Good news for the holiday island of Malta has come in droves recently, following a period of decline in visitor numbers.
Commenting upon the findings, local travel guide YourMalta say that while the spending per passenger while in Malta is small compared to holidaymakers, it's an important contribution to the island's economy.
'The spend is estimated at around US $10,000,000. And while this represents an average of around $40 a passenger, and holidaymakers spend considerably more, an important factor is that over 80 per cent of passengers would consider stopping at Malta again, and potentially that's a good number who would consider a land based holiday in the future.'
The good news for Malta doesn't stop at increased numbers of cruise passengers, as low cost airlines have recently started flying to the island.
'It's been a while since we've been able to say this,' comment YourMalta, 'but there are exciting times ahead for the Malta holiday industry. As well as the good news on passenger numbers from cruise ships, low cost airlines have started flying in passengers and it should boost the number of new tourists quite significantly in 2007.'
The turnaround in the Malta tourist indusry's fortunes has come just in time according to some travel experts.
Hotel and holiday numbers have been declining consistently, and in late spring 2006 rumours were circulating on the island that one of the major UK travel companies were about to withdraw Malta from their 2007 brochures, with the worry that if others followed suit Malta would be relegated from mainstream to niche travel status.
The pessimism of 2006 has been replaced by optimism for 2007 as new low cost airlines have already started delivering passengers to the island, with some estimates suggesting that close to 100,000 visitors extra is on the cards for the year ahead.
'There is a possibility', comment YourMalta, 'That the introduction of the low cost airlines flying to Malta will merely delay the long term decline of the island's tourist industry. Unless money is spent on the infrastructure and improving the environment for the tourists generally there is a danger that a lot of visitors will be one-off. If there's a lesson to be learned in Malta that the government and her agencies have failed to grasp it is that sustainable tourism is built on repeat visitors. At the moment a lot of visitors from the UK see Malta as a one-off trip'.
As well as Ryanair, it was hoped that easyjet would also start services to Malta, but the latest reports are that talks have failed to produce an agreement. Brighter news has come from the island's flag carrier, Air Malta though.
As well as at one stage selling two tickets a minute in a recent promotion the airline is starting a new service from Liverpool next year.
The property market will also be keeping a close eye on tourist numbers now that the new flights have been given the green light. If visitor numbers do drop in the medium term it could be good news for locals looking to buy their first property.
There has been some discontent on the island about the rising prices of property in Malta, and with less overseas buyers the possibility of prices falling and more islanders being able to get on the property ladder could be welcome news, as today's tourist is often tomorrow's property buyer.
But now that low cost airlines are going to start offering flights to Malta, this could help the Malta hotels and holiday market as more people consider three and four day breaks instead of the traditional week or fortnight, boosting the overall number of visitors, especially if Air Malta and the low cost airlines bring the cost of Malta flights to levels seen for the Spanish islands.
Malta has traditionally seen the majority of her visitors from the UK, but this could be changing to a more diverse mix in future years.
Last year saw a record number of visitors from Italy, and increased enquiries have been received at estate agents across the island from Scandanvia, Holland, France and Belgium, helping to increase the demand for Malta properties.