17 – 23 January 2001

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EU accession to guarantee boost to tourism - Refalo

Addressing a recent meeting of the Malta Association of Tourist Guides, Tourism Minister Michael Refalo confirmed that accession to the EU would guarantee more tourism for the country, while scare mongering tactics hold little water in the face of concrete facts.

The minister explains, "I have in the past gone on record to confirm that your profession and your employment will not be under threat as a result of EU membership, and I am pleased to learn that my views have been fully endorsed by the EU expert team."

He adds, "Accession to the Union will open up many new doors and will make Malta more accessible to visitors from members' states. This in itself will further guarantee more tourists to Malta and more clients for you."

Minister Refalo was adamant that scare-mongering tactics will never be as persuasive and convincing as unbiased information, he explains, "You know that your profession requires the achievement of qualifications and also that these are based on site specific considerations."

Referring to the local scenario, Minister Refalo pointed out that of the 570 licensed guides over 25 per cent declared themselves to be ‘not normally active'. "Is it not time for them to decide whether they wish to remain on the market," he asks.

The Minister recalled that he had before him suggestions submitted by the Union to amend regulations some of which were as outdated as the legislation which had brought them into effect. "Act XII of 1999 provides for the issue of regulations governing the guiding profession and following the EU consultants' advice and report, I look forward to meetings during which Ministry and MTA officials and your leadership will have every opportunity to exchange views and hopefully agree on the provisions which will regulate your profession."

The Minister said that he understood that the EU consultants had provided the Union with the Commission's working paper on Tourist Guides, adding that a cursory glance at the content, especially at the requirements of site specific qualifications, was enough to put minds of union members at rest.

Dr Refalo also questioned why other organisations and associations, so forthcoming and present when it came to protests and negative comments via press releases and individual sound bites, held back from inviting him to meet their members and address their meetings.

He emphasises, "I am no exception as my predecessors have likewise been excluded from the privilege of meeting the members of associations at annual meetings other than MHRA, the Malta Timeshare Association, branches of the Federation of Travel and Tourism Agents, and Tourist Guides Union."

The Minister lamented over the fact that not all guides were union members and he urged guides to positively consider the advantages of membership, "Perhaps it is even time for your union to set up a permanent secretariat, to look further than our shores, and join European and world associations and Federations, if for no other reason than to learn from your peers experiences who exercise your profession in EU member states."

Dr Refalo reminded his audience that EU consultants, specifically to advise Government on the harmonisation of policies and laws relating to guides with EU legislation, directives and practices, had just terminated their first mission. As the time allotted had not been sufficient the mission had decided to revisit Malta again in mid-February.

"I have had the pleasure of meeting Prof Scipione and Prof D'Amico, who are both here with us this evening, and I was delighted to learn that both they and Mr Skinner have been very impressed by the friendly and pro-EU feeling which they encountered during their meetings with tourism and tourism related associations including that with your Union's leadership."

Although it is too early to forecast what our consultants will advise, I was also pleased to learn that your Union understands that EU membership means a greater degree of market liberalisation, and that your Union is keen to join and contribute towards this thrust.

Minister Refalo pointed out that Professor Scipione and Mr D'Amico will coincidentally be in Malta on 21 February, which is international tourist guides day, and reminded the Union membership that his Ministry would be prepared to assist in initiatives which the Union would be undertaking to celebrate their special day."

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt