The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Tourism – Too early to think about June

Wednesday, 3 March 2021, 09:22 Last update: about 2 months ago

These past 12 months have taught us to be very careful with making predictions about how the Covid-19 pandemic will develop.

Many countries, including Malta, have made many mistakes in the way they tackled the onset of the disease, often taking hasty decisions which led to setbacks. There have been several occasions when lockdowns, restrictions and other measures were removed too early, with the result that the number of cases shot up again. This forced government to go back on their rulings.

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It happened in Malta last May, when Prime Minister Robert Abela promised that we will be enjoying summer, only to have to eat his words when the situation got worse, very quickly. Since then, Malta has seen a steady rise in cases, which almost daily have reached the three figures while the number of active cases has remained on the higher side of 2,500 for several weeks.

We have also learnt that things change quickly too, and if there are some good signs in one week it does not necessarily follow that the second week will be even better. We have seen the R-factor – which measures the rate of transmission – yo-yoing below and above one. It is therefore very difficult to predict what will happen in a few days’ time, let alone a few weeks or months.

This is why Tony Zahra, the president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association – rightly – said that it is too early to predict whether Malta will be losing out from the UK tourist market if and when the UK eases restrictions in June.

First of all, one has to see how the UK government’s cautious lifting of restrictions will work out, and see whether the gradual reopening that will start in March will lead to the desired results to remove all measures by June.

Secondly, one will also have to see what the situation will be like in Malta too – because it would be futile for us if the UK eased all its restrictions but the Britons still shun Malta because the situation here is not good.

Added to this, fear of travelling related to Covid is still so much evident. Many people do not want to make long-term plans. The fact that many of the holidays that were scheduled for the last 12 months have had to be cancelled does not encourage people to plan their next trip, mostly because a country that seems relatively safe today might see a spike tomorrow and the situation changes quickly.

There are families who lost thousands of euros in pre-paid holidays which did not materialise, with hotels insisting that the money paid is retained by the hotel and “postponed” to be used at a later date, when the holiday can take place. But those who put off their holiday from 2020 to 2021, thinking that the Covid-19 pandemic would be over, have come to realise that it is likely that we will not see the end of it this year either.

It is therefore, as Zahra said, too early to speak about what the situation will be like in summer. Decisions need to be taken when the time comes.

 

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