The Malta Independent 21 October 2017, Saturday

Work in progress

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 6 August 2017, 08:06 Last update: about 4 months ago

'Progress' is a nice word, and change is its motivator. Changes call for innovation and innovation leads to progress.

Change and progress are linked in such a way that no good leadership can afford to lose sight of. Experience proves that progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds when necessary, cannot change anything. It is basically what makes me feel so comfortable working as part of the Labour Government led by a dynamic Prime Minister. Up until four years ago, we had experienced a long period where there was no real leadership and society had stood still. Dr Muscat's first legislature showed - time and time again - that progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.

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That is precisely what led to so many firsts in a long list of successes achieved since taking office in March 2013. Unlike the previous lethargy-ridden nationalist administrations, Labour's first term in office proved that people make history and not the other way around. The current Labour government will prove further that optimism is essential to achievement and it is also a foundation of courage that leads to change and true progress. That will also be my way of handling everything that needs to be done at the Gozo Ministry - no matter what it takes - to change the wrong perception that on this island anything goes!

Taking stock and moving

Two months ago today, I set foot in the Gozo Ministry and started a thorough review of the situation, listening to official reports and views and taking stock of resources and requirements. I fully appreciate that each one of us at the Ministry is part of the system, but it must be a system that leads to progress. Comfort zones and inertia lead to nowhere and are definitely not in my book.  

Two months on, I am happy to note that I am surrounded by a team of collaborators with a wealth of experience. Here again, individual credentials must be necessarily meant to move on together to new levels. In itself, it is a great motivator for job satisfaction when we gear up as a team and place individual experiences at the service of progress, which in turn needs to be evident and tangible.

Gozo as a Mediterranean island

That same approach leads to meeting foreign visitors to the island, with a view to exploring further cooperation on all the issues that are beneficial to Gozo's progress in various sectors. This week, in fact, it was a pleasure to inaugurate the Sixth Summer School of the Observatory of Tourism for EU Islands (OTIE). This is a non-governmental organisation that seeks to organise a data bank about all European islands through professional research and fact-finding initiatives. The support it is given by various state entities, universities and research centres is proof of its organisational dynamics. OTIE covers seven EU insular countries, namely Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.

This year's seminar had a very intriguing theme: 'Islands and Events - Economics and Management'. I commented on such topics and expressed my appreciation that Gozo had been chosen for the venue, a tiny island with a very long history that can be traced back to several millennia of prehistoric civilisations. Our island-region is wealthy in its culture and traditions, brimming with artistic talents that have reached world fame away from our shores and, most of all, the homeland of a community with an ever-growing potential and creativeness for the economic and social success that only resilience and determination can achieve.

It is imperative, however, that tourists to our island receive the highest level of service because this is what makes Gozo stand out as a different tourist destination. The tourism sector is highly volatile and therefore we must constantly improve both the skills and the product on offer. By their nature, Gozitans are very hospitable and we should therefore capitalise on this unique characteristic so that, along with the environment, landscape and cultural heritage, we continue to strengthen tourism and the economy in Gozo. This was also the message I conveyed this week during a meeting with the Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Institute for Tourism Studies Management.

Quality first and foremost

Being administratively responsible for strengthening and developing this heritage as Minister for Gozo may be challenging but it is a great opportunity for me to give my utmost to realising the government's proposals, particularly because I am fully appreciative of our young but promising economy that has converted Gozo from a burden to a dynamic complement to Malta's healthy economic growth. Building on past achievements and setting out on new projects is essentially work-in-progress towards set targets. No one would expect things to be done overnight, but everyone's commitment needs to be constant and progressing.  

This is a reality that is not only periodically announced through statistical figures, but through the actual socio-economic wellbeing of our own Gozitan families. For our generation, this was a golden landmark of Gozo's growth. We should take every opportunity to upgrade our tourist product and aim at quality service as our mark. We are aware that there is a great demand for particular niches within the important service industry that tourism is.

This was my first remark when last weekend I visited the luxury cruise ship Seabourn Encore on its first call to Gozo. The cruise sector is an important niche for Gozitan tourism and Gozo attaches great importance to this particular sector. The government is working on new initiatives to attract more quality tourists, ensuring that these visitors, who are perhaps on the island for just a few short hours, leave with a positive impression.  

Cruise passengers on visits to Gozo, such as those on the Seabourn Encore, have the opportunity to see the natural beauty and rich heritage that our island has to offer, giving it the best possible exposure to the four corners of the world. This is the best way to promote the island's attractions, wrapped and complemented with the best quality service we can offer.

Present and future

Everything that we accomplish today is a solid basis for success in the future. We need to monitor our current performance and we need to move ahead. We consider all options, but we need to be ready for change. It is through change that we can achieve progress and succeed. The Labour Government has clear and feasible proposals that should renew our performance if we all take ownership of everything that needs to be done. It may be a case of work-in-progress, but renovation and improvement are constant ways towards success.

Let us not forget that, despite the endemic limitations of our double-insularity, we have stood up to all related challenges. Thanks to bold decisions and unprecedented measures taken by a determined government, supported by a great sense of entrepreneurship on the part of experienced Gozitans, the foundations have been laid for Gozo to be an essential part of an optimistic and successful nation.

The tourist industry, with all its branches of hospitality and service, has been and will always be a mainstay of this success story. In all our current and future ventures we have to continue to invest heavily but rationally and diligently in our island's unique qualities as a tourist attraction and destination. We need to work hand-in-hand with each other in order to secure the best economic results the tourism industry can yield. Goodwill and cooperation, change and progress, are key factors for the best management of this important pillar of Gozo's economy.

Most of the time, successful landmarks are clear signposts that spur us on to further efforts and changes towards greater and better times for our own and future generations.


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