The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Gozo’s time to excel

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 19 January 2020, 09:33 Last update: about 2 months ago

“Mere change is not growth. Growth is the synthesis of change and continuity. Where there is no continuity there is no growth.”  -  C.S. Lewis, British writer

 

Our new Prime Minister, Dr Robert Abela, has stressed the importance of continuity and stability in his vision for the future of our country. This augurs well for us Gozitans. My reappointment as Minister for Gozo gives me the confidence, impetus and drive to continue with even greater vigour to implement Project Gozo to the full.

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Team Gozo, together with the business community, NGOs and the many women and men that believe in Gozo as a sustainable, eco-friendly island will, in the years to come, give us the success and prosperity that we deserve. We are a hard-working entrepreneurial community and we are being given the opportunity to excel and overcome all obstacles. All this is thanks to Labour’s belief in our capabilities and potential as net-contributors to the national economy.

 

Our opportunities

More than other sectors, tourism is a major driving force in the economic growth and development of Gozo. Our product is diversified and multi-faceted and caters for thousands of new – and repeat – visitors.  We Gozitans have created a distinct, high calibre, brand that is attracting more business and creating a considerable number of jobs.

In my speech at the prestigious award ceremony organised by the Gozo Tourism Association last Thursday I applauded the excellent service of the women, men and organisations dedicated to keeping Gozo as a top tourist destination, giving them the recognition they truly deserve. I applaud the GTA for hosting such an important event as it recognises and rewards those who work in the Gozitan tourism industry.

 

Hospitality – our nature

‘Gozitan hospitality’ is not a slogan: it is our way of life! It is the reason why repeat visitors come back to our shores time and time again. It is because we are an open, generous, welcoming and decent people. Gozo is a place where friendship, culture, ambition, hospitality and natural beauty come together as one whole package. The Ministry for Gozo, along with all stake-holders, are collectively united as one front for the benefit of Gozo and its people. Our joint efforts have proved to be the secret of our success and I am proud to have been a leading agent towards the successes we have achieved together.

In the years to come, the synergy between the Ministry for Gozo and the tourism sector in Gozo will continue to strengthen and bear fruit. Ours is a winning formula that will push our island to greater heights.

We are well aware that the hospitality sector in Gozo is not only a matter of interest for entrepreneurs. It is widespread and it permeates and affects the livelihood of hundreds of families.  An essential cog in the wheel of a successful tourism industry are the thousands of workers that give this sector its competitive edge, placing Gozo on the map as the place to be.

 

Gozo Tourism Association

Indeed, on a yearly basis, the awards of the GTA acknowledge, commend, encourage and thank all the workers, entrepreneurs and entities who distinguish themselves in the performance of their duties and activities in Gozo’s vital tourist industry.

I congratulate the GTA for its foresight and understanding of the importance of giving these prestigious awards. Our workers need to be inspired, educated and challenged. On the other hand, the tourism industry needs to create work-places that are supportive, fair and empowering. It should look beyond meeting legal minimum requirements and employers must truly believe in the good practice of fair wages and decent working conditions. This is fundamental to the industry’s survival and continued success.

The labour-intensive nature of the tourism sector has a direct impact on its productivity. The shortage in Labour and skills are a challenge which my Ministry is doing its utmost to reverse. Strategies are in place to allow employers to remain competitive with a smaller, but better trained, workforce. Basic skills are not enough in today’s world. Employees need to adapt to changing consumer demands and the increased use of information and communication technologies and globalisation. Whilst it is true that migrant workers are an attractive solution, this does not contribute to addressing skills shortages.

 

Continuous training

I truly believe in the importance of training employees from the tourism and hospitality sector. A case in point was the innovative programme of study delivered and coordinated by the University’s ITTC, endorsed by the GTA and financially supported by my Ministry a few months ago. The study units – Tourism in Gozo and The Gozo Experience – were undertaken successfully on the Gozo University Campus by 15 practitioners and were a resounding success. As Minister, I reaffirm the significance of professional education and training in the pursuit of making Gozo a tourism destination of excellence.

Our successes are proof of how the Ministry for Gozo, together with diverse governmental agencies and the private sector, can effectively team up to ensure the best use of national and EU Funds for the advancement of the tourism industry. It is encouraging to observe, for example, that throughout 2019 the number of trips operated between the islands went up by 17 per cent compared with the previous year. Vehicle movements increased by 7.4 per cent and the number of foot passengers went up by 2.8 per cent. This increase is mainly due to the addition of the fourth ferry which added to the Gozo Channel’s capacity and helped eased queuing pressures dramatically.

The majority of trips in 2019 took place in October – an increase of total trips for the last quarter of 35.4 per cent. Hotel occupancy and patronage in our catering establishments have also registered growth. which means that seasonality has been practically eradicated. The joint efforts of all those who truly believe in Gozo are paying off big time!

 

Together for success

I believe in collaboration at all levels. Collaboration executed through a clearly defined vision and mission, based on constant communication and transparency, is a key part of success for any organisation. This is what Project Gozo is all about! Winning collaborators operate with a shared sense of purpose and a clear set of policies for responding to changing conditions and new opportunities. This is what we are doing together. This is the secret for our continued and future success.

As Minister, I can vouch that the Government’s drive and commitment towards Gozo as a distinct tourist destination remains top of the agenda. This is further supported by the fact that I have been re-confirmed as Minister for Gozo. My commitment to Prime Minister Abela’s vision of continuity and stability means that I will ensure that Project Gozo continues to take shape.  Together we will continue to push Gozo to the fore as a sustainable and top destination for the benefit of the country at large.  

 

Dr Caruana is Gozo Minister

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