28 NOVEMBER 2001

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Airline seating capacity must be maintained – Refalo

Tourism Minister Michael Refalo yesterday explained that the authorities’ main tourism objective over the coming months is to ensure that tour operators maintain their seat capacity as had been originally planned for May to October 2002, in order to guarantee a good summer season for Malta and Gozo.

Within this scope, Dr Refalo said; decisions and brochure launches are just a few weeks away as part of a strategy to generate consumer interest and bookings for Malta.

Accordingly as from Boxing Day in the UK and slightly earlier in Germany, Malta will feature strongly in a TV and media advertising campaign.

Dr Refalo elaborates, "At the appropriate moment Malta will be making innovative proposals designed to capture consumer interest and kick start summer bookings as early as January to convince UK and German tour operators to retain planned capacity for summer 2002 and that Malta is truly a worthwhile destination for them.

"It will be a hard battle and we may have some casualties. But so long as we are able to contain air seat capacity to an acceptable level with the invaluable help and assistance of our national carrier, Air Malta, and moreover if, as WTO say, the situation is not compounded by further incidents, then Malta should enjoy a good summer.

In the meantime group and conference business inquiries for the shoulder months are coming in at a strong rate but it still remains to be seen whether Malta can beat off the competition and convert this flood of interest into confirmed bookings.

Dr Refalo also took the opportunity to speak about the heavily disputed contributions of travel agents to the Malta Tourism Authority. He commented, "Negotiations are a process of ‘give’ and ‘take’. One can never expect to win everything there is on the table. My feedback is that agreement in principle has been reached on the level of future contributions and that you are now in the process of ‘I’ dotting and ‘T’ crossing. Moreover an administrative formula relative to the settlement of contributions due for 2001 has also been found and agreed.

Dr Refalo concluded by warning, "Time does not stand still. The process of globalisation is real. As are international mergers and take-overs. Whether one likes it or not the process of liberalisation is as necessary as the process of globalisation is inevitable. They are not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’. Unless one is ready and prepared one loses out."

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