Hoteliers have been left fuming about the government’s sudden announcement that all passengers on inbound flights must spend 14 days in quarantine.
Andrew Muscat, CEO of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, said they were not given any prior notice of the measure and were now having to send guests to "prison".
Speaking during an MHRA event held behind closed doors, Malta Tourism Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg defended the measure, arguing that passengers flying into Malta on Friday were informed about the mandatory quarantine upon entering Maltese airspace this afternoon.
As questions from hoteliers mounted during the MHRA quarterly review session streamed on social media, Buttigieg said “healthy” tourists would be able to leave the country prior to the 14-day quarantine period elapsing.
“This is a time of crisis, we have to act according to the instructions being given”.
'Treat tourists with respect'
Muscat countered that a 24-hour notice period about the mandatory quarantine measures would have helped hotels better prepare for the situation.
“Hotel rooms were not created to spend 14 days in them”, he said.
Asked how hoteliers were supposed to enforce the quarantine, the MTA CEO said hotels could report any guests refusing to quarantine to the authorities.
He urged those within the industry to treat tourists with respect.
“We cannot have situations like we had in a particular cases yesterday, where a receptionist starting acting aggressively. If you come from abroad, it does not mean you have the virus”.
Buttigieg advised hotel workers to maintain the recommended 1-metre distance from guests, wash their hands regularly and treat people with respect.
Maya Podesta, a public health professional, encouraged all people who were feeling sick to stay home. She said the biggest problem was the healthcare system’s limited capacity and that social distancing measures were a good way to decrease the coronavirus spread.
On the use of face masks, Podesta said people with no symptoms wearing masks might end up touching their faces more to adjust the mask, which could increase the virus spread.
She recommended that masks are worn by people who are unwell.
Multi-million euro losses
Deloitte director Raphael Aloisio warned a 40 per cent drop in hotel business could wipe out €11 million per month for the hotel industry.
Aloisio said he was not being alarmist.
“The impact on drops in volumes will mirror what happened when the industry was on the up”.
He said a clear plan was needed for when the current “plague” came to an end so that the industry could be ready to kick-start the economy.
Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia assured she was pushing for financial measures to support the industry. She said: “We shall win and pass through this bruised, but not defeated”.
MHRA president Tony Zahra said the industry was fighting an enemy it could not see.
“We have to pull together to get through the eye of the storm. We have to get ourselves ready for the eventual upturn…The tourism industry is a percolator.
Unfortunately, that also works in reverse. From potato sellers to souvenir sellers, it will impact everyone”.
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