14 20 February 2001
The long-term solutions for tourism
Malta Tourism Authority Chairman Dr John C Grech and the Chairman of the Product Planning and Development Directorate George Micallef, addressed a press conference yesterday afternoon, announcing the completion of two draft reports, set to gradually and consistently improve the accommodation on offer over the next 10 years.
The documents set guidelines for the number and type of beds, and sustained development in the local limited growth scenario, aiming to attain a better yield of customers, without stifling new opportunities.
"We have reached saturation point in peak season, and new hotels targeting the summer visitors are not favourable to the industry," Dr Grech said, emphasising the need for more stringent processes for applications of new accommodation.
Mr Micallef added the local industry had to improve the quality of the product and service, even in the lower categories.
"It is not enough to increase bedstock, the industry requires greater emphasis on facilities and less on creating new accommodation. We have now reached a situation where we have an over-capacity of beds," he said.
The two documents presented yesterday, Processing procedures for new tourism accommodation', and Design guidelines for the development of new tourism accommodation (new projects, redevelopment and extensions)', will be shortly followed by a new manual of standards. A similar manual was released in September for the hotels operating at the time, however, the new manual will be more stringent, guiding the development of new accommodation.
A special board has been set up between the MTA and the Planning Authority, to view applications in the sphere of tourism related accommodation, to ensure their compatibility with relevant policies. The board will ensure that developers' preliminary marketing plan is reasonable and achievable, while operators are able of creating solutions, not problems. An independent appeals board will also be set up, while the MTA has given assurance that processing of applications will be done in a transparent manner, by keeping developers informed via reports.
"Whereas before, legislation in these areas was made in general terms, the documents we are presenting aim to make them more detailed and specific," Mr Micallef added.
"The MTA hopes to become a one stop shop, helping the developer through all aspects of the application. This will provide developers with assistance, efficiency and a framework, to give development direction, while making the process a more rational one, without letting decisions be taken on a perception basis," he explained. The processing fee for these services has not been established yet, and awaits discussion.
The draft documents, which were circulated, discussed and approved by the MTA board, will be enforced on 1 April. The PA has agreed with the ACEB to keep all pending applications on hold until the MTA can re-activate them then.
"Malta is small, land is a precious resource, despite our very high population density. We must create quality in all categories of hotels; guests today are more environmentally conscious, they are more discerning," Mr Micallef stated, adding market trends and requirements must be met.
Mr Ebejer, an architect from the Directorate, said Malta must offer quality hotels, with facilities and space for clients, paying attention to the impact of the hotel in its surrounding environment, which also constitutes part of the product offered to tourists.
He explained that hotels will be evaluated according to five standards, set by the Directorate;
proportion of building to site area, relating to the space provided within the hotel boundary
site area per room, the density of the site
room size, the new criteria are more adequate than those currently practised by the ACEB
proportion of the site to be landscaped
percentage of rooms with open views
The first three criteria are mandatory, while the final two are recommendations, and the MTA will decide whether they are required, in particular cases.
The Directorate is also making requirements for swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, and kitchen design. Developers will be asked to come up with some environmentally friendly proposals.
The development of hotels in heritage tourism areas, namely Valletta, Floriana, Rabat, Mdina, Senglea, Birgu and Bormla, is to be encouraged through the MTA, in a bid to open the market for heritage tourism. Such accommodation establishments will not be tied down to the five evaluation standards, if they are under 60 rooms.
"Rehabilitation of an existing building into a hotel is preferable, especially if the new hotel use is a means of conserving a listed building in a financially viable manner," the development report continued. "The MTA will not recommend tourism accommodation development applications on a site where the immediate surroundings are relatively poor."
Emphasis will be placed on specialised marketing, for the location of new hotels outside development zone, and it is unlikely that recommendation will be given for developments resulting in the loss of scenic countryside.
The second report defined a procedure for the processing of applications, based on five stages
Tourism policy compliance certificate,
Design standard compliance certificate,
Final project approval,
Licence to operate,
This will see the MTA through all stages, and eventually, it will be responsible for the granting of all licences relevant to tourism-related developments.
Mr Micallef emphasised that the documents presented yesterday were drafts which were not finalised, and could still be changed, following consultations which will be carried out in the next month.
When asked by The Business Times, both Dr Grech and Mr Micallef, said the documents would affect pertinent applications for the Cottonera Redevelopment Project, should they fall under the MTA's policies.
Mr Cutajar, also from the Directorate, mentioned that the MTA's documents took the seasonality aspect of local tourism into account so as to help the industry.