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. Libyas 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
The landscaping experience needs to be extended to other areas. Maltas
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 Maltas 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
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.