NewswireToday - /newswire/ -
Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom, 2006/10/22 - A leading tour operator has announced an expansion of its Malta programme, in response to growing demand for the island. It comes as a surprise to some in the tourist industry, and flies in the face of evidence showing a decline in tourism.
The announcement by a major UK tour operator that it is to expand its operations in Malta as a response to increased demand has caught some in the island's holiday and hotel industry by surprise.
The news from MyTravel comes after an agreement with Air Malta to increase flight capacity to the island for its customers. The MyTravel Group, one of the best known and popular UK holiday companies, includes Airtours and Direct Holidays.
The Malta Tourist Authority have greeted the news by saying that the holiday company are increasingly aware of Malta as a holiday destination and that visitor numbers would be increasing in 2007.
Malta destination guide YourMalta.com were as surprised as anyone that MyTravel were increasing capacity for Malta.
'2006 has not been a good year for the Malta tourist industry', they say. 'Overall figures could show a drop of around 100,000 visitors in 2006 compared to 2005. There hasn't been much optimism lately that 2007 will be a lot better for the island, but there are new low cost flights which could help stabilise the number of holidaymakers next year, and with Air Malta doing good promotions and starting a new route from Liverpool perhaps next year will see a long awaited turnaround in the island's fortunes. MyTravel are a good well respected company and if they think Malta is going to be in demand perhaps there is real hope'.
Good news for Malta also came from a report by US travel writer Laura McKenzie, who ranked Malta as one of the top five destinations in the world for tourists in the world.
Hotel and resort owners had watched the Maltese government earlier this year drag the negotiations out with the low cost airlines for some time, with delays in agreements losing Malta the potential of having extra tourists for this past summer season. And with a report showing that Malta could be an expensive location for 2007 holidays compared to the Spanish islands, the news from MyTravel is helping to instil a sense of optimism for the 2007 season.
'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.