Despite a “fairly encouraging” final quarter to the year, where arrivals reached 62 per cent of those registered in the same quarter in 2019, 2021 saw only 35 per cent of the total arrivals in 2019.

These figures come as a result of a new survey conducted by Deloitte on behalf of the the Malta Hospitality and Restaurants Association (MHRA).

They showed a disappointing year which nonetheless saw arrivals surpass 2020 levels by 46.9 per cent.

A generally increased average length of stay resulted in actual guest nights spent by tourists in Malta in the final quarter of the year reaching a promising 74 per cent of 2019 levels or 12 percentage points higher than the same comparison for overall tourist arrivals.

The longer average length of stay registered in 2021 contributed to tourist guest nights for the year reaching 43 per cent of their 2019 level.

Despite the longer stays in Q4, daily spending decreased, by an average of 15 per cent. However, these cancelled each other out, and tourist expenditure reached 65 per cent of 2019 levels, compared to the 62 per cent reported for tourist arrivals.

For the full year, average daily spend by tourists in 2021 was on par with average daily spend in 2019 and the longer average stay contributed to total tourist expenditure reaching 39 per cent of 2019 levels compared to the aforementioned comparative 35 per cent of tourist arrivals.

Hotel performance

In terms of occupancy rate for hotels, the performance depended on the grade of the hotel.

Five star hotels achieved occupancy rates of 52 per cent in the final quarter of the year, up from the 35 per cent recorded on a year-to-date basis. This annual figure was 52.2 per cent lower than the 67 per cent registered in 2019.

Four-star hotels registered an average occupancy rate for the final quarter of 2021 of 59 per cent, compared to the annual rate of 40 per cent. In 2019, this figure was 49.4 per cent.

In terms of room prices, five star hotels recorded a slightly increased average rate in the final quarter, up to €176, compared to €160 in 2019, and €191 for the whole of 2021.

Four star rooms also reported an increase in average daily rates compared to 2019, climbing by 3.9 per cent in the final quarter, to reach €80 per day.

At €86, the average daily rate for 2021 as a whole was 6.5 per cent below 2019.

A combination of improved rate, reduced costs and COVID wage supplement enabled five star hotels to register a gross operating profit of €6,169 for the quarter – 98 per cent of Q4 2019 GOP.

On a year-to-date basis, 5-star hotel registered a GOPAR (gross operating profit per available room) of €11,043 or 41.9 per cent of 2019 levels.   

Four star hotels registered a Q4 gross operating profit of €2,925k compared to €3,117 in Q4 2019 

On a year-to-date basis, 4-star hotels registered a GOPAR of €6,156, 44.8 per cent of 2019 levels.

An optimistic outlook but further rule relaxation needed

The report was released at an event on Thursday morning.

Commenting on the report, MHRA President Tony Zahra stated that challenges for the tourism sector are not yet over, but that the fact tourism is a resilient sector allow for optimistic forecasts.

The leader found this to be encouraging, but he also emphasised that it is crucial that Malta remains competitive as a destination in and therefore that the Government removes the remaining COVID restrictions “immediately.”

Indeed, the Government is already taking steps to relax the few remaining COVID restrictions.

For example, as of this week, passengers have been able to travel to the country with a negative COVID test or recovery certificate in lieu of a vaccine certificate.

Additionally, the country’s COVID red list, which dictates countries from where isolation can be avoided for arrivals, was extended by five new countries on Monday.

Mr Zahra also recognised the efforts made by both the Government and MHRA members to keep the industry afloat during a very difficult period, and emphasises that such synergy needs to remain to overcome the highly challenging months ahead for a sustainable recovery.

All charts courtesy MHRA

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