Outbound tourism bookings lacking, but should pick up in the near future – FATTA

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Outbound tourism bookings are still lacking since the government announced the re-opening of the airport for commercial flights to select destinations, according to the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents Malta (FATTA), however, the association’s president, Iain Tonna, believes that it should improve in the coming weeks.

On 1 July, Malta is set to reopen its doors to 19 destinations after Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that “we have won the war” against the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of this, The Malta Independent asked FATTA President Tonna if people are showing interest in travelling since the day this announcement was made; Monday 1 June.

He said that there has been a bit of movement in incoming tourism but the same does not apply to outbound tourism.

He said that there is interest for tourists to come to Malta, however, it is mostly coming from Free Independent Travellers (FITs); meaning individual trips, not group ones. In these cases, FATTA and its members are informing their customers of any approved protocols for hospitality establishments, sites, museums and the like, which travellers will need for their trip.

“With regard to outbound tourism, the situation is very modest, people’s confidence is not yet quite there,” Tonna said.

Nonetheless, he believes that if the same question were to be asked in two or three weeks’ time, the answer will be very different as people are slowly feeling more comfortable. “The confidence is coming back slowly and it is probably better that way instead of rushing into things and risking panic if something goes wrong,” he said.

The destinations which Malta will be sharing flights with once the airport reopens are; Italy (Sardinia and Sicily only), Iceland, Slovakia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Switzerland, Estonia, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland and Ireland.

Notably, this list has attracted some criticism for the fact that some of the destinations still have some restrictions in place.

Speaking to this newsroom on Wednesday of last week, Tonna had also expressed his concern over these restrictions since they would make it almost impossible for wishful travellers to fly to and from those areas.

He had also made reference to some suggestions that FATTA submitted to the MTA with regard to the in-between stages of hospitality like airport transfers, excursions or sightseeing, based on the three key principles of social distancing, hygiene and the use of masks.

Asked for an update on these protocols yesterday, Tonna explained that he cannot disclose what their report stated for now since it still needs to be processed by the MTA.

However, he said that FATTA carried our research on what is being done in other countries and took what it felt was relevant within Malta’s context since there are elements that do not apply directly.

As an example, he pointed out that in Malta people do not need to be on a coach for long periods of time as they would abroad. “Thus, the protocols for Malta can be a bit less taxing than other countries where people will be stuck on a coach for a number of hours.”

Asked if he knows when MTA’s protocols will be released, he said that he cannot say exactly when but FATTA is driving a sense of urgency as it wants regulations to be in place sooner rather than later, especially regarding things that are a bit more strenuous on consumers.

“We want to take advantage of the downtime between now and 1 July to make sure that our suppliers and staff are trained and ready to hit the ground running,” he concluded.