Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January, 2022 at 9:40 am by Andre Camilleri
Nearly 4.5 million passengers travelled between Malta and Gozo in 2021, the National Statistics Office said. The number of passengers went up by 677,711, or 18% when compared to 2020, amounting to a total of 4,451,692 passengers. This includes both the Gozo Channel ferry service and the fast ferry service. During 2021, the number of trips went up by 9,401 or 32.4%, when compared to 2020.
The total number of trips for 2021 amounted to 38,453. Vehicle movements between the islands increased by 175,491 or 11.3%, over the previous year, amounting to a total of 1,727,629.
Reacting to the NSO report, Gozo Channel Chairman Joe Cordina said “Although this is positive news, naturally we a not near the pre-pandemic levels for passengers. Of course, a reduction of inbound tourism has played its part here. In 2019 we recorded almost 6 million people utilised our services, however, the number of motor vehicles has resumed to around pre-pandemic levels. Increased connectivity, more trips and the addition of the fourth ferry have enabled us to continue to provide a reliable service,”
In addition, Gozo Fast Ferry CEO Edward Zammit Tabona welcomed the latest NSO figures, which clearly showed the importance of offering a fast ferry alternative that complemented Gozo Channel’s service. “Our scope as a company has always been to enhance inter-island connectivity, and these figures are particularly encouraging during a pandemic. As we get closer to one year from our launch, we look forward to welcoming more and more people on board.”
During the fourth quarter of 2021, sea transport between Malta and Gozo registered increases in trips, passengers and vehicles when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2020, the National Statistics Office said. Between October and December 2021, a total of 11,215 trips were carried out, carrying a total of 1,185,502 passengers. October was the busiest month recording a total of 3,832 trips or 34.2% of total trips for the quarter.
Sea transport between Mġarr and Ċirkewwa
A total of 1,066,788 passengers travelled between Mġarr and Ċirkewwa during the fourth quarter of 2021, an increase of 21.8% when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2020. The highest number of passengers was recorded in October – 392,221 or 36.8% of the total for the quarter.
When compared to the same quarter previous year, the number of vehicles increased by 10%, totalling 429,806. The number of trips during the fourth quarter amounted to 8,479, an increase of 4.8% over the same period in 2020. December registered the highest number of trips – 2,860 or 33.7% of total trips for the quarter. During January-December 2021, both passenger and vehicle traffic originating from Ċirkewwa was busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other hand, from the Mġarr terminal, passenger and vehicle traffic was highest on Sundays and Mondays.
Sea transport between Mġarr and Valletta
During the fourth quarter of 2021, a total of 2,736 trips were carried out, carrying a total of 118,714 passengers. November registered the highest number of trips – 1,025 or 37.5% of total trips for the quarter, whereas the highest number of passengers travelling between Mġarr and Valletta was recorded in October – 46,853 or 39.5% for the quarter.
Gozo Business Chamber reacts: Trend in domestic tourism noted
Reacting to the NSO report, CEO of Gozo Business Chamber, Daniel Borg shared his insights “I think these dynamics need to be seen together with the trend in domestic tourism that Gozo has been experiencing in the pandemic. In fact the report by the National Statistics Office also highlights that “during January-December 2021, both passenger and vehicle traffic originating from Ċirkewwa was busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other hand, from the Mġarr terminal passenger and vehicle traffic was highest on Saturdays and Mondays” (NSO , News Release 007/2022 (17 January 2022), p. 1). This points out to the profile of domestic tourists who visit Gozo during weekends.
The annual statistics as portrayed in the news release also point to the contributing factor of the fast ferry service between the Mġarr terminal and Valletta. It also highlights that August was the busiest month, pointing out again that domestic tourism was a major contributing factor to the numbers currently experienced, as August always generally experienced positive trends in Gozo as regards this particular market.
As regards trips, apart from Q1, it showed that more trips were done in 2021 in the last three quarters than the other quarters in 2019 and 2020. As regards the trips the contributing factor may be attributed to the introduction of the fast ferry service. In analysing the numbers for Q2, Q3 and Q4 in 2021, this shows that while the passenger and vehicle traffic has increased over the same periods in 2020, numbers are also climbing up to reach the 2019 levels.
These statistics need to be read together with other important statistics linked to regional tourism demand. In 2020 the number of domestic tourists to Gozo was 348,489, a net increase over the same period in 2019. In 2019 the number of domestic tourists to Gozo was 215,272 (NSO (26 July 2021). The analysis of the present numbers in passenger and vehicle traffic in the sea transport between the two islands may therefore point out to the continued trend of the increase in domestic tourism in Gozo.
As a Chamber we think this is good news. The same statistics also highlight the contributing factor of passenger traffic by the new fast ferry service. Within this context it is important to highlight that despite the fact that this service is being provided in a private sector environment, it is necessary to maintain the same level of service and confidence.
The past period has seen various alterations to the timetable at short periods of notice. This has had a significant impact both on the confidence and trust that is placed in the service which is essential for its continuation. It is encouraging that one of the operators has announced an investment in a high speed ferry. However while competition and the liberalisation of the market has proved essential this would be fruitless if the situation continues as is, with substantial gaps in certain hours of the day, and may call for further reflection on a regulated timetable, which would avoid a situation of both operators cannibalising each other on the same route.
Given the present situation that we are experiencing i.e the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic it would be disappointing to see this service discontinued without it being tested on a fully functional tourism market. To this end all efforts need to be made for this service to be sustained”.