The second year of the pandemic saw a slight increase in the number of people crossing the Gozo Channel during Santa Marija weekend.

According to figures released by Gozo Channel, 73,263 passengers and 28,355 cars made trips between Gozo and Malta.

That amounts to a marginal 1.72 per cent increase in passenger numbers on last year, even though people also had the option of travelling via fast ferry, introduced in June.   

But the figures still pale in comparison to 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, when a huge 221,088 people crossed the channel as a result of Santa Marija and a fourth ship had to be introduced.

Traditionally the peak holiday period, Gozo Channel operated 462 times between Wednesday and Sunday last week. 

The busiest day was Friday, when there were 15,896 passengers - 9,092 passengers from Ċirkewwa and 6,804 from Mġarr.

Domestic tourism

The Gozo Tourism Association welcomed the figures, and said that despite the impact of COVID-19, it showed a strong demand for domestic tourism. 

“It’s been a positive and busy weekend, where Gozo has seen a number of Maltese booking hotels, farmhouses and apartments to enjoy the Santa Marija weekend,” CEO Joe Muscat said.

Even though the public holiday fell on a Sunday, the demand for accommodation and catering establishments was still high, he said.

“It is still too early to say, but our predictions show that this positive trend will continue for the weekends to come, and more Maltese and foreigners will continue to flock to the sister island this year."

Philip Fenech, head of tourism and hospitality for the Malta Chamber of SMEs, said establishments in Malta also benefitted. 

"Restaurants, lidos, hotels all benefitted this weekend," he said. "We believe that whilst tourism has been a slow, we are positive that it will continue to grow and increase, both on a domestic and international level." 

He said that he also received reports of many saving their government vouchers specifically for the weekend. 

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