Tourism more important for Gozo than Malta – de Marco

Tourism Minister underscores importance of tourism sector for Malta’s sister island Gozo, tables PN proposals aimed at expanding ecotourism, cultural tourism, and facilitating access.

“What brings tourists to Malta also brings them to Gozo,” tourism minister Mario de Marco said, pointing out that as a result, Gozo today is tapping into a Spanish tourism market that until a short while ago did not exist.
“What brings tourists to Malta also brings them to Gozo,” tourism minister Mario de Marco said, pointing out that as a result, Gozo today is tapping into a Spanish tourism market that until a short while ago did not exist.

"If tourism is important to Malta, it is all the more important to Gozo," Tourism Minister Mario de Marco affirmed during a press conference held at the Grand Hotel in Imgarr, Gozo, on Saturday morning.

Flanked by Nationalist candidates for Gozo (13th district) Kevin Cutajar and Paul Bonnici, de Marco emphasised the need for greater investment and expansion in the Gozitan tourism industry, pointing to its dependence on the tourism industry for work and economic growth.

He said that Gozo is a popular destination not only for local domestic tourists looking for a weekend break, but is similarly popular to tourists who head over to Gozo for a day-trip or even spend there the totality of their stay in the Maltese archipelago.

De Marco added that Gozo is fast becoming a destination also for cruise liners, adding that over the past years, a number of such vessels docked in Gozo.

He said that over the past few years, the Nationalist government has increased accessibility towards Malta and Gozo through the increase of international air travel schedules routes: from 57 in 2008, to 81 in 2012.

"What brings tourists to Malta also brings them to Gozo," the minister said, pointing out that as a result, Gozo today is tapping into a Spanish tourism market that until a short while ago did not exist.

He added that this was also assisted by investment into increasing accessibility specifically between Malta and Gozo, such as "heavy investment" in the Gozo Channel, its ferries, and the ferry infrastructure in Imgarr and Cirkweea.

He also noted that studies pertaining to a permanent link between Malta and Gozo, which the Nationalist Party recently pledge to see through if proven feasible, are currently underway.

De Marco also referred to considerable expenditure by the Malta Tourism Authority towards promoting Malta and Gozo as a desirable destination, saying this amounted to over a million and a half of euros, while half a million euros went towards promoting Gozo specifically.

The minister added that over and above this increase, the Gozo ministry would be receiving an additional half a million euros each year in terms of budgetary allocation "over and above what the MTA is receiving."

The minister particularly emphasised the viability of promoting Gozo as an eco-destination, pointing towards how Gozo today enjoys its first Blue Flag beach (Ramla l-Ħamra).

Referring to accommodation in Gozo, de Marco noted that Gozo is gaining more ground with regard to the private accommodation the island offers- such as farmhouses and apartments - than collective accommodation - such as hotels.

Noting the traditional appeal of Gozitan farmhouses, de Marco said that out of the total of 6,600 accommodation units open to both foreign and domestic tourists available in Gozo, only 1,600 were collective accomodaiton units (hotels), while the rest are private accommodation units.

He also noted an increase in licensed private accommodation units by approximately 100 over the past five years, which he said amounts to an increase of 30% over the previous amount. He added that even the number of beds in these private units increased by 36% over the same period.

"This is a vote of confidence in private investors who are committed towards welcoming more tourists in Gozo," de Marco said.

De Marco insisted that the Nationalist party is committed towards achieving "a leap ahead in quality in this sector" noting a number of proposals that he said would allow the tourism industry - both Maltese and Gozitan - to reach new heights.

Among the proposals that de Marco referred to was an increase in the MTA's allocation by €3 million annually, which would place the total budget allocation over the coming five years at €215 million adding that a big part of this would go towards prompting Gozo as a destination.

De Marco also said that the PN remains committed towards ensuring more accessibility to Malta through establishing more air-travel routes.

De Marco pointed to the importance of exploring niche markets such as attracting conferences and similar business-tourism to Gozo, as well as diving-based tourism and English-learning tourism.

"Our numerous marine protected areas need more promotion to attract more divers and expand this niche in our touristic product," de Marco said, while adding that with regards to English-teaching tourism, markets like China, Brazil, Japan, Turkey, and Brazil represent an opportunity to be tapped.

De Marco also pointed to a number of PN-proposed measures intended to attract more cruise-liners to Gozo.

"We are not happy with 12 or 20. We need to attract more," adding that the cruise liner sector that would frequent Gozo as a destination would be more niche than mainstream cruise liners, pointing to "boutique cruise liners" that carry fewer but higher net worth passengers.

The minister also emphasised the importance of improving the quality of Gozo's touristic accommodation product through proper incentivisation and assistance that would allow hoteliers to further invest in their operations to either maintain or improve their products.

De Marco also pointed to the viability of health tourism, whereby tourists could come to Gozo to receive treatment, recover, and spend time in Malta's sister-island, pointing to the government's investment into the Gozo General Hospital that could help in this regard.

I find your worse contribution to Gozo's tourist product is the Mgarr Harbour's terminal, which greets you as soon as you arrive (apart from the obvious confusion and over development). Gone is that quaint, mysterious, remote country style feeling one used to get when approaching Mgarr harbour. Instead, we get an international airport style terminal so out of place and out of character. OK, some lucky fellows might have acquired some millions from it's building; but heck, your front door should give one an idea of one finds inside.
mr de marco after loads of years ,,,now ur telling that tourism in gozo is more important because we are election eve ??? what a bunch of parrotts and arrogants ....about time to help gozo in each sector