The Malta Independent 11 December 2019, Wednesday

Seeking quality over quantity

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 16 June 2019, 09:13 Last update: about 7 months ago

The essence of time has changed. Push-button technology and devises that should free us from time restraints have created the illusion that we have less time on our hands.

We live in a world connected by an invisible super information highway and we are constantly battling with time. This speeding up of time has increased demands on life and we are now addicted to fast, detailed and instant information. Life, however, is family and friends. It is about letting go and – at bare minimum – for at least a few days a year let ourselves enjoy some freedom, relaxation and grounding away from the humdrum of pure existence. What better place to do so than in Gozo – the island where time stands still.

 

In pursuit of excellence

The Ministry for Gozo has come a long way in the last two years. Dramatic changes have been made that are helping deliver better services with better results. I strongly hold that individually, we are one drop but, together, we are an ocean. It is my belief that teamwork is the key. As a unified team, we are continuously strengthening our core principles and better organising our roles and processes.

Two years ago I introduced a restructuring process at the Ministry in order to fully recognise the skills and talents of the people in my team and empower them further in their various roles. This has resulted in encouraging them to seek quality over quantity in everything we do and has brought to the fore abilities which, until then, were unknown. The progress achieved has induced my colleagues to assume a sense of ownership in all the projects on which we have embarked.

This had a specific purpose because it is the aim of Team Gozo to promote the island as a tourist destination without removing its timeless charm – a Gozo where the visitor can enjoy time-out but, at the same time, have the luxury of making use of services and utilities that are expected in today’s modern world. Our aim is to reinvent the wheel and offer the visitor quality time on our island throughout the year.

 

Our special brand

We strive to protect and promote Gozo as a unique destination that has its own special brand to offer: a Gozo that no other country can mimic; a Gozo where the visitor is guaranteed a unique experience that can be found in no other place. My dream is to make Gozo unique and prestigious. Having said that, we strive to achieve excellence, keeping in mind the dual principles of competitiveness and sustainability.

There is no doubt that this strategy is working. Gozo is providing attractions during both peak and out-of-peak seasons which have proved to be a huge success. An example of this were the events organised between 6th and 9th of this month. The Ministry teamed up with local NGOs, local councils, band clubs and various other entities in order to provide four full days of entertainment that was appreciated by visitors and locals alike. Once again, we managed to provide the kind of entertainment that is inclusive – in that it consisted of concerts, shows, fairs, festivals and other spectacles in which theatres, arenas, gardens and piazzas were used.

 

Summer is here

Gozo’s landscape changes dramatically in the summer months. It loses its mesmerising green palette and morphs into shades of brown that contrast amazingly with the pale blue sea and pastel sky. During the day, local entrepreneurs offer a wide range of activities – ranging from walking tours to boat trips and adventure hobbies, agri tours and wine-tasting. And the summer nights can be  equally rewarding. Shooting stars and the Milky Way can be gazed on in our protected areas such as Dwejra, and expertly organised displays of hand-made fireworks can be enjoyed every week, all through the summer months, in various localities around the island.

Summer is here and everything is indicating that we are going to have a very busy one. The Ministry has spent a long time planning the organisation of cultural celebrations and thematic festivals to compliment the traditional festas and events that take place every year on specific days. This summer, we have a jam-packed calendar of events that caters for all ages, tastes and inclinations. Improved roads, enhanced open spaces and greater connectivity by means of our fourth ferry, MV Nikolaos, will ensure that Gozo will be able to handle the influx of visitors with ease.

I am confident that local businesses are well-prepared and will provide an excellent product that is good value for money and will encourage repeat visitors to our shores. Repeat visitors are the yardstick by which we can measure the performance of the Ministry, local businesses and NGOs. The Ministry is willing to cooperate fully with all those involved so that in every season we will create attractions that become a constant year in, year out. This in turn will help in the development of high-end services and more secure jobs, not to mention higher-end tourism that will have less impact on the environment and ensure that cultural and traditional activities keep evolving and can be enjoyed by future generations.

 

The fourth ferry

As from tomorrow, MV Nikolaos will be joining Gozo Channel’s fleet of three ships. Although it was scheduled to become officially operational with the introduction of the new timetable, Gozo Channel decided to begin using Nikolaos during this past week, to alleviate the demand. The difference was felt immediately.

This fourth ferry will cater for the ever-increasing demand for more trips between the islands. It was about a year ago that we began our search for a fourth ferry that had local and European certification and could dock in both Mgarr and Cirkewwa Harbours. This was not an easy feat. Previous Nationalist governments did not plan far ahead and built quays and jetties that catered for the needs of our existing ships – no more, no less.

MV Nikolaos has been wet leased for a definite period until an international tender is issued so that Gozo Channel (Operations) Ltd can lease a ship for a longer period of time. There will be a change in Gozo Channel’s schedule which means that extra trips have been added and arrival and departure times from both harbours have been changed. With this schedule, three ships will be catering for day-to-day commuters and the fourth ship will cater for commercial vehicles. In this way, queues will be avoided on both islands and the company can better plan for the statutory maintenance of its present ships without disrupting daily commuting between the islands.

Indeed, Gozo deserves better connectivity and this fourth ferry is a step in the right direction. We are, however, eagerly awaiting the outcome of the appeal regarding the fast ferry services – which would be a great help – and we are working intensively to get the helicopter service up and running in the next few months.

 

Peripheral maritime regions

This week I had the honour to represent my country in Donegal, Ireland, at the yearly Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) that brings together 160 regions from 25 states of the European Union and beyond. The CPMR campaigns in favour of a more balanced development of European territory and works to ensure that the needs and interests of its Member Regions are taken into account in policies with a high territorial impact.

Gozo is one of these regions and I am proud of the fact that my Ministry has been involved in implementing five projects that fall within three territorial cooperation programmes in which Malta has been taking part since 2014.

These three programmes are aligned with the economic, social, environmental and cultural priorities of our EcoGozo sustainable development strategy.

Being part of these cooperation programmes has helped the Ministry benefit from an exchange of ideas and experiences with our foreign counterparts. It has provided inspiration and our Gozo Team has received invaluable training and networking. I truly believe that capacity-building boosts staff and stakeholder know-how in given areas of expertise and contributes to the improvement of policies in the participating regions – Gozo included.

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