Aircraft loading passengers against a sunrise

Associations representing the tourism sector have welcomed the Government’s announcement of a recovery plan for the hard-hit economic pillar, expressing satisfaction at the “critical” investment.

The Chamber for SMEs, the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (FATTA) and the Malta Hotel and Restaurant Association (MHRA) have all released positive statements in response to Tuesday’s announcement by Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, where he announced €20 million in aid targeted to specific industries and a plan to aggressively market Malta as a safe destination, with June set as a target date for the full reopening of the sector.

The Chamber of SMEs said that the country was in “dire need of a plan for 2021”, and noted that the restrictions in place, combined with the vaccination strategy, were “clearly working”.

“Many sacrifices have been endured by all and this includes the business community,” it said. “Some businesses have been closed for months and suffered great difficulties during this period.”

It said that is “imperative” that the steps to recovery are taken with great care and are gradual, and insisted that strict rules are followed to ensure that “incoming tourists are not putting our country’s health care situation in danger”.

The SME Chamber believes that Malta now has the necessary experience and infrastructure in place to handle the gradual re-opening of the tourism season appropriately.

FATTA said that it “firmly endorses” the decision to reactivate tourism gradually from next June, and lauded the €20 million in aid and direct commitment, calling the investment “critical” in light of the fierce competition it expects Malta to face with other destinations for meaningful recovery.

FATTA also noted with great satisfaction the news that eighteen airlines will be operating to and from Malta this summer, including four operating for the first time, calling this “a testimony to the significant and tireless efforts of the teams at the Malta Tourism Authority and Malta International Airport”.

Meanwhile, MHRA president Tony Zahra said that although “this has been a catastrophic year for everyone in our industry, we do believe that tourism can, and will, recover from this pandemic”.

Mr Zahra indicated that the MHRA is satisfied with the plan presented by Minister Bartolo, saying it followed “extensive consultation” with MHRA members.

“The MHRA believes that as international travel begins to restart, keeping Malta front and centre in consumers’ minds will be critical. Every destination across the globe has experienced the impact of COVID-19 and will be seeking their share of the recovery.”

“Now is the right time for Malta to punch through the noise and create an immediate desire to visit. Flexibility, above all, will be key.”

The three organisations praised the health authorities’ efforts and credited them for the rapidly falling number of infections.

However, all three appealed to everyone to continue being responsible and not lower their guard, with Mr Zahra noting that “the sooner we manage to control the COVID-19 spread, the sooner we can relaunch our businesses, which cannot afford to remain closed for the sake of their investors, employees and patrons.”

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