A surge in Air Malta passengers cancelling their flights as a result of new travel rules cost Malta some €12 million in lost revenue in July alone, estimates show.
The figure was calculated by Times of Malta after a Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) spokesperson said that based on 2019 National Statistics Office (NSO) data, tourists spend an average of €807 each for a trip to the island, which includes international transport (flights or ferry) and local expenditure.
According to The Malta Independent, Air Malta had 15,000 booking cancellations in July since the announcement of new travel rules. Times of Malta had reported that Air Malta saw over 6,000 flight bookings cancelled in a single week. There were also significant cancellations for August.
The loss of €12,105,000 of tourists’ expenditure is only based on cancellations of Air Malta flights for July. It does not include other airlines or other months.
The airline has also reportedly seen an increase of passenger no-shows at the airport, reporting a daily 30-35 per cent for inbound travel to Malta.
Last month saw a major change to Malta’s new travel rules, whereby travellers are required to produce an approved vaccination certificate to be allowed a quarantine-free entry. Quarantine is mandatory for unvaccinated arrivals.
Anyone arriving without an approved vaccine certificate will be charged at least €1,400 per room for their stay in a quarantine hotel.
Malta residents entering the country without a vaccine certificate must apply for permission to avoid paying the fee.
Feedback from customers suggests there are two major factors contributing to the decline in summer bookings
When asked what had caused the cancellations, an Air Malta spokesperson pointed out two major reasons – Negative PCR tests to travel are no longer enough, and the lack of vaccination among those aged 12 to 17.
“The change of regulation, whereby negative PCR tests are no longer acceptable as a qualification for entry into the country, has driven significant numbers of immediate short-term cancellations,” she said.
Another reason is that people aged between 12 and 17 across a number of countries have not been vaccinated yet, which has caused families with teenagers to cancel their bookings.
Questioned about the number of cancellations, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said he was concerned, as he was hoping for a faster recovery of the tourism sector, but he emphasised that health will always be the top priority.
“The decision we took was not easy, but we believe that it had to be taken to respect the sacrifices the people took to beat the pandemic,” Bartolo said.
The minister said he wanted to clarify that the cancellations happened once Malta introduced stricter travel restrictions, and not when it was added to the EU travel red list.
Bartolo added that vaccinated tourists will feel more secure in a country where over 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated.
“Other countries are taking similar action. We took these measures to be a more secure country. I believe this will help tourism in the long-term,” he said.