Malta Airport boss Alan Borg has warned against focusing purely on increasing tourism numbers without having a plan for managing the growing number of visitors.

“The size of our island is what it is - our infrastructure is also what it is. I believe we shouldn’t go for growth for the sake of growth,” Borg told a Malta Business Network panel discussion.

Malta welcomed almost 2.3 million tourists in 2022 and is poised to top that number this year, ending it above pre-pandemic levels. 

Speaking at the MBN event, Borg cautioned against the mindless pursuit of growth and called for a more focused approach.

“It is important to start being more selective about how and where we want to grow this sector,” he said.

The sentiment was shared by other panellists interviewed during the event, which was chaired by former Malta Tourism Authority CEO Joseph Formosa Gauci.

Panellists discuss Malta's tourism sector.Panellists discuss Malta's tourism sector.

Titled ‘Malta’s Tourism: The Road Ahead’, the event asked how the country has recovered from the harsh blow dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic, what the future of Malta’s tourism policy ought to look like, and how best to chart a course for the road ahead.

Valletta Cruise Port PLC CEO Stephen Xuereb, Malta Tourism Authority CEO Carlo Micallef and Tony Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, all joined Borg on the panel.

Xuereb discussed how to make the most out of cruise visitors who only spend a few hours on the island before leaving.

This, he said, was the perfect opportunity to showcase the best the island has to offer in the hope of convincing these short-term visitors to return to the island for another longer stay.

The MHRA’s Zahra and the current head of the tourism authority, Micallef, weighed in on the sustainability of the sector - with a steady stream of applications for hotels and other tourism accommodation hitting the planning authority’s desk - how many more tourists can Malta take?

Both stressed the need to pivot towards quality tourism, which they defined as guests who leave a greater economic contribution and raise the profile of the island.

MBN Chairman Joseph Zammit Tabona said that given the vital role tourism plays in Malta’s economy, it is essential for business leaders to get together to take stock of the 2023 summer season and begin looking to the future.

The next MBN panel discussion will discuss the future of the gaming sector and will be held at Xara Lodge on November 20, from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us