The Malta Independent 3 August 2021, Tuesday

Tourism 2016; Excellent Results

Edward Zammit Lewis Sunday, 5 March 2017, 10:15 Last update: about 5 years ago

2016: Breaking record year in tourism, with over €1.7 billion injected into the Maltese economy

Last year was another remarkable one for the tourism industry – a year when we reached the two million tourists milestone. This is an achievement that should make us all proud, irrespective of political background.

During the last few weeks, Malta and Gozo have featured regularly in highly respected foreign publications and other media, as top destinations to visit in 2017. We are lucky to have a unique product to offer, to exploit our features and, furthermore, to seek new source markets and new tourism niches.

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Refining and improving our tourism product is clearly on the government’s agenda, together with our objective of attracting more quality tourists to our islands thus further enhancing the contribution of tourism to our already very buoyant overall economic performance and growth.

Last year was also a record breaker in terms of tourist expenditure, with a growth of 4.3 per cent over 2015, equivalent to a total of more than €1.7 billion being injected into our economy. Such optimistic and positive tourism indicators also act as the means to encourage and incentivise the tourism industry at large to invest further, both in its human resources and in improving its product. As we have proved many times during the past few years, the government will continue to actively collaborate and work hand in hand with all the different stakeholders in this respect.

Put simply, what previous administrations achieved within a span of 20 years, that is a growth of half-a-million tourist arrivals, a Labour-led Administration achieved in a mere four. We kept breaking our own tourism record year after year, reaching another milestone in 2016 with two million tourists arrivals also thanks, among others, to our efforts aimed at creating the best and most encouraging overall conditions for the industry to invest consistently and wisely.

According to the latest UNWTO barometer, the average inbound tourism growth in 2016 over 2015 registered by Europe was just two per cent, within the EU28 growth it was 4.4 per cent, the southern and Mediterranean region grew by 1.4 per cent and Malta registered a far healthier growth of 10.5 per cent. In the month of December alone, an impressive growth of nearly 33 per cent of inbound tourists was registered over the figure for 2015.

During an event also attended by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, we both expressed our satisfaction at achieving these outstanding tourism results while renewing our commitment to work even harder to maintain – if not improve – this very positive trend and momentum.

This Administration has not only succeeded in achieving record-breaking tourism numbers, but in extending tourism seasonality, an issue that was previously plaguing the industry, and hindering growth, for many years. We witnessed growth in all our regular source markets while registering postive performance from new ones. The results and growth that we are achieving during the winter months confirm that we are ever getting closer at virtually eliminating the issue of seasonality.

Such positive results only encourage us to look ahead with much optimism and clearly guide us to continue improving our overall product while ensuring that this sector also remains competitive and sustainable in the long term.

A strategic pillar for tourism growth remains air connectivity, where we are also succeding to reach our objectives. We have increased new routes for new markets while increasing frequency for existing ones focusing particularly on the winter months. This winter we introduced 17 new air routes while last summer we introduced 15.

I must also mention the cruisliner industry, a sector which is also on the growth path. In 2016 alone our ports received over 682,000 cruiseliner passengers, an increase of two per cent over 2015. Our forecasts for 2017 are that we supersede 700,000 cruiseliner passengers.

We can only remain competitive if we enhance the value of our human resources. We are working with all stakeholders to keep investing in the tourism work force and attract more individuals to this dynamic, yet exciting, economic sector. The role of the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) is key in all this and we are aiming for the institute to become a regional centre of excellence. The government is investing around €70 milion in the new ITS building at Smart City, the largest amount ever spent on human capital in relation to the tourism industry. The new premises will offer excellence and new opportunities to our students, giving them broader opportunties for finding work

The results achieved in 2016 are also thanks to the excellent spirit of collaboration between all the stakeholders, including all associations, unions, the private sector players and workers at large. While I thank all of them for their sterling work, my message to everyone is simple: let us keep on working together with the same enthusiasm, energy and drive to ensure that 2017 will be another positive and record year for tourism.

Dr Edward Zammit Lewis is the Minister for Tourism  

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