Malta Sets New Visitor Target
Malta's holiday industry has received the latest target set by the island's tourism authority with more than a little sceptism after an announcement that a target of a million and half visitors a year to the island could be achieved in three years time.
The Malta Tourist Authority has consistently set targets in the past that have failed to be met, and early signs for this year indicate a stagnation if not a dip in tourists visiting Malta.
Part of a new plan to increase tourism in Malta is to include promoting the neighbouring and quieter island of Gozo as a holiday destination and to increase accessibility to Malta.
Commenting on the new targets, one independent Malta's travel guide say that there is nothing new or innovative in the tourist authority's plans that would make an increase in tourism likely to happen in itself.
'Unfortunately the Malta Tourist Authority to us sometimes resembles a planning office in the old Soviet bureauracy. Good at producing statistics, excellent at identify problems and what the future needs, but failing miserably to deliver anything like the targets they set.
We feel that it is the private rather than the public sector that is more likely to increase tourist numbers to Malta, as they have a direct interest in seeing their plans work, while the tourist authority bureaucrats will still be drawing their salaries and annual leave whether or not the targets they set are met.'
One example the travel guide gives for poor Malta tourist figures is the delay in the introduction of low cost airlines to Malta and the possibility from that of an increase in tourist numbers.
With official figures showing worrying signs that the number of tourists for 2006 visiting Malta could be similar, or perhaps even down from 2005, the opportunity for the island to have low cost flights operating from the UK appears to have slipped by for the all important summer season.
The island's official airline, Air Malta, reported a drop of over two per cent in the number of passengers it carried in the year from March 2005 to March 2006.
The hope among hoteliers and others involved in Malta's tourist trade is that at least one of the low cost airlines will start operating from the UK and perhaps other parts of Europe in the near future to boost visitor numbers.
'With the holiday market vital to the Malta economy,' comment the guide, 'potentially millions in lost revenue will be lost this year because of delays in agreeing to allow the low cost airlines to fly into Malta. In today's world Malta has to compete with new destinations in Europe as well as Spain and her islands. Cheap Malta flights aren't in themselves enough to sustain tourism at reasonable levels anymore, although this will be welcome, but the trick of sustained tourism is to have repeat business, and unless Malta attracts new first time visitors then repeat business is an impossibility'.
Holidays in Malta and the related tourist sector are a major source of employment in Malta, and with unemployment running at over 8 per cent any fall in tourists could spell long term damage to the island's economy.
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