Gozo Tourism Association (GTA) has urged for the introduction of a fiscal incentive scheme aimed at restoring existing traditional properties into new residential homes and boutique hotels.
This comes after it released a list of proposals for Budget 2024 on Thursday, in which it highlighted that it does not want Gozo to “become another smaller Malta”. GTA reaffirmed that Gozo should remain an “island of villages”, and so planning and environmental policies that are applicable for Malta “are not necessarily fitting for Gozo”.
The aforementioned proposal seeks to bring traditional buildings “back to life” in a sustainable manner through the use of already-occupied land.
Government re-launched the €5 million restoration scheme “Irrestawra Darek” last May, in a bid to help property owners restore facades of residences in village core areas. This is valid for residents who have their home within an urban conservation area (UCA) or is a scheduled Grade One or Two building, and will see them receive a full refund for eligible restoration works done. This is capped at €11,000 for residences in UCAs and €16,000 for scheduled Grade One or Two residences.
Additionally, GTA also called for the removal of all fiscal incentives on sales of buildings and land for development into apartment buildings, thus helping Gozo remain “distinct” and retain its “unique island identity”.
The island has been subject to plenty of debate over recent years when it comes to overdevelopment, amid fears that it may be heading in the same direction as the overpopulated mainland.
“GTA believes that whilst encouraging investment in sustainable infrastructural projects and developments that add more value to the product of Gozo, careful attention should be given in order not to commit some of the mistakes experienced in the past on the mainland, and to a lesser extent on Gozo itself,” the association said. It proceeded to emphasise the need for a “balance” between the environment and any future touristic development to “keep on upgrading” Gozo’s product and “widening” its touristic offer.
GTA also proposed the extension of incentives in all vernacular and postwar properties including UCA where the buyer undertakes to “preserve the integrity of the property, respecting and not exceeding the surrounding traditional village heights”.
“For GTA the environment and the natural characteristics of Gozo are the primary propositions in the touristic offer of our little island. Apart from presenting an organised, clean and well-maintained destination, the upkeep and the protection of our environment signifies and ensures that Gozo will be an island where islanders live, work, and prosper within a strong, thriving, healthy community,” it added.
Aside from proposals related to the environment and development, GTA also urged for the building of a new fourth ferry to replace the MV Nikolaos, together with the commencement of the development of the Gozo Airfield to have a fixed wing airlink between Gozo and Malta.
A proposal has also been put forward for the introduction of an integrated ticketing system to enable travellers to commute through the fast ferry service, Gozo Channel service, and Malta Transport service by using a single common ticket.
GTA also highlighted the need for a grant scheme for local students who decide to work in Gozitan tourism establishments during weekends of holidays. It also called for the start of courses targeting foreign employees to learn basic Maltese and English, together with the history and culture of the Maltese Islands.
It also urged Government to ensure that the public sector is “no longer in competition” with the private sector when it comes to the recruitment of employees by providing “favourable and unmatchable working conditions”.
In proposals related to marketing and promotion, GTA requested the provision of assistance and incentives to small touristic establishments to set up their respective websites. It also urged for the re-introduction of the Extended Gozo Stays scheme, which provides travellers with a discount of up to €300 when they book a 10-day or more stay in Gozo for between October and March.
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