7 – 13 February 2001

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Malta's role on the CIT circuit

Tourism Minister Michael Refalo recently addressed the Confec Forum, held for conference and meetings organisers. Conference and incentive tourism is a crucial and rapidly growing area within the tourism sector – an area that a number of upmarket hotels and purpose-built halls are looking to capitalise upon. Following is an extract from his speech


By Michael Refalo

There is much more in Malta than meets the eye. We like to say of ourselves that we are an old country, with many thousands of years of history, of culture and heritage, but at the same time very much alive and active in our own particular niche in the hurly burly, state of the art, information society of today's global village.
We are different not just because we are so small but because unlike conventional tourist resorts, all of Malta, all of Gozo, the beautiful, the not so beautiful and the downright ugly, as well as all of us Maltese and Gozitans, are the offer which we make to our visitors.
One either loves Malta or hates Malta. Thankfully the latter are by far outnumbered by those who return and come back to see us year in year out. Those who catch the Malta bug find that it is very difficult to kick the habit.
Our ever-growing band of Malta loyalists first come to us as tourists and then return, year after year as friends. To meet up again and again with their Maltese hosts. Only this week a well–travelled lady visitor from the UK wrote and said that she is on her 72nd visit to Malta and has loved it every time she has been here.
The same applies to meetings and conference organisers. Once through the initial tremors of the system, this is the Mediterranean after all, they find to their great relief and satisfaction that it will definitely be all right on the night, and quickly forge successful partnerships with our hosting facilities and abilities as well as with the expertise and innovative approach of our DMC's.
Mc Lean Events is just one example. For after FLEETEC in April '99 Mc Lean followed up with SIBEC in October of that year, they are now here with CONFEC and will again return next May with ERPEC Europa 2001. I am delighted that Mc Lean are also keen to hold HOTEC- Hotel Management Forum in 2002 and HRDC – Human Resources Forum during 2002.
I am pleased to see that this event is supported by Air Malta our national airline, by United Travel one of our foremost DMCs, by Radisson SAS Bay Point, thank you all, and also by the Malta Tourism Authority. All praise, very deserved as well to the Malta Tourist Office in London, to John Montague, to Marianne and the rest of the team.
MTA London is extremely active on the CIM front and drives a very active fam-trip programme, which totalled 300 buyers in 2000 alone. It is good to hear that in this segment Malta is currently the UK's flavour of the month and that clients and organisers now look at Malta very much more positively.
On the local front, MTA has an extremely efficient Conference and Incentive Division, a proactive outfit which provides a stream of information, which helps establish contacts and back-up, and gives organisers all assistance and support in the planning and execution stage.
For the record we have 22 non-hotel based conference venues with the magnificent former hospital of the Knights of St John built 430 years ago as our flagship as well as 8,000 beds in five and four star hotels which offer conference and meetings facilities.
I am delighted to learn that this hotel SAS Radisson Bay Point is in excellent company nominated for the Best Overseas Hotel Award in the Meetings category.
For the first time ever MTA's CIT division and five star hotels have launched a joint advertising campaign in four of our main source markets, Germany, the UK, Italy and France, and will attend all major trade fairs and shows in the UK and on the continent. A new incentive brochure will be launched at EIBTM.
Maltese hoteliers and organisers annually hold a very successful Showcase for CIM targeted and attended by Mediterranean suppliers.
Workshops in Glasgow, Dublin and London, Confex in February and M&IT in June emphasise Malta and Gozo's presence in the UK market. Conservative estimates tell us that the conference and incentives segment from all markets accounts for around seven per cent of total visitor flow, namely 75,000.
We are currently in the process of repositioning Malta on the international market place. In today's global scenario we chart a course designed to make Malta even more relevant and responsive to changes in consumer and specialist demands. However, while stimulating traditional mainstream traffic, our new thrust is based on a stronger focus on whatever makes us different, sometimes better and more unique, than our competitors.
Encouraging results in the CIM segment and in other niche markets are clear signs that we are moving in the right direction and steadily achieving the goals which we have set and for which we have worked so hard. By we, I mean the private and the public sectors, who together make up that all important partnership, the partnership that make things happen and is which I believe is Malta's foundation and recipe for success.
Policy is set and logistic and other support given by my Ministry, 90 per cent of funding is provided by Government, while the Malta Tourism Authority, made up completely of private sector interests from all spheres of the industry, has full and unrestricted rein and all the space it needs to drive and implement policy.
This is the message I wish to convey to you that certainly in the world of conferences and incentives our word is our bond.




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