A thought-provoking editorial published in the Times of Malta on January 17 casts a spotlight on a crucial juncture for Malta’s tourism industry. The traditional focus on increasing tourist numbers is showing its limits, as seen in the challenges of environmental degradation, urban overcrowding, a rising cost of living and a decline in tourist expenditure when inflation is factored in.

Against this backdrop, there’s an evident need for a strategic shift towards sustainable, competitive, quality-focused tourism. The Malta Chamber’s ‘Rediscover’ document offers a detailed road map for this essential transformation.

While some operators in Malta have already started transitioning towards quality tourism, this is not yet a universal practice across the entire value chain. The ‘Rediscover’ initiative not only recognises the efforts of these early adopters but also proposes a broader adoption of these practices.

Importantly, the document lays out tangible proposals proposed by 29 industry stakeholders, providing a comprehensive blueprint for an industry-wide transformation towards quality and sustainability while remaining competitive. It focuses on realistic approaches that enhance the quality of tourist experiences rather than merely increasing tourist numbers.

In response to the evolving landscape of the tourism industry and the challenges it faces, the vision proposed by The Malta Chamber offers a comprehensive and cohesive strategy for Malta. This strategy is underpinned by a commitment to enhancing the overall tourist experience, addressing key areas such as environmental and infrastructural issues, and not concentrating only on the visitor experience but keeping the needs of the host population in mind.

Essential improvements in cleanliness, transport efficiency, and customer service are at the forefront of this vision, as these elements are vital in elevating Malta’s appeal as a tourist destination.

Recognising the ambition of expanding into distant markets, the ‘Rediscover’ strategy proposes a more measured, realistic approach. It advocates for strengthening existing markets and carefully exploring new ones, using improved connectivity and strategic marketing as tools.

This approach is aimed at creating a robust and diverse tourism industry that can adapt to various global shifts and preferences. This proposed strategy emphasises the crucial role of Malta’s national carrier in tourism growth.

Strategic management and control of seat capacity is essential for accessing new and existing geographic and thematic markets, adapting to market trends, and ensuring Malta’s global connectivity. This approach is key to diversifying and strengthening Malta’s position in the evolving tourism industry.

Strategic management and control of seat capacity is essential for accessing new and existing geographic and thematic markets, adapting to market trends, and ensuring Malta’s global connectivity

Central to this strategy is the need to align with the changing expectations of tourists who increasingly seek authentic and unique experiences. In response, the ‘Rediscover’ initiative suggests offering journeys that immerse visitors in the rich culture and heritage of Malta, catering to the desires of today’s discerning tourists.

This involves not only showcasing the authentic Maltese culture but also ensuring that every aspect of the tourist’s journey – from arrival to departure – is infused with the essence of Malta’s unique character.  Building expectations in the pre-arrival stage and using the guest as a promoter in the post visit stage are also recognised as key ingredients of a successful visitor journey and experience.

The ‘Rediscover’ report goes beyond outlining high-level strategies by providing actionable steps focused on enhancing customer experiences. This includes promoting authentic Maltese offerings and investing in workforce development to ensure that the service delivery matches the high standards expected by tourists.

By prioritising the development of local talent and skills, the initiative seeks to elevate the uniqueness and the quality of interactions and services that tourists encounter during their stay.

A significant challenge that the strategy addresses is balancing the need for development with the imperative of sustainability. The ‘Rediscover’ vision calls for a tourism model that is responsible and respectful of Malta’s unique environmental and cultural assets.

This balance is key to preserving the island’s appeal for future generations while ensuring that current tourism practices are environmentally and culturally sustainable.

Lastly, in an environment of rising living and dining costs, the strategy emphasises the importance of offering tourists value for their money. It’s crucial that the quality of services, experiences and products provided in Malta justifies the expense, ensuring that tourists feel their investment in a Maltese holiday is worthwhile. 

Malta stands at a critical juncture in redefining its tourism sector. The path forward involves shifting from higher quantity to higher value, embracing sustainable practices, and creating memorable experiences. ‘Rediscover’ provides a clear blueprint with over 120 actionable proposals.

Now, the onus is on policymakers and operators to take these insights and turn them into action. The blueprint for a transformed, quality-driven tourism industry is laid out; it’s time for decisive implementation of these proposals to ensure Malta’s tourism sector remains a vibrant, sustainable part of the economy for the longer term, and a source of national pride.

Alan Arrigo is a board member of the Malta Chamber. Michael Camilleri Kamsky is chairperson of the Tourism Businesses Section of the Malta Chamber.

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