A clubbing destination!

Meanwhile, dreams of how tourism in Malta could and should have evolved remain just dreams

In a contribution to the press some 15 years ago, I criticised a Paceville nightclub owner who was quoted saying: ‘If we want to compete with other clubbing destinations we cannot afford to stop at 4am.’

He was speaking to a newspaper that was covering the reaction of nightclub owners to a decision to impose a music curfew at 4am.

My reaction was to ask who on earth had decided that Malta wants to compete with ‘other clubbing destinations?’

I then compared some basic statistics of two clubbing destinations - Ibiza and Mykonos - which some entrepreneurs wanted to emulate. I pointed out that: ‘a cursory comparison of the population density of Malta with that of Ibiza and Mykonos should reveal the folly of Malta attempting to compete with them, poining out that Ibiza has an area of 571sq.km and a population of 114,000 while Mykonos has an area of 105sq.km and a population of 9,300’.

Since then these statistics have changed considerably. Malta’s population density has grown at an incredible rate and has made such basic comparisons even worse.

I ended my piece in this way: ‘Promoting Malta as a clubbing Mecca cannot be seriously considered. Not with our population density – which is the most telling factor in our environmental problems and which everybody seems bent on ignoring consistently. Unfortunately, the MTA’s subsidising such events as the Isle of MTV concert has sent the wrong message.’

Much water has passed under the bridge since 2008 when I wrote that piece and the comparisons made then do not make sense now. As far as Malta is concerned, the situation, in fact, is much worse. The tourism authorities today do not subsidise one clubbing event but subsidize several such events and the clubbing destination aficionados have had their way.

This is the Maltese way of doing things, I am afraid.

Instead of finding niche markets in which we can compete, we just copy what others do without comparing the local situation with that of our competitors - in this case in the tourism sector. Malta, Ibiza and Mykonos are Mediterranean islands but they are not comparable. Yet the clubbing destination aficionados ignored the basic differences between them and kept pushing for their ‘dream’ of making easy money from clubbing events subsidised by the tourism authorities.

It comes as no surprise that The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry recently issued a statement about its concern regarding the fact that international news is now describing Malta as a destination for tourists seeking inexpensive alcohol, legal drug consumption and uninhibited revelry.

Politicians can pay lip service about aiming for high quality tourism until the cows come. What they did, and what they allowed to happen, contradicts what they say all the time.

The chance to make Malta a high-quality tourism destination has now been lost. It seems to me that it has been lost for ever. Frankly I cannot see it otherwise. A change in the administration cannot do the trick over the few years before Malta faces another election.

The current administration will ignore all this and will soon be boasting that we have had a record breaking tourism year - as far as the number of tourists is concerned. In this boasting, the toll on the country’s infrastructure will be ignored - as if the elctricity shut-downs never happened.

The continuous digging of trenches to reinforce Malta’s electricity, water and sewer networks will also be ignored. The interminable road works that push every car and truck driver to search for alternative routes will not be mentioned, of course: those are experiences to be suffered in silence by the population that is expected to be so proud of its government’s achievements!

The latest available tourism figures - for the second quarter of this year - show an increase in tourists but a decline in the length of stays with the average stay of every tourist being 4.2 nights. While the number of tourists increased by 22.4%, the number of nights spent increase by only 16.9%.

This is a negative trend which overstretches low cost flights and the Sicily ferry numbers with little to show in terms of positive effects to our economy. Of, course the government will ignore the shortening of stays!

Everything has its price but those in power just forget the price we have been paying to reach the height of the tourism ‘nirvana’ that the administration will be boasting about - as if the tourism industry has not been evolving all these years - except for the COVID interlude. The current administration will just pretend that this ‘success’ was thanks to them and them alone.

Meanwhile, dreams of how tourism in Malta could and should have evolved remain just dreams.

Events, my dear boy

The eerie silence from the PN regarding the incident two weeks ago when the PN leader was not ‘allowed’ to enter the PN Hamrun club on the feast day of the locality has raised many unanswered questions.

After some five days of silence, the PN officially issued a one-line statement saying that the Hamrun PN Club is going to be temporarily closed for the time being.

Surely this is not enough and shows an inherent weakness in the PN communications machinery. The PN rightly criticises the government when things are done behind the people’s back. So how come it is tackling this issue behind the backs of all PN members?

This assumes that the PN is doing something about it and not refraining from taking any steps at all while it just lets the issue to rankle... hoping that people will forget the incident.

This is, undoubtedly the worse thing that can happen as it reinforces the perception that Bernard Grech is weak and is hardly in control of the party - a perception that can damage seriously the PN’s electoral chances.

At the moment, Malta needs a strong Opposition to counter a situation in which the current Labour administration is being percieved as weakening every day. To let this incident fester without taking the bull by the horns - as seems to be happening - is the worst decision that Bernard Grech can take.

This reminds me of what Harold Macmillan replied when he was asked what the most troubling problem of his Prime Ministership was. ‘Events, my dear boy, events,’ was his reply.