Editorial: Red, white and blue, but not green

Last Updated on Friday, 21 May, 2021 at 10:00 am by Andre Camilleri

One of the biggest news stories within the last week is that the UK announced the green travel list without Malta. We are set to open for tourism on 1 June and the country was surprised to learn that it was left out of the UK’s green list on 7 May.

Along with the UK, we were led to believe the green travel corridor would be opened; after all, there was no reason why not. Our vaccination programme is jumping ahead in leaps and bounds and our daily cases and hospital admissions are low. Unfortunately, this has led to great speculation and set the rumour mill churning from missing papers, delayed meetings to “political” reasons, all of which are unfounded.

The UK is one of Malta’s most significant markets when it comes to tourism. The UK took the decision after a thorough risk assessment procedure. Local stakeholders, business leaders and associations were quick to react to the news.

The Malta Hotel and Restaurants Association (MHRA) equally expressed its surprise.  MHRA stated that Malta was meeting the Covid-19 related safety requirements and that several British media outlets had, for the past days, been quoting Malta to be a favourite destination to be included in the safe list.

“MHRA concurs with the general opinion being expressed by the major British travel and tourism stakeholders that the decision to put so few European countries into the green tier is not justified by the data or the science,” it said in a statement on Saturday.

The association warned that this situation would negatively impact the tourism sector in Malta “at least for June”. And “if this situation is not urgently addressed, then the tourism sector in Malta will lose what was appearing to be a good start to the summer season”, it said.

Optimism that we will make the next round of decisions, due in the first week of June, is high; despite British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently hinting that there may be no additional countries added to the green list for now, given that the Indian Covid-19 variant is complicating the picture in the UK.

We know we are doing well, but what can be done? Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said this week: “Whether or not Malta makes the UK’s travel green list anytime soon rests on every person’s shoulder. It seems we have to keep up our good record a little longer to make the grade.

Meanwhile, Denmark, Netherlands and Germany have ruled Malta as a low-risk area.

Here’s to hoping we reconnect with the UK at the earliest.

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