A solid tourism recovery strategy | Robert Arrigo

Experience, vision and success are vital. The PN will go into more detail for a full, fast and responsible recovery

Last week the government launched its tourism strategy. I had occasion to pre-empt this in a parliamentary speech, spoke about this on Net Live and again on TVAM Monday early morning.

My observations are that, I assume, that the government has the green light to go ahead and the benediction of the health authorities. So far, I have heard no such confirmation forthcoming.

In Europe the magic date announced to open up is around 17 May, so 1 June is viable. Hopefuly, we learnt from the famous ‘mechanisms’ that went so badly and failed miserably last year.

All arrivals should now have an injection certificate, swabbing test 48/72 hours before, and have each and every tourist tested on arrival. Our proposals as PN are that we put up three free tourist swab centres: two in Malta and one in Gozo. In this way, the safety issue is addressed.

Knowing that the tourists leaving the EU will be less in number, and knowing that we will have extreme competition, and that only six months are left for 2021 to end, we have to invest heavily in marketing ourselves. We know that our competitors are mainly islands – bigger capacity islands – some having started already receiving guests. So we have to firstly tackle the bad image that Malta unfortunately has created and exposed to the world.

We propose more money than the €20 million announced. This €20 million are spread over nine local sectors, each with tens of stakeholders. I find the amount to be little. This is an island start-up and should go to the foreign partners, tour operators, websites, airlines and general public marketing.

We propose the freezing of the MTA’s Manchester United multi-million euro deal, done under former minister Konrad Mizzi, for which I am really uncomfortable. Minister Clayton Bartolo should cancel this contract.

We propose that real marketing should be attached to the number of real tourists arriving and duly checked and audited. Too many millions of euro have been wasted already. Local stakeholders need much help and must be seen as start-up companies. Millions are needed here.

We propose a total fund of €120 million to fund all the above, over and above the €20 million local help. This must be seen as an investment, not aid.

We welcome four new airlines that will go in and replace other airlines. Three of these are legacy airlines. It seems that Air France will fly from Charles De Gaulle airport while Air Malta will lessen its presence there and concentrate on Orly airport.

Polish airlines Lot will also return, linking Luqa to Warsaw, where we previously had another carrier flying to Malta. Dubai Air, a low-cost airline, will be substituting Emirates. And a private airline plans to start flying to Malta from Ukraine in early June.

We propose a clear roadmap. We want all past airlines on board, linking to many more airports, and with more frequent flights. A detailed study is prepared and ready to be shared.

We propose that we go faster and better and in an organised way. The rebirth of tourism will be a different baby completely.  Proposals, details, vision… I assume that we will be notified in due time, by government. We are proposing many solid initiatives and proposals after extensive talks with both foreign and local stakeholders. Only in this way can we have staff levels and wages returning to 2019 standards. Only this way will our investors keep creating work and creating wealth for all.

We propose to view tourism as a profession, with an educational strategy at all levels of the trade and across our educational system. We recommend that we start devising a marketing strategy, to include MTA and private stakeholders. And we propose better training, so that our renowned Maltese welcome and smile will return.

We propose quality that does not necessarily mean luxury: value for money is paramount because clients will want more for less money, possibly being more eccentric. We propose that all hospitality personnel be vaccinated by 1st June.

What about the announced and then postponed vouchers? We believe they should be issued and usable from May to July. We mean business and are ready to cooperate for the sole benefit of the people of Malta and Gozo, where half our population benefits from the tourism industry.

Experience, vision and success are vital. The PN will go into more detail for a full, fast and responsible recovery.