It may be only five kilometres away but Gozo has always had a fascinating lure for Maltese holidaymakers. It is convenient, accessible, the channel crossing gives a sense of travel and, though familiar, Gozo is also different.
More Maltese holidaymakers went to Gozo last year than foreigners. The National Statistics Office found that, in 2017, locals who visited either Gozo or Comino accounted for 52.4 per cent of those who spent at least a night there. However, foreign tourists stayed much longer, an average of 9.2 nights, compared to just 2.8 for Maltese holidaymakers, which is understandable.
That does not mean Maltese trippers did not have a positive economic impact on the island because they spent an estimated €40 million in Gozo, up by 8.9 per cent when compared to 2016.
The Gozo Tourism Association sees this the result of promoting Gozo as a destination of its own by the tourism authorities. Naturally, all this comes at a price.
San Lawrenz mayor Noel Formosa, for example, has urged visitors to keep noise to a minimum, especially in the late night and early morning hours. He rightly argues that visitors should remember that while they are on holiday in Gozo, and staying up into the night to make the most of their break, there are probably people sleeping next door who need to go to work the next day. In such situations the police are called in to warn the visitors about the excessive noise. Since tenants change, the police are resorted to repeatedly.
But Mr Formosa had a further complaint. He said farmhouse and apartment owners should not only inform the tenants of their ‘house rules’ but also make them aware of the waste collection times to keep their surrounding environment clean at all times. Naturally, considering the state of affairs on the mainland, noise and cleanliness are not some of Malta’s stronger points and the Maltese may take those habits with them to Gozo.
The attractions in Gozo are numerous, despite the size of the island. Apart from the natural and built heritage on offer, and the beaches for the summer, simple pleasures like walking, climbing, biking, diving, sailing or even just eating and drinking are all there for the taking. Yet, the biggest attraction of Gozo is its tranquillity and success spells danger.
What draws foreign tourists and Maltese alike, maybe even more so for Maltese, given the overpopulation Malta is facing, is the island’s serenity. It remains a place where time stood still. A place to unwind and forget it all. The magic is not gone from Gozo, at least not yet.
Loud noises and partying into the night reminds you of what you should have left behind. Crowds and endless traffic jams is not what people seekin Gozo.
Like on the mainland, the Gozitans too want a share of the country’s economic development, yet, do they want to see the same results? Does the sister island look on enviously at Malta where trees are close to extinction and the sky is literally the limit for the greedy developers? For convenience’s sake, Gozitans may want a tunnel to the mainland. The price they would pay for it, if it ever comes about, is already all around to see.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial
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