Malta is a Southern European country, technically an archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily. An archipelago is a group of many islands surrounded by water. Malta consists of a group of seven islands out of which only the three largest-Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited whilst the othersmaller islands are not.
Malta is officially the Republic of Malta. It exists within the small area of 300km and this small physical size attributes it to becoming one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. The capital of Malta is Valletta. The national language is Maltese, which is from the Semitic language family while English is also a co-official language used in the country.
Some inhabitants also speak Italian due to the close proximity to Sicily.Every nation however small always has a history. This seemingly minute set of islands on the map has a history dating back thousands of years. Numerous civilizations have left their mark and their influence on the way of life and governance of this republic.
The earliest recorded history is from 5200 BC. It was named ‘Malat’ meaning safe heaven by the earliest inhabitants prior to the coming of the Phonenicians. The Order of the Knights of the hospital of St. John were also the rulers of these islands for centuries and then finally it came under the wave of colonization of the British Empire from which it won its independence as late as 1964(European Union,).
So it is safe to say that the present day Republic of Malta is a new country.The geography of Malta is conducive to the promotion of tourism as is that of most islands in the world, the primary factor being the presence of the sea on all four sides. There are numerous bays that by virtue of being along an indented coastline have been intelligently used as good sites for ports. The general typography is low and rocky with picturesque views of coastal cliffs.
There are low hills with terrace-fields on the slopes. Ta Dmejrek is the highest point at 830 feet (253 meters) near Dingli. During rainy seasons, seasonal rivers run along many locations within the island of Malta but there are no permanent rivers or water bodies. Gozo has all yeas a few fresh water sources all year round.
“Malta’s weather and climate are strongly influenced by the sea and have a very characteristic Mediterranean flavor, similar to that found in southern Italy or southern Greece.” (Meteo Malta 2008). The summer in Malta is warm and dry, the autumn is wet, and winters are short with adequate rainfall. “Winds are strong and frequent; the most common are the cool northwesterly (majjistral), the dry northeasterly (grigal, or gregale), and the hot humid southeasterly (xlokk, or sirocco).
The relative humidity is consistently high and rarely falls below 40%.” (Meteo Malta 2008). It never snows in Malta and most of the rainfall comes in the form of thunderstorms. Humidity is rather high due to the fact that this is an island.
Sunlight stretches for five to six hours in mid-winter and upto twelve hours in summer. For those who enjoy summer beaches July to September is a good time to visit Malta and for those who are only interested in sight seeing, April to June suits best (Mallieha, 2004). The inhabitants are used to and have readily adapted to this varied climate.Being a small island, and the given the geographical location of Malta, it was imperative for tourism to be developed.
Hence with its independence, Malta’s tourist industry grew with each successive government given it equal and increasing importance as is evident from the pie chart, Vision 2015 and beyond, in which tourism takes major share. “The Travel ; Tourism industry has become a key sector in the world economy and a major driver of economic growth and employment worldwide. As one of the fastest-growing industries in terms of foreign exchange earnings and job creation, healthy T ; T sectors provides important opportunities for countries to raise living standards, and – particularly in the developing world – to tackle poverty alleviation.” (Tuner Group Malta, 2010) The Ministry of Tourism of any country tries its best to utilize its geographic and historical location to the best economic advantage.
This includes developing the marketing, infrastructure, training of personnel and tourist related industries.Hence The Malta Travel and Tourism Service Act was passed in 1999, which led to the formation of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA). The MTA has many diverse roles to play which includes promoting the country’s brand image, fostering and maintaining good relationships with tourist stake-holders, motivating tourist-related activities and industries and ensuring ‘the highest standard and quality of our tourist product’ (MTA, 2008). The MTA promotes and advances Malta as a tourism destination, advises Government on tourism operations and to issue licenses under the Act, contributes toward the improvement of the level of human resources in the tourism industry; and advises the government on the planning and development of the tourism industry as well as on the infrastructure supporting the industry.
The MTA also licenses, monitors and controls, accommodation and catering establishments, travel agencies, incoming tourism agencies and destination management companies, organized excursion operators and tourist guides. (MTA 2008) The MTA actively interacts with visitors to the island to gather its information based on which future developments are planned and put into action.The MTA has efficiently and diligently played its role so that even during times of global recession, the tourist industry not only remained stable but the number of holidaymakers to Malta actually and surprisingly increased. “In the face of the global financial crisis, the Maltese travel and tourism industry remained relatively stable in 2008, with some small gains.
Although definitely affected in terms of growth rates (which slowed down considerably), it did not lose too heavily in terms of absolute volumes and numbers of tourists. Compared to other European destinations, tourism in Malta has performed well. Furthermore, with the adoption of the euro in January 2008, and finalization of its application to the EU, Malta has positioned itself competitively for increased tourism activity.”(Euromonitor, 2009)Tourist attractions in Malta include a mix of natural, historical, sports and entertainment elements.
Natural landscapes include Delimara Point, St Thomas Bay, Ghar Hasan and Cliffs, Blue Grotto and Zurrieq Valley, Mnajdra, Ghar Lapsi, Fawwara at Dingli, Dingli, Buskett, Mtahleb, Bahrija, Fomm Ir-Rih Bay, Kuncizzjoni, Gnejna Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Sands Bay, Anchor Bay, Qammiegh Point, Paradise Bay, Cirkewwa to Ahrax Point Promontory area, Mgiebah, Selmun and St. Paul’s, Mistra Bay and, Mizieb Wooded Area (Hunting Reserve, Coast Road, Pembroke, Ghargur/Madliena Victoria Lines Area and, Mosta Valley, Wied il-Kbir, Xatt L-Ahmar, Dwejra/Azure Window, Wied il-, Ramla , Hondoq Ir-Rummien. (Holidays Malta)Historical locations include Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Temples, Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum, Tarxien, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Fort Rinella – 100 Ton Gun, City of Birgu Fort St Angelo, City of Senglea, Mdina, Roman Villa, St. Agatha’s and St.
Paul’s Catacombs, Mosta Dome, Wartime Shelters, Wartime Shelters, Palazzo Parisio, San Anton Palace and Gardens, Lascaris War Rooms, Valletta, The National Museum of Fine Arts, Grand Master’s Palace, The National Library, St. Paul Shipwreck, Manoel Theatre and Museum, Casa Rocca Piccola, Sacra Infermeria, The Siege Bell , Fort St. Elmo , The War Museum, The Citadel, St. George’s Church, Ggantija Temples, Kola’s Windmill, Ta’ Pinu Basilica.
The varieties of historical locations denote the various periods through which Malta has passed, from pre-historic to days of Christianity to the World Wars. (Holidays Malta)Entertainment and leisure activities for tourists include visiting Restaurants, cafes of which some are historic, and bars serving all kinds cuisines. Traditional Maltese food includes soups, pasta, pastries and stuffed dishes. ‘Rabbit’ is often the main dish, accompanied by cheeses and wine.
(European Union). Movie-lovers may enjoy cinema experiences. There are three Casinos in Malta and clubbing and dancing are the rage in these islands. In summer open-air parties are held.
There are many village feasts dedicated to patron saints with “highly impressive church decorations, processions and displays of devotion, the brass band followed through the streets by the enthusiasts, and last but not least the dramatic fireworks display on the eve” (European Union).June to September are the busiest tourist seasons, with August being the hottest. In these months nightlife, especially open-air activities are at their peak. October is recommended for those who prefer a more peaceful time and cooler climate.
When it is not raining, sports and bird hunting are popular. Sports like golf, tennis, squash, mini-golf, cricket, and billiard abound. Most five-star hotels have state-of-the-art gymnasiums and swimming pools. Water sports like scuba diving, fishing, and yachting are abundant along the entire coastline.
Accommodation has been carefully planned from a tourist point of view. Rented apartments with all contemporary facilities are available on a self-catering basis. This provides an independent and economical solution. However the best of hotels are also located in these islands.
Transport is readily available. Taxis can carry you directly from the airport. Rent-a-car deals thrive with all kinds of vehicles including jeeps with or without drivers are available. Or you may take a bus.
Between the islands there is a ferry and helicopter service as well.With all areas covered, there is no reason for tourism not to flourish in Malta. “What makes the Maltese Islands so unique is that so much of their past is visible today..
.a journey of historical richness that invites you to live passionately, in the flow of the present.’ (Expat Focus 2010)Since Malta is a very small republic and twenty-five percent of its economy relies on tourism, it is very easy to control statistics. An authority has been formed to meet this end, and it is called the National Statistics Office (NSO).
NSO has been collecting tourist data since 1950 and has recently included hotel accommodation information as part of its research to calculate in-bound tourism. The MTA and the Hotels and Catering Board (HCB) also partake in this exercise. Tourist expenditure is meticulously recorded by the Central Bank of Malta. (NSO, 2010).
Inbound tourism includes annual, seasonal and monthly arrival of tourists by nationality; annual, seasonal and monthly arrivals of cruise passengers; annual, seasonal and monthly number of days stayed, usage of accommodation and accommodation capacity. Outbound tourism includes Annual, seasonal and monthly departures of tourists by age, sex and mode of transport (air and sea), nationality.The data collected is considered very reliable (NSO, 2010). It includes filling out of questionnaires hotel establishments with details about: the establishment, the number of employees, services offered, number of bed-places, number of arrivals and income from tourism.
The entry/exit forms at borders of the islands are studied for number of days spent and further classified into mode of accommodation: apartment, holiday resort, farmhouse or hotel. The Gross Bed Occupancy and Average length of Stay are calculated by the MTA. This information is further broken down by nationalities of tourists coming to Malta.The characteristics of the trips are not so elaborated.
Two surveys: the Profile survey and the Expenditure survey are conducted by the MTA in which data for marketing analysis is collected. (NSO, 2010). It is difficult to differentiate between a tourist and an emigrant returning to the country. After six months a tourist is considered an emigrant.
A Tourist is defined as a visitor staying in the country for more than twenty-four hours and for not more than three months whose purpose of visit may be leisure, health, business or other reasons. Tourists also include cruise passengers who arrive or leave the island on the same cruise liner staying over-night.Malta receives one million tourists a year and has been doing so since the past ten years with only a slight drop in year 2006. Maltese tourism has various segments.
Apart from holidaymakers and history-lovers, which is the main attraction of any tourist spot, Malta has been attracting the film industry from around the world. The Malta film Commission has been established and the responsibility of the Film Commissioner is to assist in the production of films in Malta and to market the locations, facilities and personnel of Malta film industry.Having a world-renowned health system has also increased the market share of medical tourism. Malta ranks as number five on the World Health Organization’s standards and is basing its healthcare system on that of the United Kingdom.
This infrastructure is being developed with the aim of attracting both patients and physicians.Country wise the tourist market can be segmented as follows (MTA, Annual Report 2009): -;Total 63,500UK 10,508Germany 7,350France 4,524Italy 10,108Netherlands 2,411Nordic Countries 3,603Austria 1,397Belgium 1,893Switzerland 843Other 20,866;Although the MTA and the NSO have not published any relevant data or statistics upon which net travel frequency arising from each of these market segments may be calculated, the following data is available (World Economic Forum, 2009): -;Travel and TourismWorld RankScoreRegional Rank22Overall Rank294.77Regulatory framework115.88Business Environment and Infrastructure314.
58Human, cultural and natural resources524.15Outbound tourism is not as developed as inbound tourism, with inhabitants frequently traveling from island to island within the republic but not really needing to travel abroad. All leisure, sports, medical and business infrastructures and facilities are so well developed within Malta that inhabitants rarely consider other locations as potential destinations for tourism. Following is chart reflecting outbound tourist trends: -Maltese tourism tough thriving has been , as with all other global businesses , affected by the recession cycle.
Families have opted to stay at home for holidays rather than venture abroad. Taken the place of overseas travel. Many other cheaper holiday resorts haveMaltese tourism has also been greatly affected by a fall in the price of the Euro as comparred to that of the US Dollar. However, the British presence amoung the tourists sustains and the MTA has committed itself to grabbing other potential markets to diversify its tourist base.
(Ashworth, 2010).Also, the natural resources of Malta which are so prized for being exquisite, have caused a concern for environmentalists who argue that tourism is a threat to the scenic beauty and splendour. As one site gets over-crowded, another is developed as being calm , serene and untouched. However it suffers the same fate and the vicious cycle continues.
Environmentalists worry about the exhaustion of natural sites of scenic beauty until there is nothing left to market anymore. High-density tourism has resulted in the “destruction of beach habitats (especially the sand dunes), trampling on fragile habitats in the country side, and over-visitation rates in fragile archaeological sites.” (Brugiglio, 2010). Residents worry more about a take over of their space.
The rapid development of housing schemes for tourists has given rise to high rise building which are fast replacing the traditional and beautiful maltese houses. Other residents are voicing concerns about the commercialisation of traditional Maltese crafts for the benefit of the tourists. Such issues need to be resolved for the purpose of creating Sustainable tourism which “may be defined as ‘tourism which is developed and maintained in such a manner and scale that it remains viable in the long run and does not degrade the environment in which it exists to such an extent that it prohibits the successful development of other activities’ ” (Brugiglio, 2010)A monster concern arising from the thriving tourist trade is the evil of illegal immigrants. Civil war refugees from Ethopia and economic immigrants from Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and other African find it easy to seep into the residential population and once inside all travel documents are discarded.
Employment opportunities are open in countries like Malta with a booming tourist industry and furthermore the Maltese islands provide a gateway to Europe via Italy. (Thrifter, 2010)The infrastructure of the islands is suited to the demand that the tourist industry places on it. However, electricity, water and sewerage problems arise among the summer months when tourist density is particularly high and equates to 8% of the population on the island. Disposal of waste reaches levels where many bays have to be closed for swimming due to foul smells and toxicity, which also harms the marine and coastal environment.
This promotes a negative image from a tourist point of view and derides Malta’s standing in the face of the health sector as well. (Brimwell, 2010).Many of these factors combine to create a reducing local control of the environment, which is more psychologically imposed by the presence of international chains and franchises, typical of a developing tourist destination.Malta is going through a destination life cycle.
Each destination has an involvement stage when the number of visitors is low and as such the social, economic, cultural and physical attributes of the destination remain unaltered. In fact tourism goes almost unnoticed. “At this time there would be no specific facilities provided for visitors. The use of local facilities and contact with local residents are therefore likely to be high, which may itself be a significant attraction to some visitors.
The physical fabric and social milieu of the area would be unchanged by tourism, and the arrival and departure of tourists would be of relatively little significance to the economic and social life of the permanent residents” (Butler)Then as the travel frequency increases, the government and relevant departments take notice and start to gauge the destination’s potential as a tourist attraction. This is the exploration stage.’ Contact between visitors and locals can be expected to remain high and, in fact, increase for those locals involved in catering for visitors. As this stage progresses, some advertising specifically to attract tourists can be anticipated, and a basic initial market area for visitors can be defined.
A tourist season can be expected to emerge and adjustments will be made in the social pattern of at least those local residents involved in tourism. Some level of organization in tourist travel arrangements can be expected and the first pressures put upon Government” (Butler)Having identified the market and the areas lagging behind, the government takes actions to create an environment conducive to tourism. At this development stage the physical appearance of the destination changes. Infrastructure is developed with electricity, water, waste disposal, sewerage, accommodation, transport, aviation, and entertainment facilities focused on.
Marketing reaches its maximum and the tourist to population ratio may even be 1:1 “As this stage progresses Local involvement and control of development will decline rapidly. Some locally provided facilities will have disappeared being superseded by larger, more elaborate, and more up- to-date facilities provided by external organizations.” (Butler)However this boom, if not sustained reaches a consolidation stage, where there is no further growth and in fact standards may even decline, here starts the stagnation stage when environment and social issues (previously discussed) creep up to lead to the decline of the tourist industry which would only need to be rejuvenated to bring it back into running. “Capacity levels for many variables will have been reached or exceeded,With attendant environmental, social, and economic problems.
The area will have a well –established image but it will no longer be in fashion. There will be a heavy reliance on repeat visitation and on conventions and similar forms of traffic. Surplus bed capacity will be available and strenuous efforts will be needed to maintain the level of visitation” (Butler)ConclusionIf we discuss Malta in light of Butler’s theory of the destination life cycle, the exploration stage started as soon as Malta gained independence in 1954, the primary tourist then being British in nationality. The establishment of the MTA is what marks the involvement stage whereby key areas for development, mentioned earlier in the article, were recognized and developed.
At present MTA’s efforts for sustainable tourism have long retained Malta in the development stage. At the current level of tourism demand, pricing and expenditure, Malta’s tourism industry contributes to a maximum of24% of the country’s GNP22% of Government Income11% of Imports and Outflows17% of full-time equivalent employmentTo avoid slipping into stagnation is vital to Malta’s economy. According to the MTA Programming Period 2007-2013;”a consultation process among the tourism, stakeholders, cultural entities, organizations and representatives of civil society to identify possible projects that could be submitted for funding through the Structural Funds of the next programming period, i.e.
2007-2013. These projects will range fromSchemes aimed at achieving competitiveness, to cultural and product improvement projects.”(MTA, 2005). Following are the steps taken by the MTA for this purpose: -Redistributing demand: the MTA has tried to overcome seasonality by creating activity and interest throughout the year.
For example an events calendar is published in advance so that tourists may be informed of the various seasons and activities throughout the year such as sports activities, bird hunting, MTV concerts. Most events and feasts are planned in months when natural climate is not the main attraction. Cultural, leisure and historical attributes of Malta as a destination are promoted.Various market segments are targeted as previously discussed as regards to filmmaking and healthcare industries.
In addition to this the cultural aspect and crafts of Malta are being promoted to attract artists and students.To diversify the tourist base, the MTA has started to strengthen Malta as a destination in other European markets such as Germany, which is the second nationality after British forming the bulk of the inbound. “The Malta Tourism Authority’s office in Germany will put even more effort into the promotion of Malta, Gozo and Comino as amazing diving destinations for German divers. For this purpose, MTA Germany has joined forces with taucher.
net – Europe’s leading scuba diving portal targeted to the German speaking scuba market.” (MTA, 20100The MTA also needs to keep its own team motivated and committed to improving the brand image of Malta as a tourist destination because patriotism alone is not enough. For this reason the STAR Awards have been devised. “During the fifth edition of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) STAR Awards, held on the 24th February at the Hotel Phoenicia, 14 employees were awarded for excellence in service and hospitality, while a further two awards were given for the Best Visitor Attraction and the Hotel Worker of the Year” (MTA, 2010)A final factor which will bring Malta to the limelight of tourism is the decision of the ABTA – The Travel Association of the UK to confirm “Malta as the chosen venue for its 2010 ‘Travel Convention’ that will take place from Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th October 2010.
The Convention will welcome around 800 UK high-profile travel operators as well as around 50 journalists to our shores, and is the leading convention of the Travel Trade in the UK. This is the first time that the Convention will be held outside the UK or Spain for the last 20 years”(MTA, 2010). It is an honor and a very positive marketing development that will place Malta subconsciously higher in ranking than it actually is as concerns global tourism.The actions and policies mentioned above do ensure a commitment and the potential of creating sustainable tourism in Malta.
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April 2009, A Bumper year for Tourism in Malta and Gozo;;