The European Union’s proposal to end bi-annual time changes – the practice of changing the clocks between summer and winter-time – is finding substantial support in Malta, with representative bodies of the business community asserting that longer days will benefit trade and prove positive for the tourism industry.
The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and the Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association (MHRA) both outlined the productive ramifications of the initiative, saying that their members – consisting of leaders in the business community and the tourism sector – will profit from having summer-time all year round.
The issue has come to the fore in recent months following the results of an EU consultation which found that more than 80 percent of citizen respondents in the bloc were against the practice of changing the hour to mark summer and winter. This prompted EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to say that millions “believe that in future, year-round should be year-round, and that’s what will happen.”
As a result, the Commission has committed to assessing the viability of “a harmonised regime” in either keeping the current EU year-round arrangements or discontinuing the current bi-annual time changes. However, for the proposal to be ratified into law, it would require the official support from each of the 28 national governments comprising the union, as well as representative MEPs.
Locally, the Malta Chamber made reference to a survey it conducted with its members on the issue. While asking businesses whether they preferred to have one fixed time-system in place, and to note their preference between summer or winter-time, the survey also asked them to determine how the proposal would affect their relationships with their European counterparts, partners and other companies in the EU zone.
The Malta Chamber noted that the results showed that “the most important thing would be that Malta keeps its time alignment with the other European countries in the CET zone,” whatever the final decision. Indeed, such alignment would ensure industries across the bloc maintain current operations and procedures, ensuring minimal disruptions if the decision goes ahead.
In its statement, the Malta Chamber also referred to the general results of the survey, in which 75 per cent of businesses stated they were in favour of remaining on summer-time through the entire year. Indeed, “longer days should lead to a more motivated work-force, which translates into more business activity, especially amongst retail, hospitality and restaurant businesses,” the representative business body asserted, quoting previous reports. Moreover, respondents also noted the psychological benefits the proposal would have on the Maltese workforce, which would lead to greater productivity. “Longer days also means that workers will enjoy more daylight after their respective work shifts,” the Malta Chamber said, going on to conclude that this would “lead to a wider feel-good factor amongst employees.”
Meanwhile, MHRA President Tony Zahra stressed the favourable effects such a ratification would have on businesses in the tourism sector, calling the proposed change “extremely positive” due to the resultant increase in sunlight hours, which bolsters trade. “The earlier the sunrise, the earlier the business day can begin. And it is also beneficial for winter evenings - since these are cooler, longer daylight hours will encourage people to go out anyway,” Mr Zahra said, saying this was “certainly productive for the tourism industry.”
Indeed, while he did not see any problems currently arising from the practice of switching over to winter-time, he noted that while eradicating seasonal time changes would have a profitable effect on tourist numbers to Malta, staying on summer-time would also be beneficial to locals.
Mr Zahra also emphasised that if the changes were to go ahead, it would be essential to maintain harmony across the entire bloc in order to ensure there are no adverse effects when conducting business with other countries in the EU.
“At present, all of Europe changes at the same time – and I think it should be maintained this way,” he asserted. Indeed, a European Parliament resolution says it is “crucial to maintain a unified EU time regime,” making it unlikely for countries not to ratify the change if other members of the bloc push ahead.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Malta Business Observer