‘Roller coaster of restrictions’ left Malta lagging 12% behind other south European countries

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 July, 2021 at 3:42 pm by Andre Camilleri

Data shared by Airports Council International shows that this summer Malta is lagging behind its southern European counterparts − Greece, Italy, Israel, Spain and Portugal and Cyprus – as a travel destination choice this summer.

During a mid-year airport traffic update, Malta International Airport’s CEO Alan Borg stated that despite the aviation industry being the hardest one hit during the Covid-19 pandemic globally, Malta was at a greater disadvantage to its European counterparts both due to the way in which Malta’s government was administering its Covid-19 travel restrictions so rushed, as well as being the only EU country to never accept a recovery Covid-19 certificate as an official document to be able to travel to the island.

He described the effect of this to be a “roller coaster of ups and downs, for the aviation sector, with downs predominating”. Furthermore, he stated that this “lack Covid-19 restrictions uniformity has had a big impact on consumer confidence”, such that every time new Covid-19 restrictions kicked in in Malta, this was directly reflected on bookings.

MIA opened to tourism on 1 June, accepting both a (72 hour prior to boarding) PCR test as well as an EMA-approved vaccination certificate, withstanding the second dose of the vaccine was administered at least 14 days prior to their arrival on the island.

Thus, in June, Malta was able to recover 25% of its airline traffic and even added three new airlines to MIA, as noted by the head of Traffic Development, Customer Services & Administration, Alex Cardona.

However, since Malta is a predominantly summer destination usually attracting a lot of families, the new restrictions announced on 9 July − anyone over 12 years of age without holding a vaccination certificate had to carry out a 14-day quarantine at their own expense, in a designated quarantine hotel − bookings took another downhill turn, said Borg.

For the first time, August will no longer be the most profitable month for tourism in Malta due to a high amount of booking cancellations, Borg said.

Seeing that Europe has till now doubly vaccinated less than 65% of residents, this leaves 35% of Europeans unable to travel to Malta (since they would not possess the mandatory covid-19 certificate to travel to Malta). As Borg exclaimed, this is an even bigger blow to the MIA since a recent survey conducted by the EU travel commission showed that 25% of participants are looking for a ‘sun and sea’ holiday just like Malta.

All this has resulted in only 55 out of 100 seats being booked on airlines travelling to Malta this summer, Alex Cardona added.

Nonetheless, MIA succeeded to add 20 airlines to Malta’s summer airline schedule.

The top five European nationals that travelled to Malta this summer came from Italy, Germany, France, Poland and Spain. UK tourists notably didn’t make it onto Malta’s list this year which Cardona attributed to the delay in recognising their NHS Covid-19 certificates. 

On the other hand, the Polish market picked up, which he attributed to the addition of three new airlines connecting Poland to Malta.

On the other hand, Malta’s cargo and mail sector has been doing relatively well, which Borg attributed to the Maltese population being strong online buyers.

Predicting that once Covid-19 is not front and centre and the environment will again take centre stage, the resulting down time induced by the pandemic was taken advantage of by the MIA, especially in relation to sustainability, said Borg.

Both airport structural investments as well as functional ones were being carried out during this time, which would have otherwise made the works take place at a much slower pace, said Cardona. These included upgrading the runway lights to LED’S, planned environmentally friendly works on the new East Car Park and Sky Parks 2, changing the fuel station location, works on Apron X as well as updating the airport’s food court.

MIA has been endeavouring to tailor make opportunities for different airlines so that despite the governments “short term planned restrictions for travel to the island”, Malta will again be placed on the map, Borg concluded.

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