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Updated | Government to clamp down on unlicensed hosting residences

Tourism Minister launches National Tourism Policy for 2015-2020 for public consultation

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
9 January 2015, 5:31pm
Last updated on 10 January 2015, 3:15pm
Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Updated at 3.15pm on Saturday 10 January with a clarification to the story where it was erroneously reported that people hosting relative and friends would require a license.

In a National Tourism Policy for the next five years that was launched today for public consultation, the government said it was ready to take "all necessary steps" against both hosts and visitors to curb any unlicensed tourist accommodations

According to the policy document, the lack of official scrutiny of unlicensed private accommodations gives them an unfair advantage over licensed ones. It also pointed out that, in the process, the government is losing out on significant earnings in the form of uncollected taxes and that the tourists themselves will not be guaranteed the level of consumer protection offered by licensed ones. 

“This also leads to the unacceptable situation where tourists are utilising establishments which may not be in a position to guarantee the level of quality that they expect, thereby increasing dissatisfaction levels to the detriment of the destination,” the document points out.

‘Tourists dislike Maltese roads, pavements and lack of cleanliness’

According to a study carried out by the Malta Tourism Authority, tourists tend to assess establishments, restaurants, entertainment venues, visitor sites and the airport positively. However, they also tend to give low marks to issues relates to roads, traffic, parking, pavements, public conveniences and the general level of cleanliness. Through MTA surveys, one in five tourists are dissatisfied with the Gozo ferry service, while one in every three tourists are dissatisfied with the services provided by public transport, taxis and vehicle hire.

In the policy document, the government said that they will ensure sustained cleansing efforts aimed at removing eyesores such as derelict buildings and dumps, coupled with a strong education and enforcement campaign to deter their re-accumulation.

‘More sandy beaches and fish-populated reefs’

The government will explore the possibility of creating new sandy beaches. Popular rocky beaches will also be made more accessible so as to attract more tourists to them and ease the saturation pressure off sandy beaches. Public-private partnership agreements in support of beach and coastal development will be launched.

To render diving more attractive, the government will ensure that impoverished reefs are populated by fish species and that divers will be able to visit wrecks during bad weather.

‘Evolution of restaurant menus’

According to the policy document, the range of food items offered in menus needs to “evolve at a faster pace” so as to ensure that they offer the food that today’s younger and more affluent tourists from a wider number of countries are seeking. According to an MTA survey, 22% of tourists rate Maltese restaurants negatively. Therefore, the government will help catering establishments in their efforts to train their staff in service and languages, improve their menu design, introduce more healthy and special dietary food items into their menus, integrate local cuisine into their menus, and provide entertainment to guests.

The government will also simplify the licensing process for catering establishments and clamp down on illegal catering operations.

‘Maltese sense of hospitality taught to foreign hospitality staff’

The document pointed out that hospitality employers are resorting to employing foreigners in customer-facing positions due to a lack of interest amongst the Maltese. These foreigners often cannot speak Maltese and are unaware of Maltese history and culture. Therefore, the government will encourage employers to improve the quality of the jobs so as to render them more attractive to Maltese people and try and inculcate the foreign hospitality staff with a sense of Maltese hospitality.

“This is a historic moment,” Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said at the launch of the document. “The policy is based on three pillars: improving tourist accessibility to Malta, improving marketing and branding, and improving the overall product offered to tourists.”

He also pointed out that the height-limitation adjustment policy that allows certain hotels to extend their height by two storeys is expected to result in an increase of 1,100 beds, 1000 jobs, a €100 million investment over the next four years, and an annual 0.3% economic growth.

Right of reply and clarification by the Ministry for Tourism

Reference is made to the on-line news report dated the 9th titled  "Government to clamp down on unlicensed hosting residences". Clearly the title and conclusions drawn in reference to the tourism policy document just launched are incorrect and misleading.  

The relevant part of the draft tourism policy document, refers to "Private accommodation" as defined by the National Statistics Office which includes self catering apartments, villas and farmhouses, including privately owned accommodation either hosting friends and relatives at no charge or guests at a cost. However the draft policy states that the area of concern relates to unlicensed accommodation in "establishments which are subject to official licensing and other statutory regulations" as these are the ones breaking the law.

“People that host relatives and friends at no charge in their homes”  referred to the online news report, are not legally bound to apply for a license, and consequently have nothing to worry about as they are not breaking any law, and Government has no intention of changing the law in this regard.  The tourism policy refers to measures that need to be taken against those that are currently contravening the law by way of renting out their property to bona fide tourists for commercial purposes without having acquired the necessary licenses. 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday
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