Could we lose out on UK tourism in June? – Too early to say, says MHRA president

MHRA President Tony Zahra

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 March, 2021 at 11:33 am by Andre Camilleri

It is too early to say whether Malta could lose out on UK tourism if the country still has high Covid-19 numbers when Britain eases restrictions in June, MHRA president Tony Zahra told The Malta Business Weekly.

This newsroom spoke with Zahra after operators in the tourism sector expressed concerns about a possible scenario where the UK would remove travel restrictions but Malta would still have high Covid numbers. If this were to happen, the operators said, Malta could lose out on UK tourism, which represents Malta’s biggest travel market.

Asked about such a scenario, Zahra seems not to be yet concerned about the likelihood of this happening.

At the beginning of the week, UK PM Boris Johnson unveiled a new four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown which could see all legal limits and restrictions lifted by 21 June, if strict conditions are met. He outlined a “gradual and cautious” approach to easing lockdown, starting with the opening of schools from 8 March and non-essential retail from 12 April.

If all goes as planned, from 17 May, the “rule of six” will be abolished for outdoor gatherings and replaced with a limit of 30 people. Up to 10,000 spectators can attend the very largest outdoor seated venues. These restrictions and plans are all subject to change, depending on the situation at the time and on scientific data.

Despite the high Coronavirus cases that Malta seems to be registering on a daily basis, Zahra downplayed the situation by saying that the airport is open, restaurants and hotels are open so “why should there be a difficulty?”

He added that the situation in Malta at present is that “we are open for business but we cannot talk about June when we are still in February”.

The Malta International Airport reopened on 1 July 2020 and commercial flights to and from Malta resumed from that date. Although travelling is possible there are still certain restrictions which may apply, depending on whether the traveller is coming from a country that is included on the green, amber or red list.

The UK is currently on Malta’s red travel list. This means that passengers arriving from this country must have spent at least the previous 14 days in one of the safe corridor countries before reaching Malta. It is also recommended that these passengers undertake a PCR test within 72 hours prior to arrival.

Zahra remarked that the conditions of other countries, regarding whether they are on the green, amber or red list, are subject to change from time to time depending on the current situation.

“As of yet we do not know whether this will change come June, however with the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine in European countries, in the UK, as well as in Malta, we can only hope that we will be among the best in Europe,” he added.

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