The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

2022 – Another year of uncertainty for tourism?

Sunday, 9 January 2022, 08:06 Last update: about 5 months ago

Julian Zarb

In my last article I wrote about the strategy for tourism that was launched last month and which, is nothing short of a paltry PR exercise that will never see any implementation.

In my first article for 2022 I think it is appropriate for me to set my predictions for this year and the travel and tourism activity that I have come to love and be so committed about. Unfortunately, because of the amateurish way in which politicians and authorities have mismanaged the Covid pandemic since 2020 we are now facing new variants of this modern day plague. During the Middle ages and as recently as 1918 these pandemics were spread by the effect of travel. It sometimes seems surreal to me to think that an activity I have come to love so much can also be the main source of such a deadly killer pandemic. And now, as we enter 2022 it seems as if the threat we faced in December 2020 is not yet at the end. The new Omicron variant looks as if it is even more deadly than the Covid-19 virus and the Delta variant. So how can we ensure that tourism and travel will survive these dark times?

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If you take the case of these islands we seem to be far too apathetic about the rising numbers of positive cases that are clearly not Covid-related but Omicron-related. It is difficult for me to admit this, but we need to take drastic action on a national scale starting with the decision to close the airport and ports, at least for the first two months of this year; we also need to implement the strict protocols for all places of entertainment, retail outlets and other hospitality and service outlets. There needs to be a curfew on opening hours, which should mean operating times are from 9am to 5pm on Monday to Saturdays only. We MUST ensure that we all understand the seriousness of adhering to these protocols and regulations if we want to prevent a global tragedy of mammoth proportions which could surely kill the travel and tourism activity as we know it.

I was visiting a colleague of mine at one of those beautiful boutique hotels (which I had supported many years before they first appeared in Valletta and around the island) and after hearing about the success of this particular hotel, despite the pandemic, I still believe we must take drastic measures to ensure that during 2022 we really see a recovery from this pandemic and a gradual reopening of the tourism activity which should be sustainable and responsible and which must avoid the mistakes we were all aware of before this pandemic – over-tourism and extensive growth of numbers over quality.

Let us augur that 2022 will result in the implementation and management of a travel and tourism activity we can look on as quality experiences, an integrated approach to planning through consistent and continuous consultation with all stakeholders including the local community.

 

Recommendations for a better investment in tourism:

  1.  If we want to ensure this effective reopening of the new tourism activity during 2022 we cannot depend just on our politicians and authorities (whose agenda is short-term and quite myopic) but we need to work together if we want to ensure a destination of excellence.
  2. We must work with professional associations such as the Malta Tourism Society and the Institute of Hospitality Mediterranean Branch to deliver a united front for sustainable and responsible tourism that benefits all stakeholders.
  3. Finally, any success for travel and tourism during 2022 will not be possible unless we adopt the three Rs I have spoken of since 2020 – reflect, redevelop and restore. Do not just bumble through this activity as we have been doing to date.

 

Dr Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant and an Academic 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.

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