The Malta Independent 19 September 2020, Saturday

Maltese thirsty to enjoy heritage sites, but numbers have not reached pre-COVID-19 levels

Giulia Magri Wednesday, 12 August 2020, 08:01 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Maltese seem to be very interested in enjoying the country’s heritage sites, however there is still a large difference when compared to pre-COVID-19 visitor levels, National Heritage Minister Jose Herrara told The Malta Independent.

“Now that we have re-opened our sites, the situation has improved, but it is not enough to cover all our expenses as we are still far from what our attendance was prior to Covid-19. The feedback we received is extremely encouraging and it seems like the Maltese are thirsty to enjoy our sites.”

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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, earlier this year Malta’s airport and ports were closed and so were cultural sites themselves. Now that historic sites are open, this newsroom asked Herrera whether his ministry has received any feedback regarding the number of local and foreign visitors.

“Heritage Malta was one of those government entities that suffered the most due to COVID-19. As you are aware, there is a government subvention for the employees of these sites, but the government subvention could only cover part of the expenses, and the difference would be made up by ticket sales. So yes we suffered greatly during this pandemic.”

“The feedback we received is encouraging, but it is still not enough to cover our expenses as we are still far from what our attendance was before.”

When asked what the ministry intends to do if tourist numbers begin to dwindle in the coming months, Herrera said that the ministry is working on improving the PR of historical sites to create more enthusiasm among the Maltese. “50% of tourists who come to visit Malta come to visit these sites and therefore there is a guaranteed income. When it comes to Maltese visitors, we encourage locals to visit more for an educational purpose.” He said that now there is also the economic aspect. He said that if foreign tourism will reduce, the ministry will have to do more to attain a better response from locals.

“My ministry has requested that Heritage Malta and all the other entities that work in this sphere find a way to generate more income and instil more enthusiasm in the Maltese through means of PR.”

Last month, Herrera had told this newsroom that he will make his case to Finance Minister Edward Scicluna over the EU’s COVID-19 recovery funds, and the needed to support the cultural sector in Malta.

“Talks are on-going.  We told the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister what our needs are and we are waiting for the relative feedback. We are keeping our fingers crossed.”

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