The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) on Tuesday issued a statement where it expressed full support for calls by travel and tourism stakeholders to end all remaining travel restrictions.
“Whilst recognizing efforts spearheaded by the relevant national authorities in managing the spread of the pandemic, the reduction of COVID-19 protocols that have taken place to-date don’t go far enough to reflect the latest developments happening on this front in important source tourism markets and competing destinations.”
MHRA President Tony Zahra said that “patchwork of restrictions do nothing to prevent the spread of COVID but rather unnecessarily complicate the running of operations, leading to delays at the airport and business inefficiencies.”
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen economies reopening. It is time to remove ineffective restrictions and allow people to travel freely,” he added.
MHRA reaffirmed that international travellers are looking for safe destinations which offer the path of least resistance, and “right now despite that we are a safe destination with all the vaccinations carried out we are still considered to be a path of resistance for many travellers”.
This situation is continuing to impact negatively the country’s economic recovery, despite prospects for a pick up of the tourism sector for the coming season are highly positive.
Mr Zahra further added: “The war in Ukraine has created a situation where countries such as Cyprus and Turkey which depended heavily on Russian and Ukrainian tourists will be concentrating their efforts on marketing their products in other source countries most of which are our markets.
“We therefore expect serious competition in these markets and need to be able to compete on a level playing field, making it imperative that such restrictions are removed immediately.”
In its statement, the MHRA is referring to Europe-wide calls for the removal of travel restrictions across the block to facilitate recovery. Local travel and tourism stakeholders have doubled calls for the lifting of restrictions, in view of Malta’s more stringent entry requirements.
Locally, those coming into the country without a valid vaccine certificate are legally required to quarantine. For tourists, this comes with a €1,400 price tag as they would be forced to quarantine for 14-days at a designated hotel. For unvaccinated Maltese residents, an application can be submitted to quarantine for the same period at home.
On Monday, Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg issued a similar call for travel restrictions to be eased, calling out why Malta has gone for a stricter approach than European neighbours.
Competition for summer tourism across Europe will be intense, with local operators not wanting to lose out to other Mediterranean destinations.
Summer 2021 proved to be disappointing for Malta’s tourism stakeholders, after the authorities introduced a requirement for incoming travellers to be fully vaccinated or face a 14-day quarantine period from July 2021. The new rules saw over 6,000 flight bookings cancelled in a week, with the remainder of summer seeing fewer bookings than was initially anticipated.
As the rest of Europe opens up, Malta’s tourism-based businesses are looking to the authorities to provide some breathing room.
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Seat Load Factor also stood strong during the period, with an increase of 6.8% when compared to 2019