[WATCH] ‘Dead’ tourism sector needs €2 billion to revive – Robert Arrigo

PN MP Robert Arrigo says tourism industry ‘is finished’ due to COVID-19 impact and will require a €2 billion investment if it is to return to normal

PN MPs Robert Arrigo, Edwin Vassallo and Hermann Schiavone addressed a press conference on Tuesday afternoon
PN MPs Robert Arrigo, Edwin Vassallo and Hermann Schiavone addressed a press conference on Tuesday afternoon

Malta’s tourism industry is in dire straits and will require a major investment if it is to return to normal after COVID-19, PN MP Robert Arrigo has warned.

The Nationalist Party’s tourism spokesperson said the sector, which is now “dead”, will need a €2 billion injection to restart.

Arrigo criticised the government for only planning for the industry until June, and said the sector would need much more assistance. “The tourism sector has died, it is dead. The industry’s economy is finished – it is in a frightening state,” Arrigo, a tourism entrepreneur, said.

“The government is only planning till June. One can’t only plan for three months when this sector normally plans things 12 months ahead,” he said.

Arrigo highlighted that the tourism sector – on which a whole ecosystem of jobs depended – had emerged for a hard winter where it has lost money, was now expecting a summer of non-existent business, and would then head into another winter.

The PN MP said Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli’s proposal, for the establishment of safe travel corridors between EU countries which have managed to control the pandemic, was a “good idea”, but that it was not concrete.

Arrigo also called for Air Malta to be safeguarded, underlining that, when the pandemic is over, the national carrier must be in a position to restart and must have pilots and crew members at the ready.

He also urged the government to reinvest the money it has earned over the years from the aviation sector back into the industry.

Many small businesses depend on tourism

Edwin Vassallo, PN MP and spokesperson for the self-employed, stressed that small businesses depended to a large extent on tourism.

“With the tourism sector completely at a standstill, many small businesses have also ground to a halt,” he said.

He noted that tourism was a major factor for a wide variety of businesses, ranging from those in the laundry, security, cleaning, printing, entertainment, food import, car rental, taxi and other sectors.

“These hope to recover when the tourism and hospitality industry reopens,” he added.

Catering industry suffering unique challenges

PN MP Hermann Schiavone, addressing the conference, said the catering industry, whose establishments remained effectively closed to customers, were facing their own unique challenges which were different than those faced by shops - several of which have now reopened as measures are relaxed.

The party’s catering and recreational industries spokesperson said the restaurant establishment was the worst hit by the coronavirus crisis.

He called for the government to draw up a short, medium and long-term plan for the sector, to ensure that when health authorities decided catering establishments should reopen, this was done “in an organised way, which safeguards the health of workers and customers, but which also retains their [social] attractiveness].”

Schiavone moreover reiterated the PN’s calls for a 50% reduction in utility bills for catering establishments, for the Malta Tourism Authority to waive the annual catering contribution this year, and for the government to keep supporting the salaries of workers in the sector.