Inbound tourism, inflation and latest confidence indicators

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 November, 2023 at 9:32 am by Andre Camilleri

The latest inbound tourism figures for September indicate that this year (January to September) just over 2.3 million tourists visited Malta. That’s a 7% increase in visitors over the amount of incoming tourists, for the same period in 2019. The challenge we always had was in improving the real expenditure per night and per incoming tourist. The latest figures indicate that in September, the real expenditure per night was 2.3% higher than in September 2019, while the real expenditure per tourist was just 0.63% lower than in September 2019. Taking the whole period of January to September and comparing to January to September 2019, we can see that the real expenditure per night for this period in 2023 was 0.77% higher than the same period in 2019, while the real expenditure per tourist for the period in 2023 was 2.9% lower than the same period in 2019. 

The latest HICP-based inflation figures for October in Europe and Malta are tricking in. The headline figures show that the euro area inflation for October stood at 2.9% while in Malta this stood at 4.3%. However, if one where to dig deeper and look at elements of the core inflation, we see that the euro area HICP-based inflation for October, when excluding energy, stood at 4.9% and when excluding energy and food this stood at 4.2%, while in Malta these stood at 4.6% and 3.8% respectively. This indicates that while in the past six months Malta’s headline HICP-based inflation rate has been consistently above the euro area average inflation rate, when then looking at elements of the core inflation, especially when comparing the HICP-based inflation after excluding energy, Malta has been having an inflation rate just below and very close to the euro area average.

The latest confidence indicators, published in the latest Economic Update of the Central Bank of Malta at the end of October, indicate that the confidence indicator for the construction sector in September rose to -2.7, up from -14.1 in August, which is above its long-term average of -8.1, while the sentiment indicator for the services sector reached 17.5 in September, up from 7.8 a month earlier, but remained below its long-term average of 19.7. This indicated the assessment of the business situation of firms in the service sector, over the past three months, and of demand in recent months, which improved significantly, however their expectations of demand over the next three months weakened, but remained positive. Moreover, consumer confidence in September stood at -9.9, up from -12.8 in the previous month, and was slightly above its long-term average of -10.2. This indicated that consumers’ expectations of the general economic situation and of their financial situation over the next 12 months, improved, although remaining negative. However, the consumers assessment of their financial situation moved slightly further into negative territory, while expectations of major purchases stood less positive compared to August. Finally, confidence in the retail sector stood at 9.6, below the 18.3 recorded in the previous month, but remained well above its long-term average of 0.1.

Retailers’ assessment of sales in recent months, and their expectations of business activity over the next three months, stood less positive in September.

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