Maltese choosing better hotels over expensive travel

In the last three months of 2016, travellers spent 13.4% more on accommodation than they did in the same period the previous year

ROCS CEO Collin Aquilina said that Dubai saw a “drastic increase” in demand this year
ROCS CEO Collin Aquilina said that Dubai saw a “drastic increase” in demand this year

Maltese travellers working out their budget before departing the island appear to be prioritising the quality of their accommodation over travel fares.

In the last three months of 2016, travellers spent 1.4% more on air or sea fares than they did in the same period the previous year, but forked out 13.4% more on accommodation, according to official figures on outbound tourism published by the National Statistics Office. 

In comments to MaltaToday, Colin Aquilina, chief executive of travel agency ROCS, confirmed this trend, attributing the increase in spending on accommodation to the quality being chosen.

“One thing we are noticing is the fact that the Maltese are opting for much better hotels or properties than before,” Aquilina said.

Both Aquilina and Simone Bugeja, of agents Hamilton Travel, pinpointed families with young children as the largest market of travellers.

Aquilina said that between June and September, family groups were “the norm”, as a result of children being out of school for summer holidays. 

He also noted that, as of late, there was a growing number of extended families who travel together once a year.

“I feel that families are finding travel to be a form of family reunion in today’s fast-paced world,” he said.

In fact, the largest group of travellers last year was made up of those within the 25 to 44 years age bracket, with 224,572 outbound tourists. This group was followed immediately by the 45 to 64 years bracket, with 137,109 travellers.

However, Aquilina and Bugeja also mentioned couples as avid travellers, while the ROCS CEO went on to name groups of friends and organised village groups as travel enthusiasts throughout the summer months, in particular, he said, during the feasts season.

Aquilina said short-haul vacations are more popular among travellers, both Maltese and foreign residents of Malta, as they are more affordable. In fact, data from Malta International Airport shows that the top five markets this year have consistently been the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France and Belgium, with the exception of June, when Spain moved ahead of Belgium with a marked increase of 38.2%.

Aquilina said ROCS’s most sought-after destinations this summer were Cyprus, Disneyland Paris and the Pelagian Islands, while Bugeja said Hamilton’s popular destinations this year were Slovenia, Croatia, Prague, Paris and the UK.

Bugeja said that most travellers opt for a week abroad or for “mini holidays”, spending three nights away from home.

Aquilina complemented this by adding that the Maltese are travelling more than they were previously. “The fact that Malta is so well connected with many countries has made it easier for many Maltese to travel abroad more than once.”

Turning to long-haul destinations, Aquilina said that Dubai saw a “drastic increase” in demand this year, in particular the Atlantis resort. Other popular long-haul destinations Aquilina mentioned included South Africa, Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea.

When it comes to these, Aquilina said that travellers tend to opt for organised trips. 

“The Maltese and also the many foreigners who have made Malta their home have lately developed a sense of adventure and curiosity when it comes to long-haul travel, especially because of the diversity in culture, traditions, culinary experiences, unique exclusive properties,” he said. 

“Tours are very popular especially for long haul destinations. Clients feel that in these destinations, they want to have the peace of mind of having all the itinerary organised and everything taken care of.”

“At the same time they want to have the expertise of a knowledgeable travel agent who helps them make the utmost of their time at a particular destination,” he added.