The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Quality tourism, what quality?

Sunday, 15 May 2022, 10:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Julian Zarb

In my last article, I wrote about the need to learn from other destinations about managing tourism. The Smart Tourism Destinations project, which is represented in Malta by the Malta Tourism Society, will be working on various recommendations to include in national strategies for sustainable, responsible and quality tourism. But today I would like to discuss the concept of quality tourism – a concept that I have been writing about and discussing for over a decade now, a concept which has nothing to do with the class of visitors but the type or profile of the visitor. To attract the quality visitor it will need a serious consideration of the management of tourism, it will require professionals working together with the key stakeholders to establish a strategy that is continuous and consistent instead of a short-term plan that has no guarantee of success because of stakeholder fatigue.

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Can we really promote quality tourism if the islands are being rampaged by developers, erratically and with no consideration for the character, culture, heritage or national interest? Can we promote quality tourism when the main emphasis is on building roads that lead nowhere and that have done nothing to control the issue of traffic? Can we promote quality tourism when the attitude by many (not necessarily those employed directly by the industry) is agressive and at times inhospitable and lacking in any service mentality? Can we promote quality tourism if we do not all sit together and work, irrespective of politics, irrespective of class and irrespective of who we are – in other words we need to adopt my integrated approach to succeed.

Quality tourism does not mean we need to dish out (pun intended) Michelin placques to restuarants. We should ensure that the whole experience reflects the hospitality, service and quality that the discerning visitor expects. Quality tourism is not subject to the size, glitz and architecture of the hotels (in fact, today, accommodation services take on much more intimate definitions) but they depend on the professionalism and care of the staff and their commitment and passion. Quality tourism means we can make these islands the number one choice, as opposed to the second or third choice, if we develop those three key qualities: Commitment, Trust and Synergy – the commitment to work together in the national interest as we experienced in Calvia in Majorca, the Trust that has to be established between all the key stakeholders and the Synergy that will follow – the joint efforts to make this quality work.

Can we achieve this? I cannot guarantee success unless YOU and all the stakeholders agree to work together. Just remember this: Quality tourism is not a buzzword we can use (whether we are politicians, businesspersons or tourism academics) frivolously, as we have done with sustainable tourism over the past 40 years. So before we promote the quality destination think carefully: Quality tourism, what quality?

 

Recommendations and Summary

1.       Define quality tourism by the visitor who wants to be at the destination

2.       Do not try to create friction between infrastructural, development and behavioural projects. Think how serious are you about the quality destination? It may mean taking drastic steps against the other projects I mentioned here.

3.      Go back to basics – look at tourism as that activity that brings the social and cultural aspects together; that reflects a sincere sense of hospitality and service

4.      Be serious about tourism – do not play with this phenomenon frivolously

 

I sometimes wonder – am I writing for the converted? Are there any other persons who agree or disagree with me? I frequently meet people who read these articles – but these articles are not just there to be read on a lazy Sunday afternoon, they are there to sow the seeds of change from apathy to commitment – to make tourism an activity we can be proud of. Let me know what you think and how you feel about tourism.

 

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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