18 SEPTEMBER 2002
Although the conference and incentive sector of tourism was hit hard, along with the rest of the tourism sector, after last years 11 September tragedy, it is also the market expected to make the quickest recovery.
Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association Vice President, Winston Zahra Jr, affirmed to The Malta Financial and Business Times earlier this year that the CIT sector has been continually picking up since mid-January after almost coming to a standstill straight after the twin towers disaster.
"We are reasonably confident about the future," he said. "Next year is looking positive; enquiries and bookings are promising."
Asked why the CIT sector was hit so hard in the wake of the 11 September tragedy, the MHRA vice-president explained that many companies based in Europe are part US-owned or have US interests.
"They were therefore affected by immediate travel bans," he said. "This, coupled with the economic uncertainty and impact of the attacks on the performance of many companies meant the sector ground almost to a halt."
Asked whether he believes enough is being done to help the sector in its recovery, Mr Zahra highlighted the joint marketing effort that the five-star hotels are making, alongside the advertising campaign spearheaded by the Malta Tourism Authority.
"A lot is being done," he said. "As always, the biggest issue is the state of the product the environment a problem I have highlighted for as long as I can remember!"
The MHRA is scheduled to release the findings of its survey for this years second quarter today.
But incoming tourism to Malta as a whole has begun to pull up and the conference and incentives sub-sector is widely expected to benefit from the upward trend.
Commenting on the National Statistics Office News release on tourist arrival results for May, Tourism Minister Dr Michael Refalo said that these were very close to the Malta Tourism Authority forecasts.
"As expected the Italian and French markets have made a full recovery from the 11 September impact. UK visitor volume for May, although less than last years all time record, was higher than in 1999 and cumulatively better than in 2000 when the TOSS subsidy scheme was still in operation. Despite the negative conditions prevailing during the first five months of the year UK volume has held up.
With the Dutch and Belgian markets performing on a par with 2001, Germany is the only core market to register a poor performance. However, in this market losses for May were controlled. The last four months of the year should see more German visitors to Malta, I do not expect that the German outgoing market to all destinations will register growth before late 2003."
Minister Refalo said that MTA was already in possession of firm indications for the months of June and July and confirmed earlier predictions that Malta would enjoy a good summer season.
"With seven of the twelve months gone and given no extraordinary problems till the end of the year, I am confident that the Malta Tourism Authority will achieve and even possibly surpass its volume target of 1.1 million."