Carnival season is approaching, which means Gozo is gearing up to receive boatloads of locals arriving from Malta looking to spend the first pandemic-free festivities there since 2021. Pent-up demand, improved connectivity and a growing number of Malta-based residents owning a second home in Gozo are just a few of the factors driving traffic there.

This year Carnival is being held between Thursday 17th February and Tuesday 21st February.

BusinessNow.mt spoke with Joe Muscat, CEO of Gozo Tourism Association to get a better understanding of what the sector is anticipating.

“Carnival is a particular weekend after a long and cold wintery season,’’ started Mr Muscat, “and the Gozitan tourism sector always awaits visitors from the mainland.’’

He explained that the trend to visit Gozo for Carnival only really started in the last two decades, making it a relatively recent phenomenon, and it’s picking up pace.

“Santa Maria used to be the best time for the tourism sector, but now Carnival weekend is competing with it.’’

Santa Maria is a national public holiday celebrated on 15th August and is usually coupled with a number of businesses going on shutdown for days or even weeks, with many workers taking extended leave.

This sentiment was echoed by a spokesperson for Quaint Boutique Hotels, a Gozitan group of hotels spread across five of the island’s localities, “we’re seeing similar demand to August, especially for the period between Friday and Sunday.’’

Joe Muscat added that the hospitality and catering establishments are expecting a busy Carnival weekend, in part due to improved connectivity, “since the fourth ferry was introduced on the Gozo Channel, travelling has become more efficient and waiting times have been cut.” However, Mr Muscat was not pleased with the schedule of the fast ferry service, which has been drastically cut in recent months.

“Carnival is especially popular with the younger demographic,” explained Mr Muscat, highlighting that the spontaneous Carnival celebration in Nadur which culminates on a Saturday is a particular draw.

Not all youths going to Gozo are spending the weekend at a hotel and Mr Muscat also drew attention to non-rented accommodation. He shed light on the fact that there is a growing number of Maltese who own a second property in Gozo, and many of them lend it out to their kids, friends or extended family for Carnival weekend.

“That segment of visitors does not affect the accommodation sector, but affects other outlets, such as retail, catering and other service industries.”

Mr Muscat explained that whenever there’s a public holiday falling on Friday, many individuals take a day off on Thursday and make their way to Gozo and have a long weekend of relaxation on the sister island.

Aside from Carnival, Malta also has a public holiday on 10th February in honour of St Paul’s Shipwreck, and in 2023 it falls on a Friday.

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