News | Wednesday, 06 January 2010

A new year, fresh outlooks and hopes

Julian Zarb

The New Year is already six days old, nearly one week gone of the total fifty two! And already the controversies have started. Only two days ago we heard that a deal was struck between a consortium of business operators and Scicluna Estates to re open the old Trade Fair Grounds again; now this should be a very welcome deal that may help in developing a new concept in promoting fair and exhibition centres which are an important niche in the CIT and MICE tourism. But instead we have heard nothing but criticism and (at least, in my opinion) a bad case of sour grapes! Tourism will be on the mend very soon, it always does make a comeback after any negative situation; look at what happened after 9.11; we all thought that the travel industry was doomed to an untimely grave, but it was back and in many ways stronger for the experience. It will be the same after this recession has run its course; both consumers and businesses should have realized what changes need to be made to the image and experience of tourism and this slow down in demand certainly hammered the message home. But my main worry is, has it has the same effect here? We seem to be playing out our roles in a “Business-as-usual” fashion, in many ways oblivious to the whole global aspect!
At the very moment when we should be working together , to improve the marketing process from the inception of a number of innovative ideas right through to the promotion of that idea as part of a campaign to attract the visitor who really wants to be here, instead we are blaming each other for marginal decreases in an, already, horizontal growth pattern! We need to get serious about the tourism industry; we should sit back and take a good long look at the huge concoction we have put together over the last forty years in an effort to attract just 1.1 million visitors out of a potential of 400 million visitors to the Mediterranean!
When I say we need to work together, I am not just talking of a national campaign of awareness and synergies, I am talking of working with other destinations in this region to help in our global competitive targets by ensuring that the main attractions for the Med are not just based on the “Sun and Sea” image but more on the diversity of cultures, history and characteristics that are found in all countries which border the land locked sea. The Meditteranean region including many Southern European destinations are considered as mature tourism zones that are in need of regeneration and re packaging. Malta and Gozo’s image as the sun and sea playground of the British is a thing of the past; our impressive defence of the Central Mediterranean during the second world war is seen as a “Legendary” event by today’s generation of tourist. It is high time that we looked at more unique and original ideas to promote the Malta –Gozo Experience, and this will not happen if we choose to bicker amongst ourselves at the sight of some new idea or innovation from one party or the other!
There are a number of ideas we can work on together during 2010; take for example the numerous packages for CIT and MICE that should leave a good taste of the destination for a more in depth visit; or perhaps there is the entertainment world of music, culture and theatre that can provide a good reason for experiencing the diversity of the Med at all seasons of the year! I am certain if we really put our heads together we can come up with loads of other ideas, if we choose to continue to work as a dysfunctional unit then I can only predict that we may end the year in two ways: either complacent about our status quo and marginal improvements (the laissez faire culture) or distraught that we missed the boat (pun was intended) of new opportunities in an ever changing global market. We will see in 51 weeks, I am sure!


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06 January 2010


Malta Today


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