The Malta Independent 26 October 2014, Sunday

Germany in the immediate future, extra-Schengen in the middle term

Malta Independent Sunday, 26 January 2014, 10:02 Last update: about 6 months ago

Malta International Airport does not intend to rest on its laurels after clocking up a record 2013.

In the immediate term, and with the help of the MTA and the government, MIA intends to open up the German market, where there is a lot of growth to be obtained. And in the medium term, they see huge potential for growth outside Schengen.

This was revealed on Thursday, when MIA revealed its figures for the year.

CEO Markus Klaushofer presented the highlights of the past year: 4,031 million passengers – a 10.5 per cent increase over the previous year, and a slightly better seat load factor of 78.5 per cent.

Just a few years ago, one would have thought that Malta could not take in any more tourists in the peak summer months, but 2013 belied this with a 10 per cent increase in August.

And, even more significantly, the later shoulder months of the year saw even greater, proportionately speaking, increases: 18 per cent more both in October and November and an 11 per cent increase in December, whereas January 2013 had only seen an 8 per cent increase.

Also significant was that the increase in passengers was spread among the airlines serving Malta: Air Malta carried six per cent more passengers, Ryanair increased its passengers by an astounding 19.3 per cent but legacy carrier Lufthansa saw an increase of 27.2 per cent with its flights to Munich and an increased flight to Frankfurt.

Low-cost carriers now account for 40 per cent of all passengers, just a little less than Air Malta with its 44 per cent.

The UK remains Malta’s top source for passengers, with 29 per cent, with Italy at 18 per cent and Germany a poor third at 14 per cent. Libya, with 108,000 passengers, saw a 51.9 per cent increase.

Malta’s 10.7 per cent increase in passengers was a record among airports of a similar size: airports that handled fewer than five million passengers saw an average increase of 2.5 per cent, other, larger airports in Europe registered a 2.7 per cent increase and EU airports an increase of just 0.8 per cent.

Malta’s airport’s growth also beat all other airports in the EU that handle between three and five million passengers – with Rome seeing just a four per cent increase, Newcastle one per cent and Seville registering a huge 15 per cent fall.

Summer this year promises to be an even better season, with British Airways returning to Malta, flyNiki (with its good connections to Northern and Eastern Europe) coming from Vienna three times a week, Transavia operating from Nantes and Vuelling from Rome.

Overall, MIA expects an increase in capacity of 2.6 per cent which conservatively translates into a two per cent increase in passengers.

Replying to questions, Mr Klaushofer said MIA was very pleased with Turkish Airways, which has opened up the Maltese market to extra-Schengen tourists.

Talks are ongoing with a number of airlines with regard to 2015. The immediate focus is on Germany, which is a very difficult market to penetrate, given the German passengers’ preference for stability that sees them going to the same resort they choose year after year. The Germans are big spenders as long as they find quality, albeit most German tourists travel with tour operators.

The arrival of flyNiki, which is a subsidiary of Air Berlin, can entice the mother company to try Malta, as can the low-cost Germanwings, which is a subsidiary of Lufthansa.

Tourism Minister Karmenu Vella pointed out that while four out of every 400 British tourists comes to Malta, only one in every 400 German tourists comes. There is considerable growth potential in this market and the government hopes to double it over three years.

Mr Klaushofer also spoke of MIA’s planned capital investments over the coming year, which amount to €3.6 million in respect of airport investment and €5.4 million as airline incentives.

These are:

·        Airport investments

·        Apron and taxiway expansion providing additional capacity and efficiency

·        Baggage handling extension in check-in area to reduce queuing

·        Expanding the non-Schengen area to reduce congestion and improve passenger flow

·        Security improvements with new technology.

·        Airline incentives

·        Free landing in winter

·        Reductions on parking

·        Rebate on night surcharge

·        Incentives for new and strategic routes

·        Incentives for non-EU markets and

·        Marketing support

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