The Malta Independent 25 September 2022, Sunday
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Why can’t we get our act together for quality tourism

Julian Zarb Sunday, 18 September 2022, 09:42 Last update: about 8 days ago

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of stewardship and my project to develop a management handbook and guidelines on Stewardship for civic responsibility, culture, heritage and tourism. Three weeks ago I proposed the organisation of community days in our local towns and villages as a means of getting people to inculcate a sense of civic duty and community spirit instead of the sullen state that is nationwide of hatred, anger, jeolusy and envy which is spreading like poison. Unfortunately I only received two very positive replies from an entrepreuner and a local council for both proposals. This is worrying, because it means that the lethargy and “laissez faire” attitude is now spreading. Unless there is a national effort to get both these proposals moving I cannot see that we will be able to get our act together and promote a quality tourism destination. Forget the efforts by government, they are obviously not going to happen; the entrepreuners are content to carry on with the “business as usual” by promoting the quantitative aspect of the tourism industry instead of trying harder to attract the discerning visitor to a quality destination and the developer is actually being encouraged by the authorities to destroy the character, culture and heritage of these islands – in other words, it is up to us, as communities and civic-minded citizens, to do our best to push for this stewardship and community spirit.

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I have experienced quite enough of the mediocre service and attitude offered to clients – local and foreign: the restaurants and coffee shops that switch off their air-conditioning in the middle of a severe heatwave; those who serve a bland menu (that has not been reviewed in years), service and hospitality that are superficial, where the smile is just a facial expression rather than something from the heart! Perhaps it is time to call it a day with these establishments, there is obviously no sign of any effort to go the extra mile or treat service and hospitality as a career and a profession. This is not just limited to catering outlets or hotels mind you, just look at the service offered by public officials such as the police – uniforms that lack any sign of dignity, commitment, trust and synergy; grooming that is far from the basic necessity by an enforcement authority; kindness and hospitality that is non existent. My latest experience was with one of the recovery companies who used to be so helpful (mind you I have been spoilt over the years with the attitude in the UK of the AA and RAC men in their clean-cut uniforms who were impeccable in their attitude, care and attention and so helpful). Today these companies offer a superficial and tacky service where the very idea of service means that you are faced with a grim face and an attitude of sour looks.

If we are serious about improving our tourism activity through stewardship and community spirit that creates a sense of hospitality and service we need to act now. I will be very blunt – the alternative, as I have said some weeks ago, is that tourism will be an obsolete activity on these islands where the attractiveness and hospitality will be non-existent and where the visitor will continue to be that tacky tourist whose only reason for visiting was based on price and availability. We can do this together – if we act together.

If we want to develop community spirit we have to inculcate the idea of national stewardship and we need a guideline to develop this. I will be working on this publication and I would welcome any person or persons who would like to contribute to the Guidelines for National Stewardship of Culture, Heritage and History for the Maltese Islands.

 

Recommendations and summary

1.       Let us build community spirit by developing the guidelines for Stewardship together, I invite all those interested to contact me;

2.      We should identify areas where we can regenerate local tourism for the quality visitor;

3.      Recognise our duty as communities to enhance our environment and care for the precious trees that will add value to our moral, ethical and physical quality of life;

4.      Those NGOs and persons (including local councils) interested in working with me on this project should email me on [email protected] or call me on 9916 7805; and

5.      Let us get going let us really build better and reverse the horrendous state of this island.

 

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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