Cruise liner tourism seriously
threatened by EU tax protocol
- 180,000 cancellations already for 2004
sight of cruise liners along Vallettas Sea Passenger Terminal
has these days become a very familiar one, with the lucrative sector
adding substantial value to the tourism sector as well as to the pockets
of Valletta shopkeepers and other cottage industries that service the
booming tourism segment.
But this is all set to change come 1 May, if cancellations being reported
by the Malta Federation of Associations of Travel and Tourism Agents
(FATTA) are not reversed.
The cancellations are the result of a European Union tax protocol, which
allows cruise liners to operate their duty-free concessions only if
their itinerary includes a port of call outside the EU.
This major advantage was a key aspect in cruise operators choice
to make Malta a port of call and was enough to offset Maltas competitive
drawbacks in the sphere, such as the high port charges and passenger
As a result of the legislation and Maltas upcoming
EU accession, FATTA said yesterday that it estimates, according to reports
it had received as of yesterday, that no less than 142 regular cruise
calls have already been cancelled for 2004, representing 180,000 passengers.
Considering the fact that just over 375,000 cruise liner passengers
visited Malta over the first 11 months of 2003, the cancellations would
strike a grave blow to the sub-sector, possibly reducing its numbers
by as much as half.
Even worse, FATTA says it appears there would be further cancellations
in the pipeline.
The development, FATTA explains, is a substantial blow to the Malta
Tourism Authority, which has just pioneered the setting up of the Malta
Cruise Network to promote Malta as a cruise liner destination.
The state of affairs is expected to prompt cruise operators to drop
Malta for other, higher profile ports in the EU that, while offering
less appealing tourist attractions, nevertheless offer lower port charges
and passenger taxes.
In a statement issued yesterday, FATTA recalls how in 2002 and earlier
this year, it had informed the Tourism and Foreign Affairs Ministries
of the potential problem that would arise as a result of Maltas
FATTA is now calling on the relevant authorities to review the structure
of charges and taxes associated with port calls for cruise liners with
a view to putting Malta back at competitive levels with its neighbouring