According to Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono, Gozos distinct and
particular identity should be communicated to the world in order to
boost the islands tourism potential. Following are extracts from
her address to the Gozo Tourism Association seminar: "Island culture
and tourism marketing our future" in which she also speaks
about cultural tourism and seasonality.
It is with a great sense of satisfaction that we note how increasingly
the country discusses and debates issues that regard this industry.
Certainly merit goes to efforts made in the past couple of years by
the Malta Tourism Authority and the Gozo Tourism Association.
One thing that has certainly been confirmed in most addresses in todays
seminar is the re-iteration of the importance of this industry to our
countrys economy. Malta and Gozo depend on tourism not only for
the employees directly working in it, but also for the less visible
number of persons who depend indirectly on the tourism industry for
It is thus our duty to safeguard and strengthen this industry for the
benefit of the country and for future generations. The need for more
concentration of our efforts to better both our product and our service
has strongly come out in todays seminar. We have to diversify
our markets, create new demands whilst providing a supply with a quality
that matches or rather, surpasses, the image we sell.
In times like these, when we are planning and implementing policies
to diversify our tourism markets, the notion of Cultural Tourism becomes
even more important.
Over the years, Malta and Gozo have attracted quite a substantial rate
of tourists that visit the islands on the promise of "sun, sea
and fun". Though these assets have rendered economically, they
have restricted our tourism industry to a concentration of a peak four
months with the remaining eight months struggling hard to survive. We
are indeed still far away from the desired hotel occupancy rates, especially
those for Gozo, during the winter months.
That policy, which established a good name for Maltas very competitive
destination price-wise, especially for the summer months, has left it
wanting for a better spread of the influx of foreign visitors. An indirect
result of this led to the tourism industry being taken seriously by
a few, but not so seriously by many others.
I believe that to strengthen this industry of fundamental importance
to our economy, we have to go through a culture change. We have to instil
a recognisance that Tourism is an industry that will indeed provide
a livelihood all year round if planned properly, if the correct strategies
are designed and if the public and private sectors work together towards
achieving such a goal.
A collaboration between parties that if tackled properly should carve
a reputable name for Malta and Gozo is that for Cultural Tourism.
Our islands can indeed boast of the most ancient free-standing structure
in the world, temples that pre-date the so-very publicised Egyptian
pyramids! Our 7,000-year old history lends itself so graciously to the
marketing of a destination of history, culture and tradition. Malta
and Gozo, with their prehistoric, Roman, Baroque and modern settings
provide a perfect hideaway for all culture-lovers in the world.
Our strategic geographic position, set indeed between the crossroads
of North and South, East and West of the sea that witnessed such polarities
as wars, famine, piracy and an explosion of trade and art is surely
a strong selling point to the world over.
But we have to be pro-active and innovative. We have to create a new
image for our Islands. We have to communicate our distinct and particular
identity to the world.
We cannot depend any more on the concentration of tourists in the peak
season. We have to implement strategies that distribute the influx throughout
the year. We have to work hand in hand with interested parties to come
up with an excellent product complemented by an excellent service.
We have a major asset. Being islanders has made us strive even harder
than living on the mainland. Our ways of living and being, fabricated
by adversities and disadvantages, have structured us and discovered
in us characteristics so very particular. We are the protagonists of
the forces created by our island-nature, moulding in us a different
life-style, different characteristics and thus a distinct culture and
We are indeed fortunate to have saved such valuable assets. It is up
to us now to bring about in the most effective way possible the valorisation
of our unique cultural and folkloristic heritage.
Indeed, Culture is an excellent product. Gozo alone, has so much to
offer in this regard. Our less urbanised and less built up areas, when
compared to Malta, affect our development of folklore, crafts and traditions,
creating a "still in time" atmosphere that foreign visitors
find so appealing. We can certainly better exploit and valorise our
Our ancient borgos, our winding narrow alleys, our spectacular rural
settings, our countryside chapels and baroque masterpieces delight the
history-craving visitor who is amazed at the rich cultural vein found
on such a tiny island.
Some of our literary, musical and theatrical organisations can indeed
boast of high standard events with internationally acclaimed performers
that can attract a potentially further specialised market.
We have to collectively foster these realities that make us who we are.
We have to strengthen and maintain the structures that permit the evolution
of such facets of our distinct identity. We have to plan ahead, create
strategies, projects and initiatives that justify and permit Culture
as a strong seller.
Cultural Tourism is indeed a very potential market to tap. We can establish
our island as a perfect destination for a cultural break.
I earnestly believe that such is the way forward. All this through a
collaboration between not only my Ministry and the Ministry of Tourism
together with the MTA and the GTA, but also with other entities such
as Local Councils and non-governmental organisations. We all have to
work together for the benefit of Gozos main economic pillar.
The creation of this image for Gozo however, cannot exist in a vacuum.
We have to sell our product. We have to promote the notion of Gozo
island of culture. We have to implement the marketing mix
to come out in full force through traditional means and the new ones.
To conclude, I once again reiterate the necessity of strengthening our
present industry but further design new good quality products, good
quality services and the heavy flow of communication throughout the
potential markets. I strongly believe that if we focus our resources
upon the individualisation, initiation and campaigning for specialised
interest travel and niche markets this industry will realise a stronger
potential for Gozo.