Gozo tourism: Summer could see more Maltese, but will not make up for lack of foreigners

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The Gozo tourism sector is expecting to see above-average numbers of Maltese tourists heading to Malta’s sister island this summer, however, this will not be enough to make up for the lack of foreign tourists, the Gozo Tourism Association’s CEO Joe Muscat told this newsroom

The Covid-19 outbreak has brought tourism in Malta to a standstill, with the airport and ports being shut as precautionary measures. They are set to partially open on July 1, with further destinations opening up on July 15. However, it is expected that tourist travel globally will continue to be impacted as a result of the virus, due to the virus still causing problems in a number of countries as well as fears of a second wave.

Speaking with The Malta Independent, Muscat said that it is “not going to be a usual summer. We will not see the normal number of foreign tourists we have seen in the past.”

“We expect a trickle of foreigners who will come to the island, but the numbers will not be on the same level that we are used to. Obviously in Gozo we also have the domestic tourism market. Domestic tourists always frequent Gozo and it could be that this frequency will increase this year as Maltese might have cancelled their plans to travel abroad. This is the scenario we envisage having.”

He said that the government vouchers that had been announced might also entice more Maltese to go to Gozo. “In addition, aside from normal hotels, we have a type of accommodation that, given the Covid-19 circumstances, people might feel safer in.” He mentioned individual unit accommodation such as farmhouses as an example, as people might feel more secure if they are more isolated.

He also said that feast celebrations that take place in the towns and villages will not be of the same level that they normally are, and said that these are all things that impact on Gozo’s socio-economic situation

Asked whether he thinks the number of Maltese expected to travel to Gozo will balance out the lack of foreign tourists, he said no. “As good as the domestic market is, it is always concentrated on weekends. Obviously the Maltese work during the week, and so their breaks are generally taken during the weekends. We might see more Maltese than usual take their holidays even during the week in Gozo, but I do not think it will balance out the lack of foreign tourists.”

The GTA CEO was asked about potential losses this year. He said that numbers will definitely be lower than normal. “When one compares the past five months, everyone saw reduced earnings. Restaurants were closed, the airport was closed, the Maltese people couldn’t travel to Gozo for a period,” he said. “There were large losses.”

“In terms of June to September, weekends are looking good.”

“Self-catering accommodation weekends seem to be doing better than hotels. Hotels, during the weekends, are seeing between 35-40% occupancy thus far, but then during the week numbers drop. Maltese tend to come on weekends. This is the norm for Maltese tourists, although we have noted that there are families who extend their stays. The coming weekend has a public holiday on Monday and so we will see extended stays.”

As for possible long-term impacts of the current situation, he said it depends on the situation in October and beyond. “If in October Covid-19 does not spike up again, not just in Malta but around the world, then we envisage that, bit by bit, we will start getting back to normal as there will be more confidence, foreigners will again look for holidays abroad and we would then slowly rebuild the momentum we lost in 2020. But if Covid-19 rears its head again, then the situation will not be good at all as it would mean heading into a winter where we might have restrictions on the airport, establishments, in addition to what would happen in other countries. These are all repercussions that can have an effect.”

“It is not easy to forecast exactly what will happen, but if the circumstances are normal then we envisage that bit by bit we will go back to a kind of normality in tourism. I believe however, that we will return to full normality during 2022 and beyond that.”