Business Session Discusses The EU Short-Term Rentals Initiative

This proposal seeks to harmonise and streamline the framework for data generation and data sharing on short-term rental accommodation services across the EU.

On the 13th of March the Malta Business Bureau in collaboration with the European Parliament Liaison Office (EPLO) held a Business Session on the EU Short-Term Rentals Initiative (STR) at Dar l-Ewropa in Valletta, with special guest MEP Josianne Cutajar who is Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee. Short-term accommodation rental services have existed for many years alongside conventional accommodation providers such as hotels. However, their popularity has surged in the EU with the rise of the platform economy. Despite the positive opportunities created for tourism activity in general, a number of challenges became prominent affecting hotels, local communities and public authorities.


Dr Mario Sammut, Head of the EPLO delivered the welcoming speech, noting the importance of dialogues such as the ones taking place today. They present an opportunity for stakeholders to voice their views and concerns to MEPs, at a stage when there is still an opportunity to amend legislative proposals.

Ms Alison Mizzi, President at the Malta Business Bureau, joined Dr Sammut in introducing the topic as she stated that, ‘’to manage this economic activity better, public authorities need to be well-equipped with data on short-term accommodation rentals to be able to develop evidence-based policies and for better law enforcement. The lack of uniformity that is currently being experienced on the market is impacting the good functioning of the European Single Market. This is why the European Commission proposed the Short-Term Rental Initiative’’.

alison mizzi

An overview of the main elements of the proposed legislative framework was presented by Ms. Christine Said, Policy Executive at the Malta Business Bureau. It was explained that this proposal seeks to harmonise and streamline the framework for data generation and data sharing on short-term rental accommodation services across the EU.

The presentation was followed by a keynote speech on the topic given by MEP Josianne Cutajar who is Rapporteur for the TRAN committee at the European Parliament on this proposed legislation. MEP Cutajar emphasized that the Short-Term Rentals Regulation must take into account all key players within the sector. The proposed rules will improve transparency and the collection and sharing of data from hosts and online platforms, whilst giving public authorities a strengthened legal backing to access beneficial data. Such data will assist local authorities to address the challenges brought about by the online short-term rental market, better responding to the travellers’ and the locals’ concerns, whilst helping them to ensure that the quality of our touristic product is maintained and a more sustainable tourism ecosystem achieved. This will allow consumers to continue benefiting from a wide range of accommodation options with better peace of mind and for legitimate and traditional accommodation providers to compete on a more level playing field within the market.

Several local and EU stakeholders were invited to provide their reactions to the Short-Term Rental Initiative.

Mr. Andrew Agius Muscat, CEO of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association highlighted that the platform economy is a product of the internet and social media. Since its inception, the MHRA has read the signs of the times and accepted that this new form of accommodation provision was here to stay. Instead of fighting it, we called for policy frameworks to correct it. The proposed STR initiative is a much-needed concrete step in achieving a level playing field in the tourism industry and more specifically the accommodation sector. It’s high time that the EU acted on this front. In the meantime, it is important that the public authorities keep pursuing the right enforcement measures to ensure that our tourism product is protected.

Mr Kevin Fsadni, Deputy CEO at the Malta Tourism Authority reassured that the technical capabilities required of short-term accommodation hosts would be supported by clearer guidelines and specifications. He also commented that creating a level playing field is not enough as it is important for local authorities to ensure and support a proportional enforcement of the law.

Ms. Julia Aquilina, Policy Executive at The Malta Chamber said that the Short-Term Rentals Initiative goes beyond direct tourism, as it effects the entire community. She said this is a priority for The Malta Chamber, as we believe that quality is a principle that needs to be in every element of the tourism supply chain. She further highlighted three crucial points that are important to businesses in line with the Short-Term Rentals Initiative: (i) the streamlining of legislation to ensure there are no gaps within policy; (ii) the importance of simplified data sharing and (iii) ensuring clear guidelines and a structured framework.

julia aquilina

The event was also addressed by Mr. Matej Zezlin, Public Affairs Manager at HOTREC, who shared HOTREC’s views on the proposal from a European hospitality perspective.

Atlas Insurance Funds FIDEM Foundation’s Skill Up Project For The Empowerment Of Women Through Education

The Skill Up Project aims to help women boost their employment and career opportunities through several courses

Atlas Insurance, through its Community Involvement Fund, is funding the Skill Up Project run by the FIDEM Foundation. The joint initiative was announced during FIDEM Foundation’s International Women’s Day conference on 8 March. Atlas Insurance will be investing Eur60,000 over two years in this project, which will also include the purchasing of IT equipment which will continue to be used by the programme well into the future.

The Skill Up Project aims to help women boost their employment and career opportunities through several courses designed to impart useful skills as well as to empower women to take the lead in improving their lives by developing and strengthening their self-confidence and belief in their abilities. These courses address subjects such as English language literacy, computer competencies and life skills. Participants in the project will be awarded recognised certification upon successfully completing individual courses, which eventually lead to a FIDEM Educate to Empower – Skill Up Certificate.
The FIDEM Foundation is a non-profit organisation set up in 2018 which provides support and empowerment opportunities to vulnerable people, particularly women, adolescent girls and children, across Malta and Gozo through life-changing access to education and wellbeing guidance.

The Atlas Insurance Community Involvement Fund was set up by Atlas Insurance to finance its Community Involvement Strategy. Skill Up project is one of three projects funded under this new programme in 2023.

Catherine Calleja, Executive Director and Company Secretary of Atlas Insurance, explained that: “Atlas developed a strategic approach to ensure that the money we give to the community is put to the best possible use. Through this fund, Atlas is focusing on the specific areas where Malta is falling short of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Skill Up Project addresses the fifth SDG to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

She added that: “Empowerment through education is an effectively proven tool to help vulnerable people out of their predicament. The partnership with an experienced organisation such as the FIDEM Foundation in the Skill Up Project ensures that the needs of vulnerable women are specifically targeted and addressed in order to provide participants with the optimal means to successfully complete the courses and improve their quality of life through self-development and better employment opportunities.”

Dr Sabine Agius Cabourdin, FIDEM’s Founder said: “The right to education is a basic human right recognised by various legal instruments, notably the UNCHR and further enshrined in the Maltese Constitution. Education raises men and women out of poverty, levels inequalities and ensures sustainable development. Unfortunately, not all of us are on a level playing field and many do not have access to education even though the infrastructure is there.”

In cognisance of the difficulties faced by vulnerable women, this project also takes into account the obstacles that would prevent prospective attendees from joining and completing the programme. In this respect, transport and childcare services will be offered along with the provision of all material required to follow the courses.

Employers Need To Be Actively Engaged In Shaping The Vision For Education

Employers can help educators to anticipate the future needs

Make learning and development a central part of long-term planning and strategy, President of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry Marisa Xuereb said during an education conference titled ‘Jumpstart Learning’. She emphasised that the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce are imperative for every business that wants to remain competitive. President Xuereb noted that, “employers need to be actively engaged in shaping the vision for education, not just as the future employers of today’s students. They must also act as life-long education providers of today’s workers and future workers who are still in formal schooling.”

During this conference attended by both educators and employers, Ms Xuereb also reiterated that there needs to be more coordinated action and more systematic public-private partnerships when it comes to training and education. In the past few months, The Malta Chamber embarked on a number of collaborations with both MCAST and the University of Malta, whilst trying to bridge the different ambitions and expectations between academic institutions, who excel in providing qualifications, and employers who desperately seek to develop competencies.

President Xuereb reminded the audience that while employers do not have a crystal ball, they are in a better place than educators to anticipate the future needs of their industry. “To this end, it is important for educators to acknowledge that what is required from their end is to provide students with the skills that are required in the immediate plus the ability to learn over time what may be required in future,” she said. President Xuereb concluded her speech by addressing the needs of the students. “What they really need is the ability to read (or hear) and understand the knowledge they can access, the crucial ability to reason what makes sense and what is to be ignored, and the ability to synthesize that knowledge in a way that they can retain it, apply it and transfer it to others. Educators need to acknowledge that learning needs to be predominantly skills-based rather than knowledge-based because it no longer about being able to memorize a lot of information.”

During this conference, the importance of soft skills was also highlighted, as well as the acknowledgment of neurodiversity, and the need for different learning channels that ensure that learning is accessible to all.

Professor Colin Calleja, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, echoed this position and said that the educational system needs to have a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Prof Calleja said that although the country invests a lot in education, our students still score low when they are compared to their European counterparts. He emphasised that, “ we can’t keep wasting time because each minster wants to leave their personal mark.”

Another keynote speaker in this conference was Mr Märt Aro, Co-Founder of DreamApply and the Nordic EdTech Forum – N8. Mr Aro stressed that all European countries need to prepare for automation and Web 3.0. He said that both interphases are being ignored by schools and instead the focus is on teaching things that are quickly becoming irrelevant. He explained that the problem is that children are taught not to question what they are learning, but than they are then expected to reach the workplace with cognitive skills and decision making power. He encouraged educators to adopt adaptive digital learning environments and to overcome the barriers that our existing education system has built over time.

Ms Fabienne Ruggier, Chairperson of HR and Talent Committee within The Malta Chamber also gave a presentation during this event. She touched upon the problem of restricted data in a policy area that should be data-driven and informed. She presented a pilot experiment that was carried out over a period of three months in the area of Labour Market Intelligence which proved that 80% of the advertised skills were technical, followed by marketing and compliance, with soft skills being still underrepresented or very vaguely presented.

Dr Erika Galea, Education Consultant, spoke about the potential of Educational NeuroScience and how it places the student at the centre of the educational system and maximises teaching and learning by promoting the deeper learning skills. She explained that with the understanding of the underlying biology of our mental processes, educators can have a direct role in identifying improvements in our local existing educational practice.

Mr Emile Vassallo, Director General of the Department for Educational Services, reacted to the various presentations. Mr Vassallo acknowledged that this event served its purpose by giving stakeholders the right platform to discuss the future of learning and confirmed the interest of the education department to work closer with The Malta Chamber to bring about the required change.

Finally, Dr Marthese Portelli, CEO of The Malta Chamber highlighted the importance of this event as it brought both academia and business together to discuss a way forward. Dr Portelli said, “The Malta Chamber has the proper structure in place to pave the way forward and design a strategy focusing on short, medium and long term goals. She referenced the Education for the Future Policy Document launched in June 2021 wherein The Malta Chamber had highlighted the importance of lifelong learning, having period curriculum reviews, developing and empowering educators, and introducing Social Emotional Learning and Service Learning for both students and teachers.