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The organisation representing Gozo’s tourism interests has published its proposals for the Budget 2022, where it calls for the development of a water park and a theme park in Gozo to increase the destination’s attractiveness, among other measures.

The Gozo Tourism Association’s submission features 23 proposals across five priority areas: inter-island connectivity, fiscal measures, the product, marketing and human resources.

These also include the development of more sports facilities, including an athletics track and training camp facilities, which it suggests can be incorporated in one holistic project, greater investment in diving sites, cheaper ferry fares during winter, a dedicated cargo vessel, and the development of the ITS Gozo Campus into a specialised vocational tourism institution that caters not only for Gozitans but also for Maltese and foreign students who opt to follow specific courses.

Fiscal measures include a reduction in VAT applied to cultural events and facilities, the waiving of all licence fees for 2022 payable by MTA-licensed establishments and operators (in lieu of the wage supplement, due to expire in December), and the ring-fencing of the ECO contribution collected in Gozo to be invested directly in the upgrade of the Gozitan tourism product.

In an accompanying press release, the lobby group said that Gozo needs to look “forward and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic”, noting that while the effects of the pandemic need to continue being mitigated, stakeholders must also focus on “a proper restart and recovery”.

“These proposals are intended to serve as mitigating measures which are still needed at this stage, as well as other measures encompassing medium to long term actions which should assist in the recovery of tourism and establish it back to its former position prior to COVID,” it said.

It explained that the proposals are based on a preliminary assessment of the major adverse effects of the pandemic on the Gozitan tourism sector, which saw a 78 per cent drop in foreign tourist arrivals in Gozitan accommodation when compared to the same period of 2019.

Domestic demand did much to alleviate the problem, with the number of domestic arrivals increasing significantly by 61.8 per cent.

“It is in this context that once again the Gozo Tourism Association is putting forward these Budget proposals, which it is hoped will be favourably considered in the upcoming Budget 2022,” it concluded.

The full list of proposals submitted by the Gozo Tourism Association are:

INTER-ISLAND CONNECTIVITY

Airlink

The building and developing of the necessary infrastructure, including an 800-metre airstrip that can accommodate the landing and take-off of a 20-seater fixed wing aircraft.

Sealink

Reduced Gozo Channel ferry fares from Monday to Thursday during the winter months to entice the domestic market during weekdays.

A scheme by Gozo Channel in conjunction with accommodation providers offering reduced ferry fares and special offers for particular weekends during the period November to March.

Provide and re-introduce, in addition to the four existing ferries, another ferry dedicated for cargo to operate all year round between Mgarr and Cirkewwa. This ferry will release the MV Gaudos from cargo transportation, allowing two more hoistable decks to be installed on this ferry.

Cruises

The necessary infrastructural investment in a cruise berthing buoy off Xlendi Bay, and off Mgarr harbour in order to offer alternative berthing facilities around the West and South coast of Gozo.

The repair, maintenance and upgrade of the Mgarr landing quay to offer an enhanced welcome to visiting cruise passengers.

FISCAL

As per EU Directive 2001/112/EC Article 98.1 & 98.2, the VAT applicable for admission to shows, theatres, fairs, amusement parks, concerts, museums, cinemas, conferences, exhibitions and similar cultural events and facilities should be adjusted from 18 per cent to 7 per cent.

The waiving of all license fees for 2022 payable by all MTA licensed establishments payable and including MTA (Operating Licenses), REWS (Swimming Pool Licenses), Lands Authority (Encroachment Fees) and Transport Malta (Transport Vehicles and pleasure boats licenses), this in lieu of the wage supplement which is being phased out by December 2021.

Ring-fencing of the ECO contribution collected from Gozitan Tourism Establishments to be re-invested directly in the upgrade of the tourism product in Gozo.

THE PRODUCT

Gozo

The updating and the implementation of the Gozo Diving Master Plan, carried out through EU co-financing way back in 2006 by the Ministry for Gozo.

The continuation of upkeep on regular basis of the rural roads leading to self-catering accommodation for easier access, especially during wintertime.

Include in the remit of the Intervention Team within the Ministry for Gozo, the ownership, maintenance, and management of several tourist spots like the Qbajjar Promenade, the Three Hills Garden in Marsalforn, the Villa Rundle Gardens, Zewwieqa Waterfront, country walk paths, dive sites etc.

The development of a water park and a theme park in Gozo.

The development of more sports facilities including an athletics track and training camp facilities that can be incorporated in one holistic project at the Ta’ Xhajma Race Track.

Accommodation

The fast tracking of the necessary amendments to the Tourism Act (1999) preferably by the beginning of the summer season 2022, to reflect today’s tourism product.

Upgrading of Tourism Establishments

A scheme available to all MTA-licensed tourism establishments to cater for the upgrading of their product. This scheme can be partially financed by specific EU funds.

MARKETING

The continuation of an aggressive international targeted marketing campaign to support awareness of Destination Gozo during winter 2022.

Create, offer, support and entice new niches like adventure, activity, sports, walking and well-being in the absence of the cultural calendar, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The re-introduction of the vouchers scheme to be launched after the winter period covering the period March to May 2022.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Training schemes during the winter months aimed at improving knowledge and skills in the tourism industry, including training in soft skills and languages, while encouraging retention of employees during off-peak months, sustained through grants coupled with employer and employee full NI Credit.

Scheme targeted towards foreign employees to integrate better through the learning of the Maltese or English Languages, as well as local regulations and the history and culture of the Maltese Islands.

A scheme that encourages employees and owners already in the tourism sector to obtain Post-graduate Certification, Post-graduate Diploma, and Master of Science in Hospitality Management.

Develop the ITS Gozo Campus into a specialised vocational tourism institution that caters not only for Gozitans but also for Maltese and foreign students who opt to follow specific courses.

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