The Malta Independent 13 July 2024, Saturday
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Aeons away from the quality tourism destination

Julian Zarb Sunday, 17 September 2023, 12:14 Last update: about 11 months ago

This week we hear about the concept of quality tourism from our tourism Minister.  The whole idea was totally wrong and this concept according to your Minister for Tourism makes no sense at all. How can you say we need more people and unmbrellas on the natura 2000 site of Comino?  How can you accept visitors as mere quantitative statistics rather than as individuals who have their own personal reasons and experiences?  I am afraid with this attitude you will never reach the status of a quality destination at this moment.

 

In my last article, I wrote about those responsible authorities and government politicians who do not listen or heed my warnings and suggestions and must be held totally responsible for the “Tourism Armageddon” I am predicting will happen very soon. I had scanned some interviews made on social media in Paceville among the so-called tourist population; it was sickening to see such low class, low educated, persons praise the islands – not for its natural and cultural beauty – but for drugs, wild parties and pure debauchery. Is it possible that the Malta Tourism Authority and the Ministry for Tourism are pleased with these results in rethinking, redeveloping and restoring tourism after the pandemic? We are turning a destination that once attracted tourists for hospitality and service into a place very similar in character to Hades or Dante’s Inferno!

I look at the five star hotels around the islands; in fact I look at all the hotels that once attracted real tourists; I see what employees work there today and I compare them to the committed persons I remember there, those persons who trained as professionals thirty years ago, those persons who were proud to welcome tourist and make them feel at home – they are the real definition of an employee in a job and one who believed in a career.

Certainly the present attitude about hospitality and service is leading to a reputation that is driving away the real tourist and making room for the visitors who lack education, civic sense of duty and behavior.  I will list my six points to try and turn around this absolute shambles for tourism on these islands:

  1. We must start to learn about the management of tourism – how to practice hospitality, service and treating visitors with respect as persons not a statistic.
  2. Tourism is not about attracting numbers to satisfy the hotel developer and owner, it is about having a civil sense of duty to ensure the destination retains its natural and built character.
  3. It is time to weed out, name and shame and get rid of the 21st Century “cowboy” who has left such a negative reputation on these destinations – start by steering clear of their business and outlets.
  4. On the other hand, hold up and praise those dedicated and professional persons who are proud of their sense of hospitality, service and quality.
  5. Encourage young graduates of tourism to participate in the planning and development of a new tourism activity based on real quality.
  6. Finally, adopt that integrated approach for tourism planning where the three key stakeholders – the local authority, the local business and the local community work together consistently and constantly to turn this shambles into a tourism destination of quality again – this could be a project which is ideal for implementation as “the spring -clean for tourism in Malta and Gozo” from next year. But we must work hard together now to change the present chaos!

This week I must stress that action is stronger than the empty words expressed by our tourism authorities and Ministry this week about quality tourism.  It is so obvious there is no plan for real quality tourism but more of the same in counting numbers. I was recently on a flight from the UK to Malta and I could see for myself the type of tourist visiting these islands today. They were the type interested in a destination of fun, cheap drink and rowdy behavior! Try telling them about the culture, history and heritage of these islands! So much for quality.

Quality tourism has become a buzzword used by the authorities to hoodwink you all into believing they want visitors who spend more and stay longer – a totally wrong impression here.  Quality tourism is about visitors who are ready to pay for an experience that is up to their value in terms of that experience and in terms of their budget, an experience that includes quality experiences instead of the images we saw last week on social media of tourists lying in the streets of Valletta – drugged and drunk.  You do not need this low class and low quality (actually NO quality!) visitor here. As usual here are my six proposals to start considering a feasible plan for that quality destination:

  1. The island needs to be cleaned up and construction must be curbed to reduce the impact on the environment and the character.
  2. Service needs to be honest, professional and full of value instead of the drab experience it is today.
  3. You need a strict code of conduct for tourists (to be included in my study on the Guidelines of Stewardship coming out soon)  and those breaking this conduct are to be deported and not allowed back before three years have passed.
  4. Stop counting and start analyzing the type of visitor and what they want as individuals.
  5. Make sure your authorities are qualified and capable of managing tourism sustainably and successfully.
  6. Finally, look at your uniqueness as a destination not at your so-called competition.

By following these six stages, we can ensure that these islands are managed professionally, sustainably and with the idea of developing a quality activity that attracts the visitor who wants to be here not the one who wants to be here.  Travel and Tourism to these islands today is about quantitative gains for the greedy and uncouth.  We need to put professionalism and hospitality back in the equation.

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.

 

 

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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