02 July 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

Toon this week: Flying south for the summer

Wake up Malta

The news that Libya will be investing some Lm2.7 billion to upgrade its tourism offer, particularly along its northern coastline, should give all our tourism authorities the heebie-jeebies.
Libya enjoys an unspoilt coastal environment stretching over 1,000 kilometres. The Arabs are not traditionally swimmers or fisherman and Libya also enjoys an archaeological heritage to be envied. Libya’s disadvantages have included its political image, but this is changing slowly as Ghaddafi mellows and becomes more West friendly.
Malta would do well to recognise that it must take steps to improve its tourism offer if it is not to fall behind its competitors.
The public private partnership scheme that has embellished public areas is an indication that given the right structures government employees can deliver.
The landscaping experience needs to be extended to other areas. Malta’s economy, after a short post-election flutter, has stuttered and come to a standstill. Despite all the advertising and marketing efforts, tourism arrivals continue to hover around normal numbers and even decreased over the first three months of the year. The MHRA has intimated that we need to increase those numbers to 1.5 million yearly for our hotels to break even. This is not a warning to be taken lightly.
A government investment is tourism infrastructure is long overdue. Beaches remain extremely dirty, and ill equipped. Roads in tourism areas, as has been recently demonstrated, are in a deleterious state.
Despite commitments to avoid construction activity during certain hours in preferred tourism spots, the Islands still resemble a building site.
Every improvement to our tourism offer costs money, but certain ameliorations should more than provide a return on investment. It is almost inconceivable that another summer has started and most, if not all, of our popular beaches are not serviced without all the basic amenities.
Each popular beach – and we can boast a very few compared to Libya, for example - should be serviced with public toilets, showers (using second class water), kiosks or bars that sell reasonably priced food and drinks, first aid equipment and coast guards.
Some of our more popular beaches do not have rubbish bins that are emptied promptly and some of our local beach concessionaires are making a reputation for themselves that will only scare tourists off. The practice of covering public beaches with deckchairs that can only be used at a price and charging tourists 50 cents, or more, for a small glass of cola can only scare them off.
Action should be taken to ensure that no litter is left after the thousands of the barbecues organised on Malta’s beaches nightly.
In the 1960s it was popular to cover rocky beaches with concrete paths. That practice was stopped when it was realised that the concrete was destroying our environment. Since then, no more paths have been laid. Surely it makes perfect sense to have new wooden paths to the sea constructed.
Many private beaches in Malta do offer amenities that reach acceptable levels. There is no reason why our public beaches should not do the same.
It is not, unfortunately, only our beaches that need upgrading. Several of our historical sites, including the oldest free standing temples of the world, are not presented in a way that compliments their importance. The value of these sites has been recognised time and again over the years, and why they have not been upgraded is almost incomprehensible.
Our beaches and our historic sites remain two of our most valuable assets, yet their value has been depreciating over the years. It should not take Ghaddafi or Libya to make these olds Islands awake from their slumber, the reasons for doing so are plain to see for all.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, 2 Cali House, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 02, Malta
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail