Malta Tourism In Freefall
Tourism figures just released show a fall in the number of visitors to Malta for the first six months of 2006 compared to the same period last year, adding pressure to the Malta government to secure a deal to allow low cost airlines to fly to the Mediterranean island to reverse the trend.
The fall of 2.4 per cent of visitors included a decrease in the important British, French and German markets, but a welcome increase in Italian tourists.
Commenting on the news one local travel guide said 'if it hadn't been for the increase in visitors from Italy it would have been far worse. The UK, Germany and France still account for nearly two in three holidaymakers coming to Malta, and if these markets decline further the island will become less and less attractive to the tour operators to promote'.
Rumours in the island's tourism industry earlier this year suggested that one of the major UK tour operators was considering pulling Malta out of their holiday brochures, which could have led to others taking the same action, but so far these rumours have not become reality. If they were to it would have a major impact on Malta's economy.
Unemployment is running at over 8 per cent in Malta, and tourism is a major industry and employer.
The Malta hotel industry was particularly badly affected by the drop of visitors for January to June, with a near three per cent drop compared to 2006.
The Malta travel guide also commented on the delay in the introduction of low cost airlines to Malta and the possibility from that of an increase in tourist numbers.
With worrying signs that the number of tourists for the whole of 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 the Malta accommodation 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'.
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