The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Let the people speak – Setting up a social media site for all citizens

Sunday, 16 May 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Dr Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant and a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Malta. He has also been appointed as an expert for the High Streets Task Force in the UK. His main area of research is community-based tourism and local tourism planning using the integrated approach.

I am sure that I am not alone in the manner in which this country is being raped, destroyed and ravaged in the name of "progress" - roads that are totally unneccesary ripping through the little countryside we have left; horrendous blocks of flats or whatever else you like to describe them, destroying our cultural landscape; irresponsibility when it comes to fly-tipping and waste management (I could mention so much more). If we seriously want to rethink our tourism activity after 2021, then we need to be serious about the quality and value we can offer our visitors - the uncivil behaviour by public and private individuals (considering only their illicit and egocentric wealth above any national pride) will not bring the visitor who wants to be here, it will bring a type of visitor who would be more welcome in some "banana republic" where everything goes as long as the colour of money is seen by the short-term stakeholders like the politicians and businesses.

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Well, before continuing to analyse the strategic plan for tourism as set out by the MTA for the next nine years we must look at this situation of civic responsibility and awareness. It is all very well to have a wish list on paper but how can we ensure that all key stakeholders, including the local community, actually accept ownership of this project? At the moment I can only see chaos - there are infrastructural works ruining our natural sites, unplanned buildings taking over the typical local character of our towns and villages and a mentality by most people that everything goes - the slogan for these islands that I have come to hear so much is: "U iwa mhux xorta!" (Oh well, it is all the same). Well, sirs and madams, it is NOT alright and it will not be. If you develop a site below the baroque town of Mdina (the old Tattinger site) you risk losing buried history and culture; if you build flats beside a prehistoric temple in Gozo you will lose the mystique of a place that I am told should, in fact, be designated as an archeological park (I was first approached with this proposal by the then, Planning Authority in 2012 as director Tourism). If we continue to build roads, which are short-term and an irresponsible solution to the traffic problems then we will lose the little countryside that we have left, the very lungs of these islands and finally, if we persist in joining Gozo and Malta with a permanent link we will lose the distinction and diversity between the two islands - Gozo is NOT Malta, nor is it an extension of Malta, it has its own unique character!

We use the term here "money talks" well perhaps as responsible citizens we have to go a step further and mute this useless and shameful chatter of currency. This development is not good for the economy, it is killing the economy, it is killing the environment and it is killing our own quality of life as local residents.

I am inviting all those who share my concerns to log into the facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/5604942562880359. This is a site, which will not just hear or read whinges, but will listen to comments, observations and suggestions how, we, the people, need to take the reins now and make sure our own quality of life is maintained and secured.

I will come back to my analysis of the MTA plan for tourism but it must be discussed once we, the people, take ownership of our civic responsibility and pride. This plan does not belong to politicians, nor is it there for the businessperson; it should be there to ensure we manage tourism sustainably and responsibly and that is why I am hoping this group will help people speak and take part on a continuous and consistent basis (as opposed to the dry and short-term consultation terms announced by the authorities from time to time).

Let us work for our national interest together - start participating in the community group now.


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