Tourism sector back on track as huge rebound in arrivals boosts economy

Blending history, tradition and culture with stunning scenery and wonderful cuisine, Malta’s tourism mix is second to none, as a leading industry official details

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Gorgeous scenery and warm Mediterranean waters mean Malta is a popular sailing and yachting destination.
Gorgeous scenery and warm Mediterranean waters mean Malta is a popular sailing and yachting destination.

Published: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 5:31 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Dec 2023, 5:35 PM

Malta’s tourism sector has bounced back dramatically, with more tourists in 2023 than pre-pandemic. Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) CEO, Carlo Micallef, provides some insight into Malta’s soaring popularity.

What are the key reasons for the fast rebound of your tour-ism sector? How is this return to activity positively impacting the local economy and people?

Malta was best known for sun, sea and culture, but we took the opportunity to present new product ideas; or ‘Off-The-Beaten-Track Malta’. We developed different niches that gave us a different aspect of the way we can promote Malta to clients.

We did a lot of webinars, online meetings, and competitions. We increased our activity on social media, offering for instance, Maltese recipes with chefs giving their own recipes so people spending time at home would look at Maltese recipes on their mobile phones. We sent out Maltese wines across the world to journalists, and then we organised an online wine tasting with a sommelier from Malta explaining the wine, the history and the type of food that goes with it. We had a lot of crafts art. Many of our competitors stopped advertising and being active in the market, but we kept our presence and with less competition online, achieved greater exposure.

Once tourism restarted, people had this yearning to visit Malta because they saw a lot of Malta on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and on other channels; Malta was at the forefront of their mind. Malta is far from the cheapest destination in the Mediterranean, but provides the overall experience that the post Covid-19 traveller is yearning for. They want to discover new places and make memories to take them back home, to share on social media and to talk about them.

Carlo Micallef, CEO, MTA.
Carlo Micallef, CEO, MTA.

People want to carve memories, not just sit in the sun. They want to discover more about the country and learn more about its places, people and culture.

MTA has successfully guided the tourism sector to its cur-rent level of success for almost a quarter of a century. What milestones has the MTA recently passed, and what flag-ship initiatives is it currently running to boost necessary infrastructure and sell the country to international markets? It has been a long road and things have changed a lot in 25 years. Tourism has grown considerably during the period. In 2013, we were at around 1.4-1.5 million tourists per year, now we have around 2.3 million travellers coming here each year.

We started to go long haul as well, with Emirates flying to Malta daily. We invested more in the Middle East and we’re getting a good number of visitors from there. The next challenge is South America, Australia and China.

We’ve had big developments, and changes over the years. It’s more dynamic nowadays. We rely less on tour operator traffic, much less on package. We promote Malta all year round, not only for the summer months. In fact, we put more effort into getting fresh business in the shoulder months rather than the summer months because we’re quite well sold.

Looking forward, the next frontier is to get luxury brands to Malta, to have more value-added tourism that is more respectful of the environment. We are taking strong measures to push the industry to adopt even more productive ways of protecting the environment and have less strain on the country in terms of infrastructure and people fatigue.

We want tourism that creates more value-added to our economy. We see Dubai and all of the Middle East as good sources for that type of tourism. This is the right time for Malta to in-crease our presence and activity in the Middle East. The out-bound market from the Middle East has been more inquisitive in visiting different places than London, where they’ve been 10-20 times already. What is your final message to the readers of the Khaleej Times?

Every place has its characteristics and charm, but Malta is different. Malta embodies the way the world is going, with people moving around, looking for more and different experiences, looking for a new future, and a different way in life. Malta is this island in the middle of the Mediterranean that embraces all types to come. It is the land of opportunities. We’re tiny but it could be the place that will give you a better future in your working life. It could be your springboard to Europe or to other places. Malta is this economic wonder.


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