Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo does not want to speculate on the number of tourists who may visit Malta in summer, saying the government is instead focusing on sustainability and quality.

In recent weeks, industry operators have expressed concern about the lack of airline seats on offer and the slow rate of tourism recovery, as projections show Malta lagging behind competing Mediterranean destinations.

Video: Claire Farrugia

Countries like Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal are on track to match their 2019 seat capacities but Malta is at about 85 per cent.

When asked about the situation yesterday, Bartolo said the focus should not be on projections but ensuring the sustainability and quality of the sector.

“We are looking to make sure tourism is sustainable and we want to move beyond comparing ourselves to other countries or speculating on numbers. Our aim is sustainability and the quality of the tourism sector,” Bartolo said.

“The recovery rates are currently in line with what was expected and this is after talks with stakeholders and the public health authorities,  which resulted in the easing of additional restrictions.

“Our aim is to see that the sector continues to recover and we are hearing that this summer should be a good one in terms of business.”

“The aim is to continue increasing the numbers while also ensuring that quality and sustainability stay at the top of our agenda,” Bartolo said.

Airport 'visibly busier'

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Malta International Airport told Times of Malta it was “visibly busier” last week. This was partly due to the Easter holidays drawing people to the island, she said.

“This is also attested by our data, which shows a recovery of 87 per cent when comparing last week’s traffic to the same week in April 2019.

“While this is a very encouraging recovery rate, it is important to bear in mind that the Easter holiday effect played no small part in boosting last week’s passenger traffic through MIA,” the spokesperson said. In March, the recovery rate stood at 66.3 per cent of 2019 levels.

The spokesperson said passenger numbers are expected to stabilise in the coming months.

While the easing of restrictions “will undoubtedly be a contributing factor to this stability”, she also highlighted the fact that “many countries” have already moved to the next phase of their strategy to facilitate free movement by removing all restrictions on travel.

Although Prime Minister Robert Abela had said after Labour won the general election last month that all COVID-19 rules would be lifted, this is not yet the case and a number of measures are still in place, including several related to travel.

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