The Malta Independent 4 August 2021, Wednesday

Tourism minister defends student vouchers; ‘This is a sector that we wanted to incentivise’

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 20 July 2021, 11:42 Last update: about 15 days ago

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has defended the government’s decision to offer vouchers as an incentive for English language students to choose Malta.

The way the vouchers for English students worked was that for every night that an English language student spent in Malta, they were to receive a 10€ voucher. These vouchers were only to be given to a student if they were to spend a minimum of 15 nights, up to a maximum of 30 nights.

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Currently, there are a number of English language students who are in quarantine. Some of them tested positive while others were in contact with them.

Asked how many, Bartolo said the amount “is determined by the Superintendent for Public Health who conducts a daily analysis.”

Asked if the government was ensuring that these students are being treated well, the minister said the Malta Tourism Authority is conducting regular inspections. “We didn’t have to, but we took the initiative to go check what their conditions are.”

“We started repatriation flights for students who are negative but were in quarantine. Strict protocols are being adhered to.”

Asked whether it was wise to give vouchers to students, Bartolo said the regulations for entering Malta cannot discriminate between students and other people. “The rules were clear from the onset. At the time, people could come to Malta either with a vaccine certificate or a negative PCR test. These students you refer to adhered to these regulations and you can never discriminate against them.”

Pressed to say if it was well thought out to encourage them to come with the vouchers, Bartolo said this is a big sector that employs around 2,000 people. A number of three-star hotels and host families also benefit from this sector.

“This is a tourism sector that we wanted to incentivise as part of the tourism sector’s overall requirement. We took decisions when we needed to safeguard the health.”

Asked whether he had any regrets, he said that the country is facing challenges and in this scenario it is difficult to answer with a yes or no.

Asked for his comments on the performance of his predecessor, Julia Farrugia Portelli, he said he would not judge any minister. Asked on his own performance, Bartolo said the people would judge him.

He said his ministry has already announced various initiatives, has launched a tourism recovery plan and has restored connectivity to the country, both in terms of air and sea travel.

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