The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association expressed its concern over the drop in tourists registered throughout the month of January, the second month in a row registering lower turnouts for visitors to the island.
The number of visitors departing from Malta in January dropped by 5.2 per cent compared to the corresponding month of last year. In December 2005 the drop was of 1.9 per cent when compared to December 2004 figures.
The MHRA said the situation was worse when comparing the number of bed nights spent by visitors, which the association said reflected the true performance of the industry. In January, the number of bed nights decreased by 13.2 per cent over the corresponding month last year. The number of nights spent in hotels dropped by 11.3 per cent and accounted for 67.9 per cent of total nights spent. This means that the average bed nights spent by tourists in hotels was 8.62 bed nights compared to 8.86 bed nights for the corresponding month of last year.
When looking at revenue generated, the decrease of Lm1.5 million is equally disappointing, the MHRA said. According to the association the good news is that visitors who came on non-package travel were on the increase with total earnings from this segment going up to Lm4.1 million compared to Lm3.6 million last year.
“The investment by hoteliers in information technology to attract visitors directly is on the increase while the dependence on package tours is slowly decreasing,” the MHRA said.
Average package and non-package money spent by tourists was Lm175.80 compared to Lm177.10 last year.
Statistics gathered by MHRA from AC Nielsen TravelTrack who monitor advance bookings performance and who source over 4,000 UK sales points have reported that at the end of February 2006 Malta was 13 per cent down in forward bookings for summer 2006. Figures for Malta are in the region of 34,556 persons while last year the figure held at end of February 2005 was 39,527. Island markets such as Cyprus, Crete and Rhodes are showing positive increases of one, 27 and 18 per cent respectively. On the other hand Corfu and Zante are both down by three and 17 per cent respectively.
The Balearic Islands are showing positive increases of around 3 per cent while Canary Islands are down around 3 per cent up to end of February.
The Association is concerned that Malta’s decreasing figures of tourists are a negative signal for the industry and every effort should be directed at marketing the island in an innovative manner to attract more tourists. MHRA Council members recently nominated to sit on the Advisory groups are earnestly waiting for the first set of meetings to start working on fresh ideas how to go about marketing the island.
“MHRA is earnestly waiting for the first phase of the branding exercise to be completed so that the whole industry starts adopting the philosophy behind the Branding in their marketing strategies,” the association said.
“The urgency in the upgrading of the Malta product has never been so important as it is today with competition being so vigorous. Any further delay is going to cost our tourism industry irreparable losses, both to those that have invested heavily in hotels and catering establishments and certainly a dent in the island’s economy,” the MHRA said.