The Malta Independent 5 June 2023, Monday
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Now we have the proof: The islands are heading for the tourism doomsday

Julian Zarb Sunday, 2 October 2022, 06:58 Last update: about 9 months ago

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of pulling ourselves together and really applying the management of tourism on these islands before it is too late to even dream of attracting visitors for the character, culture and history. This week I will take a look at the conference I attended at the Malta Chamber with the theme: Rediscovering Tourism. This event came in the shadow of a report that was published earlier this week about the carrying capacity for the islands (the last carrying capacity study was prepared in 1999 and covered the 10 years from 2000 to 2010). Effectively, since 2010, we have been managing tourism blindly and we went from 1.3 million visitors in 2013 to 2.7 million visitors in 2019 without a clue how we got there, the impact this sudden surge had on the social, economic, infrastructural and cultural factors. The carrying capacity commissioned by an NGO representing the Hotel and Catering Industry saw fit to claim that, based on existing infrastructure, we need to attract 4.7 million visitors a year – do you know what this means? It means that the amount of visitors should be nine times the local population. It means the strain on the infrastructure, energy, water and cultural issues will be phenomenal; it actually means that we are destroying all that is characteristic of these islands to accommodate more tourists and please more businesspersons. It means the local community will remain on the periphery of all this and does not have a say in the planning of any sustainable and quality tourism. We have failed miserably in tourism today and it will be one hell of a job to reverse this sad situation.


The conference at the Malta Chamber presented a number of options to rediscover tourism although the opening words by the Malta Tourism Authority and the Ministry for Tourism repeated the same jargon that we have heard from politicians in the last decade – promises of better quality, promises of sustainable tourism and promises of a more attractive island – the truth, on the other hand, shows a shoddy, decrepit, overdeveloped island archipelago that cannot be attractive to any visitor unless that visitor was extremely intoxicated, high on some drugs or just plain uninterested in anything but booze, sun and sex.

There are still people out there, many of which were present at the Malta Chamber this week, who still have that urge to put things right, to question national policies and strategies that go against the national interest of tourism. All we need now is for these people to wake up and take action rather than be placid about the situation. Do not be taken in by quantitative data and ever increasing numbers; these islands deserve a thorough makeover using the integrated approach to tourism planning; we are all stakeholders, stewards who should be the hosts and hostesses to our visitors. Once again let me repeat the method we will use to develop this community spirit. I have already been approached by a number of persons ready to cooperate in this process and, rest assured, you will be included in the process. The key points are replicated in the recommendations below. Let us get going.


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.

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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