Dr. Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant, and 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.
In his recent comments on Tourism in Malta, it needs to be acknowledged, that quality tourism has been a discussion not only in Malta but in many destinations around the world.
HAWAII tourism is in the process to convert from mass tourism to cultural tourism, with native Hawaiian now running both the Tourism Board and marketing.
Dr. Zarb had the following post warning if money was everything for tourism to his island country, Malta. He wrote:
It is evident that for this Malta government money is everything.
It can buy voters, it can encourage developers to destroy heritage, character, and culture and it can blind people to the real concerns of a country.
What is really important is the fact that for the last ten years we have seen a gradual degradation of community spirit in our towns and villages. People are becoming aggressive, uncouth, unfriendly, and downright obnoxious.
I will limit my case study to my own locality – Iklin. Iklin is a village in the Central Region of Malta, with a population of 3,247 as of 2021. Iklin was established in the mid-20th century. Some archaeological sites and a medieval chapel, named St. Michael Chapel, are proof of earlier settlements.
I have seen this gradual degradation happen here – from a locality where people actually smiled at each other, wished each other a good day, and were friendly. The lower part of Iklin has become a ghost town.
People frown at you, they look daggers at you and they are far too ready to be aggressive and provocative in their behavior.
For some time I used to write about this danger (going back fifteen years now) and I used to suggest the councils consider building community spirit through social events, social centers (including libraries, meeting places, and coffee shops where people can meet and get to know each other better).
Unfortunately, local councils have been far too engrossed in infrastructural work and cleansing to think of such high ideals as community spirit.
Instead of seeing civic innovation we see individualism, we experience aggressiveness and I certainly feel uncomfortable in my own locality.
So perhaps we would do well to consider how we can grow community spirit, civic behavior, and living localities instead of basing it all on the money base.
An interesting morning at one of my first in-person events since the pandemic.
As chair of the Malta Tourism Society, I sat on the panel discussing quality versus quantity tourism.
My main focus was on how we must attract the visitor who want to be here and the need to manage tourism at the destination professionally through the integrated approach to tourism planning.
Until we learn to adopt this civic responsibility there can be NO quality tourism, there will be NO real tourism and there will be NO chance for these islands to gain a foothold as a quality destination and a first choice for the visitor who wants to be there.
You will always be in third place if you are basing your markets on two factors – price and availability instead of attractiveness, character, and culture.