Paceville is a tourism hotspot known for its lively nightlife and dynamic economy. Unfortunately, it is also associated with rowdy behaviour and crime. The Paceville Town Centre Management Committee wants to project a healthier image of the area by aiming to be awarded the Purple Flag, signifying that it is a safe and enjoyable place for a night out.

The Purple Flag award, akin to the Blue Flag for beaches and the Green Flag for parks, recognises cities that demonstrate excellence in managing their city centres in the evening and night-time. With this achievement, Paceville aims to join 100 other Purple Flag destinations across the UK, Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.

The committee chair, Philip Fenech, argues that Paceville has experienced a significant transformation over the years, adding: “This transformation needs to be managed properly. The committee aims to bring representatives together to make sure the area is safe, accessible and entertaining for the public and residents.”

The backdrop to this initiative is a tourism industry that, despite pious aspirations to attract better quality tourists, still largely depends on mass tourism attracted by low-cost travel, accommodation in no-frills rented property and “affordable” alcohol. The industry policymakers argue that this is a caricature of the actual tourism profile. Still, the image of Malta projected by popular European media is that the island has become the new Ibiza, Magaluf or Benidorm.

While the aim of the Paceville committee is worth pursuing, the challenges the tourism industry faces are daunting. All stakeholders must make every effort to ensure that the achievement of the Purple Flag will not just be a public relations exercise that quickly fizzles out.

The objective of the Paceville committee is not new. In 2016, then tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis announced the setting up of a tourism police unit. He said then that more officers were required to “keep the peace and fight crime”. Despite the validity of this comment, the project was dropped just after a year without even a public announcement as to why this critical initiative was abandoned.

The committee aims to bring representatives together to make sure the area is safe, accessible and entertaining for the public and residents

So far, there is little evidence that industry policymakers and operators want to move out of their comfort zones by updating their tourism strategy. One can only hope the Paceville initiative will produce more successful outcomes this time.

Winning the Purple Flag award should lead to a raised profile and an improved public image for Paceville and the whole island. Hopefully, it will also mean wider patronage, increased expenditure and lower crime and anti-social behaviour.

The shabby image of tourism hotspots littered with heaps of uncollected waste, chaotic traffic and parking and frequent power cuts must be urgently addressed.

The Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), the governing body of the award, sets out the core agenda at the heart of the Purple Flag, representing the standards that must be achieved and maintained for accreditation.

The Paceville committee must start by defining a practical policy that reflects a clear strategy based on sound research, integrated public policy and a successful multi-sector partnership.

This will inevitably mean more resources and full-time officials to enforce regulations that many operators and service providers often ignore.

If Paceville wants to fly the Purple Flag anytime soon, it must be safe for all and welcoming, with all sectors playing their part in delivering high standards of customer care.

While there is no indication that the industry wants to press the reset button for the tourism model, hopefully, the award of the Purple Flag to Paceville will be a first step in the regeneration of the industry.  

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