MHRA president bemoans lack of Maltese people in hotels' front of house

Tony Zahra insisted that tourists were being cheated out of an authentic Maltese experience 

Tony Zahra:
Tony Zahra:

The local hotel industry must work to having Maltese front of house staff in hotels, as tourists travel to Malta to experience the country and its people, MHRA president Tony Zahra said on Friday.

“Our front of house people are not Maltese anymore. People come here to meet the Maltese people. If I want to meet a Romanian or a Bulgarian I’ll go to those countries,” he said.

Zahra was speaking at the MHRA Hotels Performance Survey Seminar, where he highlighted the importance of the Institute for Tourism Studies in ensuring a steady supply of local employees.

“Just because it happens everywhere else, doesn’t mean it has to happen here,” he said of hotels’ increasingly multinational staff. 

The MHRA president then moved to dispel rumours that the ITS campus at St George’s Bay will be closing its doors.

“I have been assured by the people who are there to make decisions that before the new campus is built ITS will not move out of St. George’s bay,” he said.

Turning to the industry’s performance in 2016, Zahra expressed his satisfaction at “another record year” with statistics increasing across the board while also warning against complacency.

“Winning yesterday’s match doesn’t mean we’re gong to win tomorrow’s, or the league,” he said, pointing out that Malta was currently facing little competition in the Mediterranean.

Among the challenges facing the industry were the country’s “crumbling infrastructure” and the survival of Air Malta.

“How can you have infrastructure that was put in place 70 years ago,” said Zahra. “It needs a lot of investment, we’re not talking about millions – you can’t do anything with millions – we need billions.”

On Air Malta, he said that the survival of the airline was of paramount importance to the tourism sector. He stressed that many of the airlines currently surviving the island were here simply because there is, at present, “a market”.

“Its ups and downs and the second it turns down, they will leave,” he said.


Public Transport steadily improving

Konrad Pule, general manager at Malta Public Transport, said more and more people - locals and tourists alike - were using public transport more frequently, resulting in the company breaking even in 2016.

Pule said that 2016 saw an 8.5% increase in the number of bus passengers, equivalent  to 43.3 million people. An increase of 15% had so far been registered this year, said Pule.

“We have focused a lot on reliability and have achieved 95% punctuality,” he said.

Pule pointed out that the company had increased bus cards, resulting in them being used by 85% of passengers, considerably reducing journey times.

Turning to the company’s plans for 2017, Pule said that a number of improvements to the tallinja app would be rolled out, including an improved journey planner that will include information on sites of interest and restaurants.

In addition to this, he said that 2017 will see an increase in capacity and comfort of buses, quicker roots with limited stops, an increase in night services as well as the introduction of a new intermodal transport cards that will allow users to use sightseeing buses and ferries, among other functions.

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