Tourism policy available online for public feedback

Draft of five year tourism policy launched online for feedback from general public and Minister of Tourism says policy is aiming toward responsible tourism.

Tourism Minister Mario de Marco addresses a conference during the launch of the Tourism Policy for the Maltese Islands for 2012-2016
Tourism Minister Mario de Marco addresses a conference during the launch of the Tourism Policy for the Maltese Islands for 2012-2016

Minister of tourism, culture and environment Mario de Marco said the previous tourism policy had successfully produced visible results. “We saw an increase in arrivals, bed-nights and expenditure which was assisted by the previous policy. With the help of increased airlines to Malta and the internet, tourism the way we know it has changed.”

As the previous tourism policy for Malta comes to an end after five years, de Marco launched the tourism policy for the next five years in draft format.

De Marco said that the policy will be made available to the public here and the public will have four weeks to give feedback. “Once the feedback from the general public has been assessed and evaluated, the policy will be finalised in the second quarter of 2012,” de Marco said.

De Marco said that while the tourism policy will not only have an economical objective, an environmental dimension was also tackled. “We want to ensure that the environment is not compromised by any thing tourism-related. We don’t want to allow tourism to cost us the environment. We want responsible tourism which will complement the environment.”

 The policy also has a social objective which will attempt to keep traditions and crafts alive even if the Maltese do not deem that as important anymore.

“Tourists come to Malta looking for something authentic which they cannot find in their home countries. We added a social dimension to the policy because it allows cultural exchange and will attract tourists to feasts and local talents,” de Marco said.

The tourism minister said the draft document also looks at niches markets which can increase tourism during off-peak months paying particular attention to sports, conferences and history.

“The policy will hopefully expand outside of areas commonly associated with tourists such Valletta and Mdina, and increase tourist visits to historical sites in the smaller localities,” de Marco said.

Making reference to Malta’s extensive cultural scene, English language schools and diving, de Marco said these were other niches markets which were successfully tapped into in the past policy but can be further taken advantage of in the next.

“The policy also refers to possible changes to transport options. Since many tourism zones are located on the coastline of the island, maritime transport could be made available to allow tourists to travel by boat which would be a new experience and reduce traffic,” de Marco said.

A large section of the policy is dedicated to Gozo and de Marco said it was crucial to identify the island’s unique selling point. “We have to be clear and focus on eco-tourism. We needed to find things which are associated with ecology.”

CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority Josef Formosa Gauci said the new policy would be based on the old to further improve accessibility, marketing and Malta’s product. “The last plan gave results and when compared with other countries, Malta’s the only country to achieve four tourism record years out of five. We are hoping to tap into the Polish and Chinese market. One way of doing this is the addition of new routes to Poland.”

Formosa Gauci added that a number of surveys were being conducted to create more policies based on the results.

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