and it was not easy to plan ahead in these circumstances where even tomorrow is still a question mark. However, he believes that this forward-looking strategy will be a catalyst in bettering the situation in the future, alongside the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.
While answering to questions by the media, Bartolo said that there is no way of predicting whether recovery to 2019 numbers will happen this year.
“Our focus is not on the numbers but on the quality of the service and product we can provide for the tourist. Thus, we are looking into the challenges that we have in this regard and how to turn them into opportunities that will be enjoyed by tourists as well as all stakeholders.”