New challenges and fresh opportunities in tourism

By Edward Zammit Lewis, Tourism Minister

As we celebrate World Tourism Day, it is worthwhile reflecting on the impact which this economic and social phenomenon presents also on a global perspective. Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and deepening diversification to become one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. 

Modern tourism is closely linked to development and encompasses a growing number of new destinations while these dynamics have turned tourism into a key driver for socio-economic progress.

Today, the business volume of tourism equals, or even surpasses, that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. Tourism has become one of the major factors in international commerce, and represents at the same time one of the main income sources for many developing countries. This growth moves in parallel with increasing diversification and competition among destinations.

This global spread of tourism in industrialised and developed states has produced economic and employment benefits in many related sectors - from construction to agriculture and communications. In 2014, tourist arrivals grew by 4.3 % in 2014 to 1.133 billion, while international tourism generated US$ 1.5 trillion in export earnings. For this year, the UNWTO forecasts a growth in international tourist arrivals of between 3% and 4%. 

Tourism’s contribution to economic and social wellbeing is also reflected in our country reality. There is no doubt that tourism is one of Malta’s major success stories. Throughout the past decades, this industry has seen a series of peaks and troughs.

As a destination, Malta has had to withstand some formidable challenges, often as a result of events beyond our control. Yet, this industry has time and again demonstrated its considerable strength and resilience to always emerge as one of the fundamental pillars of our economy. 

Today, the tourists who visit us – there were 1.72 million of them in 2014, nearly 8% more than the previous year – annually contribute directly more than €1.5 billion to the local economy. Moreover, this industry directly employs 20,500 persons, and around 7,500others from spin-off activities. Tourism has also acted as a catalyst for other sectors, such as culture, education, aviation, film-making and sports, amongst others.

Thanks to our very positive standing as a tourism destination, we portray a very positive image which, in turn, boosts the visibility of the Malta brand with regard to investment in other industrial sectors. 

We are also aware that tourism continues to be one of the most rapidly changing economic sectors. This clearly places the onus on Government to provide a dynamic response in terms of policy making and updating; the kind of response that looks at the longer vision for this industry, one which puts the principle of sustainable development at the forefront.

This, with a view to safeguarding the positive aspects of the country’s attractiveness as a tourism destination, for the benefit of visitors and the host population alike. 

This principle forms the basis of our Tourism Policy 2015-2020 and our Vision for Tourism towards 2030. We believe that the future for this industry mainly lies in controlled growth, which is achievable through the targeting of appropriate markets and high quality delivery at all levels of the tourism value chain. This will allow us to achieve an improved competitive positioning in the international tourism market and, hence, higher rates of economic return and a better return on investment. 

I am confident that together with all industry stakeholders, over the coming years, we shall succeed in further boosting the competitiveness of our tourism sector while promoting the development of responsible and sustainable high-quality tourism. In this manner we will be ensuring that Malta continues to enjoy the socio-economic benefits of tourism and the substantial added value that this industry delivers to our islands. 

Edward Zammit Lewis is minister for tourism

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