Authorities should profit from the COVID-19 entertainment industry lockdown to carry out long due embellishment and infrastructural projects in tourist zones, the vice president of the Chamber of SMEs has said.
Philip Fenech told Times of Malta that the closure of bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments has opened a window of opportunity.
While acknowledging that the country’s road network was being upgraded, he said tourist zones like Qawra and Paceville were long due for a makeover.
“Now is the time to carry out certain embellishment works which have been in the pipeline for years but were placed on the backburner due to traffic concerns in key tourist areas,” he said, citing Valletta as an example.
“Given that the industry will take months to reach pre-COVID 19 heights, when Malta was attracting around 2.7 million visitors annually, the government should make the most of this quiet period,” he said.
He suggested entrepreneurs who were managing to weather the storm – either through government aid or by shifting their operations to delivery, for example – could also have a fresh look at their own premises.
There are indications that some sort of lockdown might be in place until the autumn. European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen recently advised holiday makers against any plans for the summer.
Fenech said it was crucial to plan ahead in terms of promotion, on the same lines as when the tourism industry was in its infancy.
“In a certain sense, it will be like going back to the 1960s.”
The government has in fact just unveiled a promotional campaign to urge prospective holiday makers to “Dream Malta now, visit later”.
However, demand would be far below the highs of the COVID-19 pre-pandemic period and operators were still going to struggle, Fenech warned.
“The first likely to see an improvement will be those who are not highly dependable on tourism, such as village bars and restaurants.”
Market support for route development could be crucial to mitigating the impact on tourism, he added.
“While there are concerns flights may be more expensive due to social distancing rules on board planes, it is also true that in order to kick-start the sector, some airlines may be tempted to cut prices as an incentive.”
One silver lining may be the heightened environmental awareness that stems from having less traffic on the roads, cleaner air and more open spaces.
This could herald a shift in the leisure industry towards bringing people closer to nature, Fenech pointed out.
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