[WATCH] Government alone should decide on Comino capping, hotelier says

MHRA commissioned a report on Malta's carrying capacity, which is expected to be delivered in the coming months

MHRA President Tony Zahra
MHRA President Tony Zahra

The hotelier and president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said it was the responsibility of the government alone to take a decision on a possible capping of visitors and boats to Comino – and not the industry.

“Certain decisions are political and the government has to take them, not the association of hotels and restaurants. We will not carry out the work of politicians,” Tony Zahra said on Friday.

Comino is Malta’s latest environmental battlefront after Moviment Graffitti took direct action at the Blue Lagoon in June, by removing unoccupied deckchairs and umbrellas from the sandy beach and the jetty area that are abusively lining up the beaches before the arrival of tourists. 

Talk about a possible cap on the number of visitors at Comino was first proposed in a 2016 report for a Natura 2000 management plan for Comino, which had established that tourism at the Blue Lagoon must be controlled efficiently in order to ensure that it is “in harmony with the site’s conservation needs.” 

Captain Morgan Cruises’ owner and co-director Michael Zammit Tabona, the most prominent boat operator to Comino, recently stirred up the controversy by calling the capping, “a stupid idea.”

“Every 10 years or so some idiot brings up such an idea. Similarly, why don’t we also cap the number of visitors at the Blue Grotto, St Julian’s or Valletta? We can’t run this island as a semi-communist state. No one should be restricted from visiting this gem,” Zammit Tabona said. 

Zahra today revealed that the MHRA had recently commissioned a carrying capacity report on Malta, that will be made public within a couple of months. “It speaks about the carrying capacity of Malta, but not on a particular area,” Zahra said.

Asked whether the industry had an opinion on Comino capping, Zahra was evasive and once again said that the government had to take such decisions. “The industry makes available all the information needed for the government to act and take decisions.”