The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

PM lauds 2016 tourism results, hopeful Air Malta will find 'the right' strategic partner

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 1 February 2017, 14:02 Last update: about 6 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today he was hopeful that Air Malta would find a strategic partner “in the time to come.”  

Dr Muscat was speaking at an event during which the Malta Tourism Authority gave a detailed breakdown of tourist arrivals and expenditure during 2016. Around 1.98 million tourists visited Malta between January and December.

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Dr Muscat said the sector was booming but was also facing challenges. “One of these challenges is finding the right strategic partner for Air Malta. We did not consider the deal with Alitalia as being the right one for us and, because we are responsible, we ended it amicably.”

The Prime Minister said nothing was being excluded as the search continued but insisted that there were priorities.  “First we must get our own house in order. Also, whatever deal model we opt for, there needs to be a strategic element.”

Dr Muscat expressed great satisfaction at the 2016 results, pointing out that arrivals had increased by almost half a million since the start of the legislature. “That is the spirit of this administration – we set targets and we surpass them.”

The PM said this was not all happening by chance but was the result of hard work and effective collaboration between the government and stakeholders.

The government was working on creating new niche markets, including wedding tourism, film tourism and medical tourism. “This will be the first time Malta will be marketing itself as a destination for quality medical tourism and education. The €120 being invested by the private sector will create this new niche market while also sustaining our own state health sector.”

Dr Muscat also spoke about the new ITS campus. Development at the Smart City site is expected to start in the coming weeks. “This is not simply about moving place,” he said. “It is about going two or three notches up. The new campus will be a game changer for all stakeholders in the tourism industry and will make careers in tourism more attractive for young people.

His thoughts were echoed by Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, who said the ITS would aim to become a regional centre of excellence in tourism education.

Dr Zammit Lewis said Malta had enjoyed year-on-year growth in the sector since 2010. “We are firmly on the right track but we will keep striving to improve the quality of our product. The ITS will have a crucial role in all of this.”

The minister also pointed out that tourism arrivals were up as a result of an increase in connectivity, pointing out that no less than 17 new routes were introduced this winter alone.  He also spoke about the cruise liner industry, with Malta going from simple port of call to a homeport for several cruise liners.

MTA Chairman Gavin Gulia said the aim was to build on the 2016 results. “1,988,000 tourists visited our shores last year - this is just 12,000 short of the target we had set for 2017. We will not stop here. The moment we say ‘we’ve arrived’ is the moment we stop and start going backwards.”

Dr Gulia said Malta had learnt how to sell itself as a tourist destination not only for summer but also during the shoulder months. “Our main aim is to keep up this growth during this period of the year.”

MTA CEO Paul Bugeja pointed out that tourist expenditure in December alone had increased by almost €9 million. He said some markets, like Russia and Austria, had registered decreases, and this would be looked into, but the increase in other markets more than made up for this. The largest markets remain the UK and Italy, which registered increases of 6.5% and 11.5% respectively.

Other, smaller markets, like Poland and Greece, registered increases of more than 50%. 

Pictures: Michael Camilleri

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