27 NOVEMBER 2002
"We should be proud of our product, enthusiastic about our tourism industry, innovative in our approach and hospitable in our attitude. But most of all we must, all and without any exception, own this industry!" MTA Chairman Dr John C. Grech said at the opening of the Malta Tourism Authoritys fourth annual conference entitled Three Years of Achievements A Review of the Malta Tourism Authoritys Performance held last Thursday at the San Gorg Corinthia.
During his address, Dr Grech traced the Malta Tourism Authoritys strategy to establish a unique value proposition for the Maltese islands and the repackaging of the Malta product. "We embarked on the building of a Malta brand which could capture the imagination of the international traveller and which could win the hearts and minds of consumers. Malta started being presented as an experience."
Dr Grech mentioned the removal of TOSS as a difficult but necessary decision. "Malta was offering the same product as competing destinations but a discounted price. We did not see a future for Maltese tourism in this scenario."
The new brand promise had to be sustained by an improvement in Maltas tourism offer. Thus the MTA, Dr Grech explained, "embarked on a programme of initiatives aimed at upgrading the product."
Referring to the current situation, Dr John C. Grech said that "we are containing the downward trend arising from having had an uncompetitive product, whilst substituting this product with a more competitive one," emphasising the fact that this inferred the overlapping of two concurrent processes.
"We are containing the impact and aftermath of 11 September 2001 events on the industry. We are strengthening Maltas position in the core markets and opening the scope of our marketing efforts. We are establishing the new Malta brand image overseas. Travellers and operators are realising that Malta does have a flavour of its own."
"The future of Maltas tourism industry lies in a differentiated product, one that travellers would choose as a destination, rather than one they are lure to by last-minute discounts. Malta has to be sold on the strength of its own characteristics, which together constitute the Malta brand. This is the only way forward."
He stressed the need "to deliver the product we are offering - we cannot afford to let one single visitor down."
"We need to manage well our environment, tackle the waste problem and embellish our surroundings. The challenges we face as a country and as a destination require national effort that requires the input of each and every one of us. Our quality of life not to mention the quality of the visitors experience is at stake here."
Finally, Dr Grech commented that "we need to promote what is Maltese and place it in the context of our Mediterranean heritage, historical role and national profile."
In his presentation, the MTAs Chief Executive, Mr Leslie Vella, gave a detailed account of the Authoritys achievements during the last three years.
Mr Vella said that with the removal of TOSS, the MTA had directed more of its efforts and resources towards reaching the final consumer directly, while the visitmalta.com web-site, which has been visited by close to one million internet users, was providing opportunities for direct bookings. Meanwhile, the MTA was working to consolidate Maltas major source markets whilst developing emerging markets.
The Authority was also working together with Air Malta and other operators in order to safeguard accessibility to the Islands by guaranteeing the crucial element of airline capacity.
With regard to product planning and development, Mr Leslie Vella highlighted the important link between the MTAs action and the Carrying Capacity Assessments "limited growth scenario". This was being achieved by means of new procedures for development, the support to improvements to historical sites and interpretation facilities within these sites as well as the upgrading of other tourist-frequented areas in conjunction with the relevant authorities.
The MTA has also undertaken responsibility for the direct tourism product. This has involved the development of standards to improve the physical tourism plant as well as licensing based on these standards.
The MTA, said Mr Vella, has managed to build links with and support other players who have a direct influence on the tourism product, such as local councils, authorities and government ministries. "However there are still limitations in terms of jurisdiction over aspects of the overall tourism product."
The MTA Chief Executive referred to the added value which will accrue to the tourist as a result of improvements in service quality. Customer orientation was the underlying philosophy behind the MTAs tourist information offices, its customer service unit and the training and development programmes which it implements in relation to employees in the tourism and support services sectors.
On enforcement, Mr Vella said that the objective of the MTA is to enhance the tourists experience in Malta by ensuring that tourism suppliers provide their services as stipulated by the relevant legislation. "The MTA adopts an approach of educating and advising on good practices whilst penalising offenders."
MTA Strategic Planning Senior Manager Marie Louise Mangion spoke about the MTAs performance in the context of the Authoritys strategic planning process
The MTAs directors also delivered presentations detailing their activities in the fields of product planning and development, marketing and promotion, enforcement, human resources and support services and the internet.
The afternoon session was devoted to a discussion on the theme of the conference and the mornings presentations.
Tourism Minister Dr Michael Refalo closed the conference.
An added feature of this years conference was the presence of booths hosting representatives of the MTAs overseas network who were available to discuss with delegates aspects of the Authoritys work in the various source markets and to answer any queries they might have on market conditions, possibilities for co-operation and other issues related to specific markets.
Annual conference participants also had the opportunity of visiting an exhibition detailing the MTAs achievements to date.