Will Maltese choose staycation this year?

Maltese travellers could forgo their travel plans and instead choose a 'staycation' 

The ‘staycation’ could be here to stay: more Maltese travellers could forgo their travel plans despite being vaccinated or even because of parents who are squeamish about having their young children do a PCR test for COVID-19.

Trends have changed drastically, says ROCS boss Colin Aquilina, who said the past 15 months have seen volumes decline and confidence in the travel industry at its lowest levels ever.

“The travel offering has had to be rethought from scratch... it’s going to be a reboot of sorts, through the competitive advantages we built through the years have been wiped out, leaving us only our foresight and ability to change and adapt to a brand new era,” the ROCS CEO told MaltaToday.

The company has noted the increase in internal tourism, with great feedback for one such initiative, with an Intercontinental Malta offer being booked by hundreds of people on a daily basis.

“The new travel scenario developing as we speak will be determined by a number of factors amongst which is the vaccine passport, the list of safe countries and safe corridors and the level of confidence which the Maltese market will develop both locally and abroad,” he said.      

Aquilina said ROCS would be providing the Maltese market a local travel product “second to none”, including a selection of leading properties in Malta and Gozo and a range of foreign travel products, including the key destinations synonymous with ROCS. “The offering will also depend on the will by the various airlines to return to operate the Malta route,” he said.

Mario Loporto, of Gozo Village Holidays, agrees that his company has seen a rise in inquiries from Maltese holidaymaker making the sister island their ‘COVID destination’.

“We have seen an increase of Maltese interest for the weekends, especially when these coincide with public holidays.”

Despite increased interest, the number of nights people book villas for has decreased. “Going to Gozo has always been popular among the Maltese – it’s familiar, and now with the uncertainly the situation aboard due to COVID, more Maltese are choosing Gozo because its hassle-free,” he said.

But he also expects this years’ summer to be at a minimum, much the same as last year, although he veers to the side of optimism, hoping it to be better.

Aquilina says that Maltese holidaymakers will still travel abroad. “We are an island, and our insularity gives us that added will and desire to travel beyond our shores, discover new and different cultures, and explore new destinations.”

Aquilina says this desire can only grow as COVID numbers registered locally and abroad start decreasing, with the success of vaccine passports and more protocols being adopted. “We are confident that travel will kick off, but we envisage that a full recovery to pre-COVID numbers will only happen in full in 2025 – inshallah!”

Malta’s stumbling block is getting on its main tourist markets’ green lists for COVID. England is a must. Loporto says he sees increasing interest from Dutch, French and Scandinavian countries as well. “The most important thing is that we remain on countries’ green lists and that we market towards vaccinated tourists. This is the only way to ensure the tourism industry will have a good summer.”