The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Addressing the conflict between construction, infrastructural development and tourism

Julian Zarb Saturday, 20 May 2023, 06:38 Last update: about 2 years ago

There is a definite forcefield today between the construction and development activity and toutrism. The tourist experience is being marred by this situation. 

In my last article, I wrote about the importance of the importance of applying the long-term plan of action (not a four year or nine year “wish list” but a programme that will ensure an inclusive development of the tourism activity, one that is beneficial to all the key stakeholders and one that will see a tourism activity based on quality and sustainable perinciples not one developed by unprofessional and amateurish strategies focussing on the quantitative results.  Tourism policies are not there to satisfy the short term stakeholders – the politician and the business community but to satisfy all these stakeholders including the local community and their own quality of life.  As always these are my points for ensuring a tourism strategy that needs to be a Long Term Vision which creates a live plan of action which needs implmenetation through the integrated approach:

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1.      Through a continuous and consistent consultation process involving all the key stakeholders.

2.     Developing the tourism policy by working with all the stakeholders not “for”them.

3.     Design a framework for the policy that will include an action plan , deadlines for action and which considers short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to prioritize the action effectively.

4.     Create focus groups and a community forum that will work continuosly on the application of the policy document.

5.     Finally, NEVER, treat the policy document as some political document to be prepared and then abandoned on some office shelf for the duration.

Today I will be analyzing a related subject, the construction industry that has had an adverse effect on the attractiveness, character and quality of life for these islands.  The activity of random and hideous architecture has spread across both Malta and Gozo turning ODZ and protected areas such as village cores and Natura 2000 (including Comino and Ghadira) into faceless ghettoes.  This is in such contrast with the “dream” for a quality tourism destination that the MTA and the Ministry for Tourism thought might be a good idea to increase numbers of visitors and revenue.  To achieve these increases this does not just mean “playing at managing tourism”, it means taking the activity seriously and planning any development or construction sensibly and sustainably.  The issues that must be tackled here include:

1.      Reviewing the development plans that were prepared some thirteen years ago and updating them in terms of the irrelevant and obscene buildings that are creating putrid warts on our landscape.

2.     Ensuring that there is a charter for sustainable and responsible development which must be endorsed by all developers on these islands before they are even given a new or reduced licence to practice their craft. Developers who break the terms of this charter will have their licence revoked and a six figure fine imposed on them.

3.     All buildings must be in line with traditional styles and character.

4.     Carrying capacity studies and LA21 reports for both islands must be prepared as if existing buildings were not there – in some cases these studies have been prepared after the stable door was been closed once the horse has bolted.

5.     Development plans must be carried out by a working group consisting of academics , business representatives and local councillors but must be apolitical.  No politician in parliament should intervene in any way in this process.

6.     Finally, development plans must be prepared for , at least, ten years with a short term monitoring review every five years.

Still more facts in this short article that I hope will continue to encourage more people to write in and assist in the compilation of the Guidelines to Stewardship by Q3 of 2023.  Thank you to all those who have already shown their support from as far as the UK, Switzerland and Germany (incidentally three of our key source markets).  If we persist in ignoring these facts then , as I have said, tourism here will be an activity that may just attract sordid and nasty characters instead of the visitor who wants to be here – let us keep persisting.

This year I will be completing the Guidelines for Stewardships with the help of a number of individuals and NGOs who have already approached me and I hope to present this to you, as the community, to our politicians and to our authorities.  We may, yet, be able to save these islands from total oblivion as a sustainable and quality tourist destination – that is my New Year’s resolution. Will YOU join me?

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.      Recognize 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 99167805.

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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