Updated at 4.30pm with MTA comments

Malta welcomed 2.6 million tourists last year, an increase of 14.3 per cent over 2017, official figures issued on Tuesday show.

Arrivals in December reached 122,759, an increase of 11 per cent when compared to the corresponding month in 2017. While 105,766 were inbound trips for holiday purposes, the remaining were for business and other purposes.

Arrivals from EU member states in December went up by 8.9 per cent to 101,792 when compared to the corresponding month in 2017. Most inbound tourists were aged between 25 and 44 (40.1 per cent), followed by those within the 45-64 age bracket (33.5 per cent). Total bed nights went up by 10.1 per cent to 870,538 nights. The largest share of guest nights (49.3 per cent) was spent in hotels. Tourist expenditure was estimated at €78.3 million, an increase of 1.1 per cent over the corresponding month in 2017.

Annual arrivals increase of 14.3%

Tourist arrivals for the whole of 2018 rose by 14.3 per cent to reach nearly 2.6 million.

Total nights spent by inbound tourists went up by 12.5 per cent, reaching nearly 18.6 million nights. Expenditure was estimated at €2.1 billion, 8.0 per cent higher than that recorded for 2017. Total expenditure per capita stood at €809, a decrease of 5.5 per cent when compared to 2017. 

Tourism has doubled in eight years - MTA

In a presentation held later on Tuesday, Malta Tourism Authority deputy CEO Leslie Vella said tourist arrivals had doubled since 2010, when 1.3 million people visited Malta. 

Growth in new markets was accelerating and the overall growth curve continued to strengthen with time, he added. 

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said Malta needed to attract more high-end tourists.

Last year, Malta had improved its standing in core markets as well as introduced new routes that were not part of the island’s traditional tourism strategy, Dr Mizzi said.

He said the USA had for the first time made it into the top 10 tourism arrival markets.

Dr Mizzi said the investment in core markets would continue in 2019 with new routes from Cardiff, Exeter, Verona, among others.

From April, new non-traditional routes from Amman, Cairo and Doha would also open up, he said.

The minister spoke of the need to continue investing in Malta’s infrastructure. He said the government planned infrastructure improvements in Paceville, Sliema, Valletta, Marsaxlokk and Birżebbuġa.