05 FEBRUARY 2003

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FTI to stand by commitment to Malta

- Refalo stresses importance of sustainability

Speaking recently at the FTI Hotel Fair, Tourism Minister Michael Refalo commented that while Malta has now overcome the 11 September effect, the country’s tourism sector still has to contend with the threat of war in the Gulf.
Refalo described the potential conflict as "a re-run of 1991 events, only more disastrous, if events take a turn for the worse".
The FTI Hotel Fair saw FTI, one of Germany’s largest tour operators, bring over 200 travel agency owners on a familiarisation visit to Malta and to view Malta’s hotels.
Speaking on incoming results from the high-yielding German market, Refalo comments, "During the last four months Malta’s results from the German market have generally been positive, but one must remember that the last quarter of 2001 was severely affected by the 11 September atrocities and a worsening economic situation in Germany."
Refalo also cited the long working history between destination Malta and FTI, explaining, "We have enjoyed good times as we have had to battle against adversity."
Up to some time ago FTI carried over 100,000 German visitors to Malta - 50 per cent of German visitor total. Since then, its owners sold out to Airtours after FTI went through a bad patch, which had severely affected the German tourism flow to Malta.
Since then, FTI has been restructured and now aims to increase viability rather than concentrate solely on market share.
"This is the second time within a few months that FTI have come to Malta in full force, and I am pleased to welcome Georg Eisenreich again. Mr Eisenreich knows us well and loves Malta. He has placed his trust in Malta as we place our trust in him and in the new FTI that he leads," Refalo explains.
Refalo also recalled how in July last year, during Eisenreich’s last visit to Malta, he had committed FTI to destination Malta, with the Malta Tourism Authority and FTI agreeing on a joint marketing strategy for 2002 to 2005 based on the dual concept of quality and sustainability at all levels.
"As Chairman of the World Tourism Organisation’s Steering Committee for Destination Management, I listen to and understand the worries expressed by government and industry leaders in the world of tourism and I am very much aware that the industry is not only under threat from external forces, but also as a result of past mistakes, from itself," Refalo comments.
Minister Refalo added that he was pleased to hear that FTI’s production will achieve the planned 10,000 target for winter 2002/03 and that summer sales are progressing quite satisfactorily.
The Minister also stressed that sustainability must be tourism’s watchword and that "we must all be strong enough to resist the temptation of quick returns which can only result in long term, irreversible degradation and destitution of the wonderful natural assets with which God has endowed our earth".
The Minister congratulated FTI, part of Europe’s second largest travel company, MyTravel, for endorsing and acting upon the principles of sustainability.
Turning to the current situation in the German market Minister Refalo quoted FVW, Germany’s leading travel digest and magazine, and said that German consumers were holding back from buying their summer holidays despite a wide range of discounts offered to early bookers. "An FVW survey of 500 travel agencies found that only 22% confirmed that discounts had generated sales."
"In volume terms it looks as if the cheaper destinations like Turkey, Bulgaria and Croatia will again do well."
According to FVW a hopeful December has been followed by a January when sales have been slow and 2002 trends appear to be continuing into 2003."
The Minister augured FTI and Malta a good year together and concluded that while Malta and other tourism receiving destinations could do little or nothing to change the course of world events, and must adjust as required, the process of improving destination management and following the principles of sustainable development must continue.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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