The number of Maltese taking holidays went up by 6.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The total reached 146,841, with EU destinations seeing an increase of 4.5 per cent, and non-EU seeing a rise of 25 per cent.

An interesting trend was the decline in those opting for low-cost airlines, with the percentage dropping from 56 per cent two years ago to 52 per cent this year.

The National Statistics Office said that Italy and the United Kingdom remained the most popular destinations, with a joint share of 49.9 per cent of total tourist trips. However, the number of people venturing out of the EU has grown significantly, from 9,873 trips (9.4 per cent) in the first quarter of 2017, to 17,905 (13.9 per cent) this year.

Although more people travelled, they tended to stay for shorter periods – with a 20 per cent increase in short trips of 1-3 days – as a result of which the total nights spent overseas decreased by 0.6 per cent. The average length of stay went down from 6.1 nights to 5.7.

Over half the nights were spent in rented accommodation.

In spite of the shorter stays, the travellers spend more, with the €112.9 million working out to an average of €769 per trip, of which €225 went towards accommodation and €152 on air or sea fares, leaving €434 spent on the rest.

Travelling further afield makes huge difference to the expenditure, with those going to the EU spending an average per head of €660, while going outside the EU cost €1,549.

And what about EU destinations? The UK cost the most, at €782 a head, with Italy the cheapest of the major destinations at €547.

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