Paul Bugeja

CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority

Sustaining the Valletta 2018 effect

Thursday 14th December 2017

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is very pleased with the remarkable results achieved during the first 10 months of this year, in particular with the fact that the positive results are spread across various performance indicators. Now that Valletta 2018 is round the corner, it is satisfying to note that the build-up of marketing towards it has generated a positive effect for the Maltese islands.

Surveys carried out by the MTA indicate that Valletta being the European Capital of Culture has intrigued respondents to choose Malta and visit Valletta. Between January and September, the number of guest nights that respondents attributed directly to the Valletta 2018 effect increased from 254,800 in 2015 to 526,500 in 2017. The same surveys also indicate that in 2017 around €84 million of tourist expenditure generated can be directly attributed to the Valletta 2018 effect. 

Valletta 2018 is part of a more widespread success. In October 2017, increases were registered in total inbound visitors (12 per cent), total nights spent (6.2 per cent) and total tourism expenditure (10.2 per cent). Moreover, inbound tourist trips from January to October 2017 surpassed two million (+15.7 per cent). This figure had been reached over a period of 12 months last year, rather than 10. Total nights spent reached almost 14.7 million nights (+10.2 per cent) and total tourism expenditure for the period January-October 2017 surpassed €1.7 billion (+13.2 per cent).

The issue of seasonality is being addressed. As can be witnessed both by the latest statistics as well as through first-hand feedback from industry stakeholders, the winter months are no longer shunned by travellers. Furthermore, the demographic mix that is setting foot on our islands is very positive. We are happy to note that younger generations are choosing Malta as their destination of choice, which complements the vision that the MTA has for a modern, vibrant destination with a unique blend of history and culture

We have been working incessantly to promote Malta as an ideal destination for conferences and association meetings throughout the year and especially in the leaner winter months. In less than two years since it was set up, Conventions Malta has managed to win another prestigious international recognition at the M&IT Industry Awards. After placing third among the top Convention Bureaux outside the UK last year, this year Conventions Malta improved its position and picked up the first prize by winning the Gold Award for Best Overseas Conventions Bureau.

Over the past four years, the MTA has focused on improving flight connectivity to Malta throughout winter. Less marketing funds were dedicated to promote the summer months and more funds were allocated to generate incremental business in the winter months. The efforts to address the issue of seasonality are showing concrete results as the growth rate registered for the winter period November 2016 to March 2017 (25.1 per cent) exceeded that for the summer season April to October 2017 (+14.1 per cent).

Next year brings exciting prospects. The biggest challenge is to fill the substantial number of seats created by the increased capacity, both during the winter and summer months Other projects include the further development of faith-based tourism as a niche market. The latter is an umbrella term for, among others, religious tourism, pilgrimage, secular pilgrimage and cultural tourism with interest in religion.

The MTA and the Ministry of Tourism are also collaborating on the introduction of a Skills Card that will serve to regulate and improve the Human Resources component of the product offered by tourism operators in Malta. This is being done to strengthen and safeguard the reputation of Malta’s tourism offering. Furthermore, an Insolvency Fund is being set up as a means for consumer protection, as required by EU legislation. Local travel agents, like their counterparts across the European Union, are legally obliged to provide such protection in case they go bankrupt.

When it comes to conferences and meetings, the MTA’s main objectives are to target the US market as it is the cradle of associations, to continue promoting Malta for association events and to raise more brand awareness. In fact we will invest in attending IMEX USA, offering a number of opportunities for Maltese stakeholders to participate.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that next year will be an exciting one. Our role is to ensure the sustainability of this build-up, so that future generations may carry on reaping the benefits that we are experiencing at present. We are confident that our incessant work will contribute towards this.