Tony Zahra

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) is calling on Government to adopt a holistic approach to national policy making by ensuring that the strategies adopted by individual public authorities are in line with the priorities set out in the National Tourism Policy issued in 2021.

In comments included in its pre-Budget document, set to be published this weekend, the MHRA says that while the “past and present successes” of Malta’s rapid economic growth “must be celebrated”, it is essential that the socio-economic and environmental challenges it presents be addressed.

“Failing to address such challenges has implications for the sustainability of the industry, the tourist experience, and the quality of life for local residents,” it says.

The way forward must embrace a new vision inspired by “doing things better rather than bigger”, the MHRA stresses, noting that this means a revision and prioritisation in planning policies, management and enforcement to deliver “a superior value-added product”.

The hospitality lobby singles out public infrastructure and concerns about the availability and adequacy of human resources as areas requiring particular attention.

Citing a landmark study commissioned by the MHRA and carried out by Deloitte, which caused ripples across the sector and beyond last year, the organisation says that Malta is seeing the effects of pressure on its carrying capacity, “evident in over development, power outages, overpopulation, sewage issues, traffic, and waste accumulation and lack of cleanliness to mention a few.”

An effective response to these issues, it asserts, requires the realignment of national policies and strategies to establish a “coherent policy direction”, underlining the fact that existing ones are often in conflict with one another.

The National Tourism Policy published in 2021, for example, notes the challenge of an oversupply of bed stock, yet national economic development agency Malta Enterprise offers incentives to increase the supply of beds, while the Planning Authority continues to issue permits for large extensions to existing hotels or the construction of new ones.

These policies, it says, are sometimes “diametrically opposite”.

The MHRA is therefore calling on the Government to “immediately rectify” this misalignment, urging for “decisions at the very top to be taken without further delay”.

Therefore, while the focus of the industry thus far has been on attracting and increasing tourist arrivals – a goal which has been achieved with remarkable success – Malta has reached a point where the risks related to overtourism “can no longer be ignored”.

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MHRA President Tony Zahra

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