Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has suggested creating EU-wide 'safe corridors' for tourism between countries which have successfully contained the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farrugia Portelli made the suggestion during a videoconference of EU tourism ministers, saying territories and regions which, like Malta, received praise for their successful management of the pandemic, should be able to benefit.
She highlighted the measures Malta had undertaken to manage the crisis and to mitigate the impact on the tourism sector and called for a strong commitment regarding the re-opening of the tourism sector. There are risks which need to be managed particularly concerning flights, accommodation, and entertainment.
Global tourism has ground to a virtual standstill during the coronavirus pandemic, significantly impacting the economies of countries which rely on tourism for much of their income, such as Malta.
Countries on the EU periphery have been among the worst affected by the pandemic, as they rely on air routes, since shut, to secure their connectivity.
Malta and six other EU member states have presented a joint statement to the European Commission calling for strong financial allocation for tourism in its recovery plan that is being drafted.
Malta, together with Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Bulgaria insisted that the plan needed to address specific national needs, particularly island state economies like Malta, which are dependent on international tourism. They also called for the introduction of new protocols so that tourism can be re-opened.
The statement calls for short and long-term measures to assist those tourism sectors in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.
Farrugia Portelli said EU assistance should not be limited to financial instruments that would burden operators with additional debt but must also include the possibility of grants. Tourism can be the enabler of a wider recovery of our economies and it will pay to invest in it, she insisted.
She said airlines should be supported as they would be re-starting the economy and called for a definite stand on the package travel directive and air passenger regulations.
While acknowledging that consumer rights must remain protected at all times, there needs to be a proper balance regarding the voucher proposal to protect the travel sector. The EU needs to look at the unleveled playing field that has been created by individual national policies, she said.
More investment was needed in the upskilling of the workforce as this was an opportunity to start afresh by making the tourism industry more sustainable, she added.