Talks between Easyjet and the government have failed, according to information given to the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.

The association said in a statement yesterday: "This is yet another serious setback to the tourism industry and to the efforts needed to reverse the rapidly declining arrival figures from Malta's major core markets."

MHRA said it has also learnt that Air Malta has, over the last few days, issued a 'stop sale' to tour operators for 39 flights from various UK airports for November and December.

"This can only add to the fear that new bookings will be lost from important departure points for these months due to unavailability of seats.

"Hoteliers are fearing the worst for this winter considering that occupancy figures for the coming winter months are lower than last year which was the worst ever."

The MHRA said it felt very strongly that a drastic reduction in landing fees by Malta International Airport on routes which were underserved and undeveloped would be compatible with the requirements of low-cost carriers and would serve to attract new business.

The association said its recent prediction of a decline of 50,000 visitors by the end of October did not seem to have worried the government unduly as, otherwise, every possible effort would have been made not to lose any opportunity of increasing arrivals to Malta.

The MHRA has always maintained that it was important to have the two major low-cost carriers operating to Malta in order to help reverse the decline in this sector. It repeatedly stated that the country should not be dependant on one of the two low-cost carriers, but both should fly to Malta.

"In this context the news that Easyjet will not be operating to Malta is a major setback," it said.

The MHRA reiterated its call to the government to open up new routes in order to come to an agreement with Easyjet and to enable Ryanair to further expand its operations.

Efforts to contact Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech were unsuccessful.

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