The Malta Independent 17 August 2022, Wednesday

TMID Editorial - Tourism: Trying to attract quality with mediocrity

Monday, 27 June 2022, 11:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

One of the consistent buzzwords we’ve heard when it comes to the tourism industry – particularly in the Covid-19 recovery era – is ‘quality tourism’, and that Malta itself needs to attract “quality” tourists.

Now, before delving into why Malta’s current environment and the way things are going is the total antithesis of what you need to attract quality tourism, it would be good to actually define what a “quality tourist” actually is.

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You can define such a tourist by looking out for a number of traits: they’re a tourist who travels to the destination for a number of days, who seeks an environment which is clean and which induces the relaxation one would seek from a holiday, who also seeks quality service, and who wants to be in a safe and secure environment.

Now – take those requirements and bring Malta into the mix, let’s see if any of the boxes are ticked.

On the first part: the environment.  This is definitely the biggest stumbling block. 

The term the environment itself is not to be restricted, in this instance, to the lack of green open spaces as we would conventionally speak about it.  It’s also a matter of cleanliness, of noise, of eyesores.

How can tourists feel welcome when areas which are supposedly meant to be amongst the most touristic are now characterised by buildings designed in a manner so grey and depressing that you question what exactly the architect was doing when he drafted it up?

How can tourists feel welcome when in certain areas they are greeted by the noise of construction and by the incessant noise and pollution brought about by Malta’s mounds of vehicular traffic?

It’s true that the Malta Tourism Authority has banned demolition and excavation works in touristic areas, but this is only for the summer – whereas one needs to attract quality tourism on a year-round basis.

Then we come to service.  It’s very true that Malta has a number of highly-rated establishments – both when it comes to accommodation and, for instance, catering – which do justice to the aims the country wants to achieve.  Credit where it is due.

But, at the same time, we need to recognise complaints made on the quality and prices of other establishments, particularly when it comes to restaurants.  One also needs to recognise complaints when it comes to staff and the service they offer.

At risk of over-generalising a matter which shouldn’t, we can look at a suggestion posed by chef Sean Gravina, who suggested that – for instance – all service staff need to have a certificate which proves that they are communicative in English to work in catering.  But we can go one step further and state that the salaries in the catering industry need to improve in order for those working there to have better motivation to do so, and better motivation and more possibility so that they themselves can increase their training.

On the topic of restaurants, we’ve also seen a number of establishments expanding their enterprise onto public pavements – practically by the roadside and sometimes illegally, as evidenced by one case reported on by The Malta Independent on Sunday. 

This ties back into the environment point mentioned earlier in this editorial: what tourist would want to shuffle through a pavement taken up almost exclusively by restaurants? 

And finally we come to the topic of safety and security.  Malta by and large remains a very safe country to live in and be in.  But at the same time we cannot not note incidents which have taken place in the last few weeks.

Brawls in Paceville, for instance, continue to happen, but there have also been fights in areas such as St. Paul’s Bay and even Sliema – where the locality’s mayor was punched in the face for trying to stop a couple from urinating in a public bay.

Better law enforcement presence, particularly in these touristic areas, will do no harm at all to improving public safety.

Malta has a lot going for it as a destination, be it in terms of its history, its culture, and its weather but to mention a few things: but the points mentioned in this editorial also tie into the debate about attracting quality tourism. They require significant action both from the government and its authorities, but also from the stakeholders themselves.

Only then can the quality tourism buzzword come to fruition.  As things stand, we are trying to attract quality by offering what can largely be described as distinct mediocrity.

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