Aircraft loading passengers against a sunrise

In March 2022, Malta saw 110,938 people visit the island, 8,562 of which came for business purposes.

The figures bode well for the island’s economic recovery prospects, which relies heavily on tourism.

Despite the war in Ukraine having shocked the world and Europe in particular when it began at the end of February 2022, lower airline seat capacity for flights coming in and out of Malta, widespread inflation limiting people’s disposable income and a general election having taken place in March, tourists were not deterred from visiting the island.

The largest share of tourists, according to National Statistics Office figures, were aged between 25 and 44, representing around 41.3 per cent of all inbound visitors. The next largest share came from those aged 45-64, representing 30.2 per cent. While most of the world has lifted the majority of pandemic related restrictions, older and more vulnerable people may be more hesitant to take holidays abroad, while younger travellers tend to be much less risk averse, as is reflected in the figures.

In another encouraging sign for Malta’s hoteliers, the largest share of guest nights in March 2022, 83.9 per cent, was spent in what the NSO calls ‘rented accommodation’, which refer to hotels, boutique hotels, tourist villages and the like. Short let holiday homes, like those available on AirBnB, fall under ‘other rented accommodation’.

Total tourist expenditure surpassed €80.1 million, the NSO also showed, with average expenditure per night estimated at €108.4.

First three months of the year

While March 2022 clearly showed encouraging signs, when looking at the figures for the first quarter of 2022, total inbound visitors amounted to 235,295, compared to 2019’s Q1 figures which showed 425,892 inbound tourists.

For the first quarter of 2022, this means that almost half the total number of visitors who came to Malta did so in March alone, at 47.15 per cent.

This tallies with the easing of restrictions across Europe. At the start of the year, much of Europe was still experiencing pandemic-related restrictions due to the widespread Omicron variant. As the months rolled on, temperatures warmed and vaccination rates continued to be boosted (in some countries thanks to a de facto mandatory vaccination drive), more countries began opening up and travel started to pick up.

In addition, by end February 2022, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that Malta will recognise WHO-approved vaccines, even if not approved by the Europeam Medicines Agency, together with a negative test on arrival. The lifting of restrictions on bars, restaurants and entertainment venues also meant the country became more appealing to tourists.

Between January and March 2022, total tourism expenditure was estimated at €167.1 million. Total expenditure per capita stood at €710, decreasing from €916 in 2021.

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