Editorial | MTA should drive quality tourism through better supervision

The tourist numbers thus far are encouraging and all entities must pull the same rope to ensure this important industry continues to grow


Malta International Airport’s figures for the third quarter show an increase of 9.6% in passenger numbers when compared to the same period in 2019.

The increase shows that tourism has not only recovered but is now exceeding pre-COVID levels.

October’s top markets were Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain. While Italy (+47%), France (+53%) and Spain (+3%) outperformed their respective 2019 results, the UK (-17%) and Germany’s (-23%) slow recoveries continued into October.

The numbers are encouraging because they point towards overall growth in tourist arrivals, a situation that is likely to persist in 2024.

Tourism is a mainstay of Malta’s export economy and no effort must be spared in ensuring the country remains an attractive, safe and vibrant destination.

In doing so, however, the government must ensure that the country’s infrastructure matches the ambition to have a thriving tourist sector.

In this sense, it is commendable how MIA is leading the way by investing in apron and terminal expansion to continue meeting future demand. In the first nine months, this investment amounted to €16.8 million.

Similarly, government must ensure that its capital investment programme goes to improve the country’s infrastructure from roads to the electricity distribution network, to sewage treatment and liveable and enjoyable open public spaces. This investment does not only benefit the tourism sector but more importantly, the residents of this island.

Within this context, the reduction of €9.5 million in the budget of the Malta Tourism Authority for 2024 seems to jar in the face of a growing industry.

But MHRA chief Tony Zahra, interviewed today, does not believe the budget cut will impact tourism growth next year.

If such a budget cut helps to make the subsidy on energy and fuel more sustainable, he argues, the tourist industry would in fact benefit more.

Without saying as much, the Finance Minister’s decision to cut MTA’s budget is a sign that the entity had a lot of access fat that accumulated over the years.

The MTA should focus its energy on regulating the tourism sector to ensure operators are up to standard. If Malta wants to up its game, the MTA’s regulatory and supervisory function must be beefed up. If need be, the MTA should transfer its resources from the marketing function – where its primary aim should be to support efforts of the private sector and entities such as MIA – to the regulatory and supervisory function.

Quality tourism is not just about having higher-spending visitors but having establishments in Malta that deliver to the standard they promise their clients.

In this manner the MTA must adopt a pro-active role to ensure hotels, Airbnb accommodation, restaurants, entertainment outlets, transport services, booking agencies, tourist guides, and other operators that service the tourist industry are functioning according to service levels determined by their respective regulators.

Return tourism and the island’s attractiveness also depend on the experience visitors have while in Malta and it is the MTA’s role to ensure that this experience is positive across the board.

Coupled with this, MTA and MIA must endeavour to increase seat capacity on different routes because accessibility will always remain a major challenge for an island State.

The tourist numbers thus far are encouraging and all entities must pull the same rope to ensure this important industry continues to grow.   

More in People