Nearly 200,000 visitors thronged to Ġgantija Temples in Gozo last year, making it the most popular site offered by Heritage Malta and accounting for one in every nine visits to all sites.

But while the state heritage agency recorded 1.66 million paying visitors across its museums and archaeological sites in 2019, it is expecting a slump this year due to COVID-19 related closures. 

The Palace State Rooms in Valletta ranked as second most popular, with 166,000 visitors, to Ġgantija’s 196,000, followed by another prehistoric temple, Ħaġar Qim, at 162,000.

What may account for the popularity of Ġgantija, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is that it is included in the all-day tours on offer in Gozo whereas in Malta there is a wider choice of heritage sites available to tourists.

It is ending up with a shortfall of €400,000 per month

The revenue generated from all admission fees reached €8.7 million but Heritage Malta still needed €5.2 million extra from the government to meet administrative expenses.

This is the state heritage agency’s main source of revenue, which has been decimated this year – no revenue has flowed into its coffers between March and the end of this month.

The sites managed by Heritage Malta have gradually been opening up but no one realistically expects a rush of visitors this summer, with flights being restored only in July from limited destinations at first.

Culture Minister José Herrera last March warned that the agency would need additional government funding to cover operational expenses such as workers’ wages as long as its sites remained closed.

“Heritage Malta is ending up with a shortfall of €400,000 per month but the finance ministry has agreed to increase its financial allocation,” Herrera told Times of Malta when asked how the ministry was planning to tackle the situation.

He said the ministry was exploring “ambitious ideas” to make Heritage Malta financially self-sufficient in the long term.

“We could have an online platform whereby the viewer would savour part of the cultural assets showcased in museums but have the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject against a fee,” Herrera said by way of example.

Heritage Malta is also exploring the idea of increasing the level of interactivity, such as offering for sale certified replicas of the paintings on display.

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