The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

TMID Editorial - Covid-19: The tourism problem

Monday, 29 June 2020, 07:29 Last update: about 6 months ago

The tourism sector in Gozo this summer will take a hit as a result of the Coronavirus situation.

This was indicated by the CEO of the Gozo Tourism Association, who told The Malta Independent last week that a possible increase in terms of numbers of domestic tourists, that is Maltese tourists heading to Gozo, will not make up for the lack of foreign tourists.

Maltese tend to go to Gozo on weekends, thus meaning that occupancy during the week is low, he said.

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In Malta of course, hotels would be struggling with a different situation. How much would Maltese want to spend a night in a hotel in Malta, and spend money to do so in their own island?

The Coronavirus hit tourism around the world, and for countries heavily reliant on this sector like Malta, the situation is bound to raise concerns in terms of the financial impact. This, not just in the short-term, but also in the long-term.

Will people want to travel again soon? Are people comfortable sitting for hours in enclosed areas, like a plane? Do people want to risk being away from home? Is it safe to travel without a vaccine, or should we wait? These are all questions that are being asked.

There is no doubt that some people will travel when the airport re-opens, the question is how many? The likelihood is that at the beginning, numbers will be low.

For an island like Malta, this creates financial issues for the thousands who work in the tourism industry. For an island like Gozo, those problems are increased, as not all travellers flying to Malta head to the sister island.

The tourism industry, as a whole, will most likely need continuous government support for many months to come to remain operational.

The CEO of the Gozo Tourism Association expressed his fear of what would happen to tourism on the island should a second wave hit around October, and numbers spike. This, he said, would mean the possible reintroduction of restrictive measures, and the closing of the airport again. Hopefully there will not be a resurgence. But tourism in Malta is not just affected by local factors, but by international ones. If a country outside of Malta experiences a resurgence, the likelihood is that it will introduce its own measures, which would indirectly have an impact on tourism here on the Maltese islands as well.

The fact is that this virus has tied the fate of countries together more than anything else people thought could, and the importance of finding a vaccine cannot be stressed enough.

During this period of uncertainty and struggle, the government should be, and hopefully is, drafting a strategy to promote the islands strongly as soon as a vaccine is found. It would be better to have one prepared now, in order to truly hit the ground running when the world feels safer.

In the meantime, it must work on keeping virus numbers low and ensuring that tourists coming from abroad will not result in a rise in virus numbers locally, in order for the tourists who do come to feel safe about doing so, and for the local people not to fear the re-opneing of the airport.

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