The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Tourism - Looking to the future

Tuesday, 19 October 2021, 09:52 Last update: about 3 months ago

The hospitality industry is facing problems, chief amongst which is the lack of staff.

Now some argue that this is due to the wages that the industry was offering, which could be a valid argument, however it does not solve the problem.

Surely after being closed for so long, hotels would not have the funds to increase wages to the point that they can instantly attract staff like the gaming sector can.  At the same time, increasing the wages of such staff at least by a bit will, of course, not be a bad thing.

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The consequences of the pandemic are there for all to see. Some hotels ended up having some rooms empty due to the staff shortage for example.

What is the way forward? Well the MHRA President believes that hotels will be able to sort themselves out over the low winter season. One hopes that is the case.

Looking at the tourism situation from a wider lens however, we need to decide on the way forward.

Years back there was talk about possibly moving towards targeting quality tourists rather than focusing on quantity. This newsroom has brought this issue up a number of times. In order to make such a leap, then a united and well thought out strategy outlining this move will need to be put in place.

In order to make tourism sustainable in all aspects, perhaps this is the road the country should take, targeting fewer, higher paying tourists, to make up for reduced numbers. That, of course, would mean improving quality all round, more targeted advertising of Malta as a destination, among other things.

If we don’t refocus, that does not mean the tourism industry won’t strive in future. In a couple of years’ time it is likely that the tourism situation would return to the old levels.

 But the question is, do we want that, or do we want change? During the summer months do we have too many tourists resulting in too little space on beaches? Do we want deck chair operators to take up as much space as they do now? Is Malta too overpopulated during the summer months with the influx of the amount of tourists we used to have in the past?

Of course targeting a smaller number of tourists who pay more will have negative impacts of its own which would also need to be considered, such as the impact on more affordable hotels and the kind of entertainment the country offers.

All of this would need to be weighed and considered.

In terms of support, the covid-19 pandemic took its toll on the sector. While the government will be taking away the wage supplement, perhaps those sectors still being heavily impacted, like tourism, still need some support. The government should consider whatever aid it can give.

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