The Prime Minister’s rallying cry on Sunday for people to be positive has raised the ire of businessmen in the leisure industry, who have had to suffer one of the worst winters ever.
“If we were not positive we would have long shut down our businesses,” the President of the Hospitality and Leisure Division of the GRTU, Philip Fenech told The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday.
Taking umbrage at the Prime Minister’s comments, Fenech said that the leisure industry has had to face both natural and government induced hardships.
“We are the people who know what is happening because we live at shop floor level and feel the economic pulse. We are positive and looking forward to better times but there is a difference between being positive and not really knowing what is happening around you thinking that success is just round the corner. The latter attitude is dreaming not being positive,” Fenech told this newspaper.
The GRTU leisure division president said industry was looking forward to summer with crossed fingers. “We hope to recoup the cumulative losses we have had to suffer during the weak winter months,” Fenech said.
“The very cold winter did not help us but there were other issues that contributed to the bad season. The smoking issue also contributed to the problems of the leisure industry. Because of the ban people not only kept away from bars but even the dynamic of how people congregate in bars changed. Instead of spending money at the bar, smoking and talking with friends, patrons just moved in and out of establishments.
“The lack of disposable income also contributed to the ills the industry had to face. People who have lost their first or even second job, coupled with an increased domestic cost base have prevented people from spending as usual on entertainment. The water and electricity surcharge, the increase in VAT, the eco tax and other Government induced measures have eroded people’s incomes.”
Fenech said tourism was extremely low for the middle segment of the market, which is the maintenance dose for the majority of services in the industry.
“All we need is to bring over 400,000 tourists distributed during quieter periods, this will give hotels the sustainability they need and it will kick start the leisure industry in its totality. If this happens it will bring money inflows into the economy, more income through tax collection for government, employment and will stimulate the full retail chain. Is it that difficult to work on an intensive programme to attain these goals?” Fenech asked.
Industry has invested millions to improve the product offered to tourists and Maltese patrons alike, Fenech remarked. “We have adopted a positive approach in the face of difficulty. It is now Government’s turn to play its cards and do something positive for the sector,” he said.