Updated 9.25pm, adds FATTA statement
Malta is expecting to welcome tourists to the island by the beginning of June and will provide a €20 million aid package to kickstart the devastated industry, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo announced on Tuesday.
Bartolo detailed a 'Tourism Recovery Plan' for the island's economy, which lost €2.2 billion annual spend due to COVID-19 last year.
Malta is also in discussions with the European Commission in the hopes of allowing ‘green’ passports for those who are vaccinated, allowing them to travel without any restrictions.
The first tourists to come to Malta will be from European countries, but also from the United Kingdom, traditionally the island's biggest tourism market.
Currently, the UK is on a red list of countries, which means travel from there is banned except for Maltese nationals and residents.
“We are currently in discussions with health authorities to come to a decision regarding travel from the United Kingdom, which is a country which is one of the most important source markets for Malta,” Bartolo said.
He said that the first tourists will be from European countries, which by summer will have a higher rate of vaccinations, and will be in line with Malta’s own vaccination numbers.
Malta is currently in a quasi-lockdown until April 11, where schools, non-essential shops, restaurants and other entertainment venues are closed. Bars and clubs have been closed for over five months, since October 2020.
Four new airlines to be landing in Malta this summer
Bartolo said that airlines are the ‘lungs’ of the tourism sector and cannot be forgotten.
“I can announce that we will have 18 airlines coming to Malta this summer, four of which are new airlines,” he said. He said that stakeholders are in talks with further four airlines interested in opening up routes.
The country is also keen to restart its cruise liner tourism, with 34 port calls booked for June, Bartolo said.
The €20 million investment aid package will be provided to different stakeholders and distributed through different aid-packages. He said further information will be announced in the coming weeks.
He mentioned that brand partnerships will be launched with Tripadvisor, Expedia, Trivalgo and Lastminute.com.
“Malta Tourism Authority will also embark on new campaigns to target more tourists, with a special focus on the UK.”
Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises welcomes plan
In a statement, the Chamber of Small and Medium enterprises welcomed the plan saying it has been calling for greater visibility and a defined recovery plan for months.
The plan, it said, is a sign that Malta is on the road to recovery.
The chamber said that recent positive developments on the health front are indeed encouraging and it is clear that the restrictions in place, combined with the vaccination strategy are working.
"It is essential that Malta does not let its guard down and therefore intensifying restrictions during the Easter break was also a necessary move that we support," it said.
It hoped the plan will be the first important step that will lead to more visibility in relation to economic recovery.
Flexibility will be key - MHRA
The plan was later also welcomed by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association which said tourism can, and will, recover from the pandemic.
The association said it believed that as international travel began to restart, keeping Malta front and centre in consumers’ minds will be critical.
All destinations had been impacted by the pandemic and would be seeking their share of the recovery.
"Now is the right time for Malta to punch through the noise and create an immediate desire to visit. Flexibility, above all, will be key," it said.
MHRA appealed to everyone to continue to be responsible to keep numbers constant enabling the health system to cope.
Keeping the virus under control was also important for the tourism sector which was currently struggling, it said, adding that the sooner the spread was controlled, the sooner could businesses relaunch.
Malta 'ready, able and willing' to start road to recovery - ALPA
The plan was also welcomed by the Airline Pilots Association which said it shows that Malta is “ready, able and willing” to start the road to recovery.
It said that the cautiousness and diligence with which the plan was being approached, coupled with the ongoing advice from the health authorities, added security and peace of mind not only to tourists but also to local operators and stakeholders.
ALPA said it was aware that pilots will be key players in the strategy, set to help the aviation industry and the economy.
Tourism agents laud plan
FATTA, which represents travel and tourism agents, said the investment is critical as Malta is expected to be competing fiercely with other destinations for meaningful recovery over summer.
It noted that 18 airlines will be operating to and from Malta, including four operating for the first time.
FATTA appealed to everyone to be "vigilant, sensible and responsible" complying at all times with the regulations and guidance issued by the health authorities. This, it said, was critical for the plan to succeed.