Airline seat capacity to increase by 8.7% – minister

Tourism minister Karmenu Vella lauds fair and strong budget

Malta had experienced the second highest number of tourist arrivals in 2013 of all the EU countries, after Turkey, tourism minister Karmenu Vella announced today.

Total arrivals by the end of the year are expected to surpass the 1.5 million mark - an increase of nearly 9 per cent from last year.

Vella was speaking at a press conference held at the Airport, in which he discussed the Budget 2014 and its effects on the tourism sector.

He said that the Budget had been a strong and fair one, highlighting the fact that no additional taxes were introduced. He also said that the Budget underlined the importance of the tourism sector in the country.

"It should be above any party politics," he said.

Vella displayed his satisfaction that the 'shoulder month' of October witnessed more than 400,000 arrivals - the first time this has happened for five consecutive months, according to the minister.

Vella said that tourism contributed between 30 and 40 per cent to Malta's GDP growth. Revenue from the sector was expected to increase by around 9.5 per cent to more than €1 billion in 2014.

Vella also said that one of the government's main aims was to promote Malta as a winter holiday destination, as well as a summer one, tapping into the conference market.

"We feel that an all-year round operation will prove to be very profitable for the country and this is why we need to come up with winter incentives or tourists," he said, adding that airlines would also need to be convinced that providing a more regular winter schedule to Malta could prove to be profitable for them too.

Vella said that in spite of the fact that Malta witnessed a decrease in the cruise liner industry - from 600,000 in 2013 to 480,000 this year - arrivals for next year were predicted to increase to 520,000.

He also said there would be an increase of 8.7 per cent in airline seat capacity, largely as a result of more regular flights by foreign airliners Ryanair, British Airways and Turkish Airlines.

On Air Malta, Vella said that government did not want to interfere with internal issues, but said that it was "strange" that the management had only been offered a three year contract by the previos administration for a project expected to last for five years.

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