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Malta needs a new Tourism Strategy, not just another PR exercise

Julian Zarb
Julian Zarb
Written by Julian Zarb

Malta Tourism needs to adopt a strategy if they want to engage professional-career builders instead of simply job-seekers for hospitality and tourism activity.

“A press conference in Malta to launch this strategy for tourism did not even include an action plan or way forward,” said long year Malta based consultant Julian Zarb.

Jullian Zarb writes in his editorial first published by the Malta Independent:

I was grossly disappointed that the strategy included many of the proposals that I have been writing about in these articles since 2020 (including the three Rs for reopening tourism) without a word of acknowledgment to my previous work and research on that subject. This reproduction without my knowledge does not augur well for an inclusive and proactive-looking strategy for an activity that needs to be integrated and needs to involve all stakeholders.

I really have no idea whether, once again, this article will fall on deaf ears or not. We have already passed the point of no return when it comes to sustainable tourism and responsible tourism today; the damage that has been done over the last eight years is certainly irreversible. But perhaps there is a chink of light in the long dark tunnel if we all do our part in making this change happen.

I was not impressed with this strategy because it simply signified a superficial drive to reopen tourism as we were in pre-pandemic times, looking for growth that is unplanned; ignoring the principles of a serious carrying capacity study and an industry that looks for quick profits based on a total lack of professionalism, hospitality, and service. One can see just how the industry thinks right now, in the middle of this pandemic – we are back to packing people into outlets, without any social distancing, no masks, or other protocols to observe – utter irresponsibility!

I would like to see a serious strategy that looks at tourism as that quality, socio-cultural activity that attracts the visitor who really wants to be here instead of the one who is here because of price and availability; but for this to happen you need a serious group of stakeholders including the government, authorities, businesses and the local community.

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Recommendations for a better investment in Malta tourism

My recommendations from now on are going to be very simple, generic, and plain. If there is any interest whatsoever for anyone – authority, politician, or stakeholder who wishes to know more about the methodology or way forward for such a recommendation then we can discuss that together in more detail.

Any tourism strategy for Malta tourism should not:

  1. Be planned in isolation of the needs and participation of all the key stakeholders including the community.
  2. The strategy should have a proper monitoring or review process made up of academics and the key stakeholders working with existing organizations, such as the OTIE, the IOH Med Group, and other professional associations.
  3. An inter-governmental group needs to be set up again (as it was about 15 years ago) to control building and development work and other infrastructural projects that can harm tourism.
  4. Finally the strategy needs to be long-term (nine years can hardly be described as long term!) and should look for real quality and not a superficial sense of quality.

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About the author

Julian Zarb

Dr Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant and an Academic at the University of Malta. He has also been appointed as an Expert for the High Streets Task Force in the UK.  His main area of research is community-based tourism and local tourism planning using the integrated approach.

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In my last article I wrote about the method we need to adopt if we want to engage professional-career builders instead of simply job-seekers. As do other small islands, Malta also suffers from an absence of pluralism amongst the political-economic elite and a familiarity between voters and politicians.

Lynelle Groom

I visited Malta for the first time just before the pandemic. After 45 years in the travel industry and all the hype, I felt I should discover Malta for myself and my clients.

I was very disappointed with
*the commercialisation
*lack of authenticity of culture, food etc
*the ‘cheapness’ of touristic offerings including the hop-on/off bus (worst I have experienced anywhere in the world) and day cruises
*multiple high rise cheap developments ruining the landscape
* promotion of English drunken venues on the foreshore – horrible – like Kuta in Bali with Australians on a bad day! If that’s what you want, you are getting it!

I did discover one fabulous front office manager whose name escapes me. If you want it, i will try and find it, because he deserves the accolades.

Juergen is right – Malta needs a major repair job and now is the perfect time to be doing it. Malta has all the natural attributes. Culture, food, religion, architecture, but is not making it front and centre. It just needs to be presented differently – in a cultural way, rather than a touristic way. People want to discover authenticity, not cheap tourism.

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