Malta’s diving industry is “in dire straits” in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak with the lifting of the flight ban in July unlikely to reverse this worrying trend, a survey has found.

The industry generated around €38 million in 2019, with almost eight per cent of tourists who came to Malta visiting for scuba diving purposes, numbers the operators believe they were unlikely to come anywhere near in 2020.

A total of 58 diving entities were surveyed in the study which was conducted recently by advisory and market research firm EMCS for the Professional Diving Schools Association.

Despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the majority of diving centres have continued to face fixed monthly costs of around €4,550.  To make matters worse, the majority of the entities (70%) have had no option but to hand out refunds to those who will no longer be coming to Malta in the summer.

Most of the refunds that have been handed out were to the tune of around €4,000 each.

By the end of March, as the coronavirus crisis started getting progressively worse, a quarter of the schools had already laid off half their winter workforce.

The operators are now calling for assistance to ensure the industry does not lose out on the remainder of their skilled workforce.

While eager to start seeing tourists return to the island from July 1, the list of countries approved by the government as so-called “safe corridors” has instilled little hope that the diving industry would be able to recover any time soon.

The industry’s main markets are not countries that have been identified as the first destinations selected by government for direct flights come July 1, the survey says.

The identified countries represent merely 25 per cent of the industry’s overall business in 2019.

Most of the tourists who came to the island for scuba diving in the past had mostly hailed from the UK, Germany and France.

Of the three, only Germany is on the list of countries approved as safe and through which travel to and from Malta is allowed.

“It is imperative to invest further in marketing to promote Malta as an ideal location among the international diving community and not continue to lose out to competing countries,” the report says.

“Such investments have further drained the industry players that are already cashflow tight with several noting that they had already dug deep into their savings. There is the need to look forward and convert this adversity into an opportunity.”

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