Finnair has decided to operate a direct flight from Helsinki to Malta, which could operate all year round, Ambassador Michael Zammit Tabona said.

Mr Zammit Tabona, who was appointed Malta’s Ambassador to Finland in May, said that the direct air links will pave the way for many other economic exchanges – from tourism to real estate purchases and foreign direct investment. Until now getting to Helsinki took most of a day.

He also sees the route as being potentially of great interest to Chinese tourists to Malta, as they could fly over the pole rather than via Dubai, saving several hours.

The Finnish government holds over 55 per cent of the airline shareholding. It made a pre-tax profit of €27 million in 2013, a considerable turnaround from a loss of €111 million just two years earlier.

Mr Zammit Tabona said that a direct flight could boost property purchases – replicating the success of the rest of the Scandinavian market.

“Spain and Portugal were taking a lot of that market because of tax incentives but I believe that the European Commission – prodded by us – intends to bring them in line with the rest of the member states. So Malta will be competing with Spain and Portugal on a much more level playing field,” he said.

“However, we also offer an English-speaking environment which will be much more attractive to Finns,” he said.

There are already two Finnish banks in Malta – Nemea and Ferratum – as well as numerous Finns working in i-gaming. Mr Zammit Tabona said that he was talking to the banks, encouraging them to set up loan packages to help Finns wanting to buy property here.

The main problem he faces is overcoming the lack of awareness of Malta and what it offers. He plans to address this through a seminar in Helsinki on September 22, to which top representatives from fields as diverse as financial services, real estate, tourism and i-gaming will be invited. The line-up of Maltese speakers includes representatives from Finance Malta, the Malta Tourism Authority, the Malta Scandinavian Business Forum, and the Federation of Real Estate Agents. The guests will also be briefed on Malta’s Individual Investor Programme which may be of interest to the many Russians living there.

“Organising an event like this is a financial risk but we are confident that we will get sponsorships. However, the important thing is for the Maltese companies who attend the seminar to follow up contacts – and our PR agency will certainly be at their service for this,” he said.

He admitted that being a non-resident ambassador has its drawbacks as it becomes so much harder to set up networks. However, the PR agency has arranged numerous meetings for him which have already reaped rewards.

“Once you meet people, you find a connection. For example, the President had been to Malta and had toured Malta on one of my company’s open-top buses,” he said.

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