At the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) webinar entitled ‘Reigniting Tourism’, Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Julia Farrugia Portelli said that during the COVID-19 pandemic the Ministry and all stakeholders worked tirelessly together as much as possible to mitigate the disruptions experienced by the tourism sector. The Minister referred to ongoing innovative marketing strategies spearheaded by MTA to keep Malta fresh in the minds of those who will potentially choose Malta as their next favourite holiday destination. This is now being complemented by more incentives to attract tourists even during the coming winter months by emphasizing that Malta is a safe destination that can offer a wide spectrum of unique experiences.
MHRA President Tony Zahra commended the new initiatives which Minister Farrugia Portelli announced to incentivize more tourists to visit Malta. Zahra asserted that during these times, more and more economic players are now realizing how important is the tourism sector to the rest of the economy. Zahra emphasized that “The airport is now open, and the tourism sector and health authorities are together doing amazing work to ensure that we all remain safe, whilst giving hope to the tourism sector to survive.”
Zahra also stressed the message that the tourism sector is not just about the hotelier and restaurateurs. It is about the farmer, the karozzin operator, the service providers, and many others who directly or indirectly owe their livelihoods to the sector. It is an industry that contributes €2.1 billion a year to the Maltese Economy hence the community as a whole and therefore it is fundamentally wrong that someone gives the impression that it is a cash cow for capitalists”
Zahra mentioned that now Malta needs to look ahead and start to reignite the tourism sector by making sure that Malta keeps being portrayed as a safe destination. Zahra stressed that “First of all we need to stimulate more seats out in the market. Secondly, we must make sure we get passengers to fill in these seats and visit our island. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but we have been through difficult times before and we have always worked together to move forward and succeed.”
Dr Charles Mangion, Air Malta Chairman emphasized that Air Malta is a key contributor to the tourism sector and the Maltese economy beyond just commercial objectives. Mangion stated that after two years of restructuring initiatives which were reaping highly positive results, COVID 19 was now posing serious challenges to the national airline. Industrial disputes are not making the situation easier but Dr Mangion stressed that jointly all the stakeholders who value the critical role of Airmalta to the economy will eventually ensure that the airline will survive the current challenges and prosper in the future.
Albert Frendo, BOV Chief Credit Officer stated that the bank will remain supportive to those tourism and hospitality operators who have a solid business model and hence can demonstrate that they can rebound once the economy reignites.
Johann Buttigieg, MTA CEO asserted that promoting Malta as a safe destination has become a critical element in the initiatives being spearheaded towards reigniting the tourism sector. Buttigieg stressed the importance of the safety protocols and the obligation by operators to abide with them in order to ensure that Malta remains a safe destination. He also announced that protocols are now being reviewed to allow for more activity in the tourism and hospitality sector, such as events and conferences.
Filip Boyen, Forbes Travel Guide CEO said that tourism across the world is now facing challenges and that rebound will not happen quickly and without pains. Mr Boyen commended MTA’s initiatives including the training of employees working across the tourism, travel, and hospitality sector in Malta as a unique, timely and visionary action. Mr Boyen suggested that this moment in time can become an opportunity for the policy makers and the operators to work together in restructuring the sector to ensure that at the right time it will come out as stronger and a winner for all.
Deloitte’s Financial Advisory and Hospitality Sector Leader, Raphael Aloisio, analysed international consumer sentiment survey data to corroborate why one cannot realistically expect an excessively accelerated recovery of global tourism trends.
The following are some of the key points which came out of the presentation:
- 65% of international hoteliers believe that they would not achieve pre-covid levels of business before 2023;
- Cash Flow management and health and safety are currently the top priorities for hotels;
- Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 will see a spike in the number of entities facing distressed circumstances;
- Although international consumer anxiety levels are improving, they remain high;
- Although people are beginning to consider making international flight arrangements, the general level of apprehension associated with taking an international flight remains high;
- People feel far less concerned about going to a restaurant, staying in a hotel or in private accommodation as compared to taking a flight; and
- Notwithstanding the lingering concerns regarding safety, the number of people actively considering the possibilities of booking an international flight and / or a hotel stay in the coming 3 months is steadily increasing across geographies and age cohorts.
Given the very significant loss of economic activity associated with a slower recover pace, Aloisio, floated the idea that, in order to shorten the prospective recovery period, government and stakeholders in hospitality and consumer businesses could work together to launch products and offers, which could sway prospective tourists decision in favour of choosing Malta as their holiday destination.