The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

PM notes infrastructure challenges, Brexit, and esports during Mediterranean Tourism Forum

Jeremy Micallef Friday, 15 February 2019, 12:54 Last update: about 2 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat admitted that, within the context of the increased tourism figures (2.6 million tourists in 2018), the country is faced with infrastructure challenges.

This, he said, should be seen as a positive challenge to be faced with.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the Mediterranean Tourism Forum (MTF).

The MTF was first formed in 2013 by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association with the aim to of bringing public and private sector stakeholders with an interest in tourism across the Mediterranean region together.

"These results attest to how Malta has become one of the least seasonal islands in the Mediterranean region."

Muscat added that Malta has come to the point where we talk not only about numbers, but also about attracting a different type of tourist - one that adds more value.

"Essentially, the attracting of more quality tourists whilst maintaining traditional tourists."

In the coming weeks they aim to work to diversify the sector even more through focused campaigns which will target specific tourists, he said.

The Prime Minister also mentioned E-sports and said that the intention is to keep an eye on developing sectors such as information technology, particularly, he continued, with the Government being aware of the opportunities offered by e-sports festivals.

The effects of Brexit on the tourism industry, particularly in the case of a no-deal scenario, will probably lead to abnormal transactions in exchange rates, Muscat noted, and could also have a direct effect on consumer confidence, and therefore impacting consumer spending.

Global Peace and Sustainability

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca pinpointed "environmental concerns", the importance of "climate justice", and the "fundamental contribution" of creating and sustaining global peace as the themes of her opening speech for the MTF.

The President spoke at length about the importance of the industry being "proactive in maintaining this demand", particularly by focusing on the exponential increase in the sector of "wellness and wellbeing tourism".

"The Global Wellness Institute projects that this sub-sector will grow twice as fast as other areas of tourism, to reach over 919 billion dollars in 2022."

She also hailed individuals and companies who "set the agenda for a greener future" as "pioneers" of today's sector.

Sustainable tourism maximizes the positive contribution of tourism to biodiversity, and thus to poverty reduction, Coleiro Preca maintained, something puts it in line with the mandate of the United Nations Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals.

"I am confident that we can make the Mediterranean Region a role model for the kind of respectful and environmentally conscious tourism that we hope to achieve."

The President ended her speak by calling for a united response for big questions she proposed in this regard.

Economic Growth and Diversification

Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi expressed how Malta is proud to be a founding member of the MTF, and pushed for the celebration of the commonalities and vision to once again make the Mediterranean the most prosperous region in the world.

He insisted that that the utmost will be done to retain Malta's position as a leading economy in the Mediterranean region, and strive to ensure that our economic growth will continue to increase to ensure that growth can be shared amongst people through positive social initiatives.

Moving onto the national airline, the Minister called Air Malta 'our pride and joy,' and said that it is focusing on core markets, as well as becoming a regional player in the Mediterranean partly by expanding its routes with connecting flights for India, the US, Canada and Sub Saharan countries.

He announced that as from the 1st of April, flights to Jordan from Malta will be available through Ryan Air, whilst Air Malta will be opening routes to Cairo, Egypt.

"This is our vision and it is our ambition to actually ensure that tourism meets the needs of the economic growth of our country as well."

The Minister also announced an "energy efficiency application and scheme to make sure that hotels are green in their energy consumption" that will be rolled out later this year.

The regeneration of St Julians and Paceville also got a mention as, with consultation from the UK, regeneration plans for the area were finalized.

"We want to make sure that the model in Paceville can be replicated across Europe and the Mediterranean."

He explained that focus will be on physical and social regeneration, and technological innovation, also saying that a major music festival will be announced later on in the year.

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