Malta would not be able to handle the number of tourists needed to fill hotels that are in operation or in the pipeline, the tourism minister has said.

Clayton Bartolo was reacting to a study that found that the country would need to attract 4.7 million tourists a year to maintain 80% hotel occupancy. 

"Malta cannot handle that number of tourists and neither is the government trying to attract those numbers," Bartolo told journalists on Thursday.

The study was commissioned by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and its results were announced last week.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo says hotel investors should consider other types of tourism investment.

“We want to make sure that every person who visits the country has a good experience and this is where sustainability comes in,” Bartolo said.

He said he was encouraging investors to explore new avenues when it comes to tourism.

“We strongly encourage them to do their homework and make sure that they can sustain the investment in the hotels that they build,” he said.

“Besides, there are other types of investment that can be made in the industry that aren’t necessarily hotels.

“The Malta Tourism Authority and the government are promoting other niches that will no doubt yield the desired returns.”

In 2019, a record year for tourist numbers, inbound tourist trips totalled nearly 2.8 million, according to National Statistics Office figures. More than 2 million more tourists a year would be needed to reach 80% occupancy of the hotel rooms planned for Malta.

Asked whether in light of this it was time to put a freeze on new permits for hotels and accommodation, Bartolo said that the potential impact of this would need to be studied.

“The economy doesn’t move in cycles, it is a chain built on the confidence and trust that investors have in the country,” he said.

“So before we can even consider such a directive, we have to consider the wider impact this may have not only on the tourism industry but the economy overall.”

“Furthermore, we live in a country with a free and open economy and investors have to make their own decisions in seeking to invest in those new avenues.” 

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