The Nationalist Party (PN) has unveiled a 100-point plan for the tourism sector which it says serves both the immediate and the future needs of the sector, introducing measures relating to both specific industries and the wider touristic product offered by the country.
Noting the deep impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector, the PN said that tourism is an essential part of Maltese life, directly or indirectly affecting the livelihoods of half the Maltese population.
With that in mind, the PN has released a flexible plan, dubbed Strategic Plan 2+8, outlining the way forward in order for the sector to get back to its feet.
The plan includes measures intended for the next two years and others for the subsequent eight years, with PN spokesperson for tourism Robert Arrigo stressing that the next two years will be crucial.
“We’ve shown how serious the situation is by drawing up this plan. We need to see a commitment to a safe, connected and quality tourism sector.”
The PN’s plan first looks at the way Malta is marketed, promising a €25,000 grant to operators conducting marketing campaigns abroad, particularly in the case of campaigns targeting niche sectors.
Connectivity is also addressed, with the PN proposing that airlines are subsidised to the tune of €10 per seat in summer and €20 per seat in winter, based on a three-year contract with a minimum of two flights per week.
The document also says that Air Malta should remain the major player in any tourism strategy for Malta, with connectivity by sea another area the PN wishes is given more importance over the coming years.
Accommodation & Catering
Regarding accommodation and catering, the PN proposes that all taxes due for these two years are instead paid over a period of five years up to 2027, softening the blow on businesses’ cashflow.
The PN also suggests that property owners who renounced rent payments from tourism operators during the recovery period should receive tax credits.
Meanwhile, buildings in traditional localities could be refurbished and rebranded as hostels while retaining their historical characteristics, offering tourists the chance to “live like a local”.
Holiday accommodation like farmhouses and villas should also be subject to a clear regulation and classification system to establish certain standards.
Owners of such properties should be encouraged to place them on the short-let market, the PN said, as they attract higher-spending tourists.
Other measures included in relation to this sector is a reduction in the VAT rate for bars and restaurants to seven per cent, matching that of accommodation, and the development of new, well-maintained camping spaces with services and amenities.
Turning to other operators, the plan addresses hard-hit English Language Teaching (ELT) schools, which the PN believes should be formally licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority.
The plan suggests that the industry should also be supported through a €50 weekly grant for students coming to Malta, up to a maximum of €600 per student.
The Party said that Malta could also be promoted as an ideal destination for walking, trekking, cycling, and water sports.
It also believes that, by 2025, any tourist rental vehicles available in Malta should be electric.
It said that coaches, open-top buses, taxis and boats, which mainly serve the tourism sector, should have their license payments suspended for 18 months.
The PN also called for longer opening hours for museums, along with incentives for tourist guides.
On tourism infrastructure, the plan includes a proposal for the creation of a development board including all stakeholders to guide investment in places like Paceville, Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay, including through the development of high-quality shopping and entertainment complexes.
An app should also be developed for tourists to be able to find a calendar of events, as well as information about walking and trekking routes and locations of interesting places.
For Gozo, the Party proposes a “Green Gozo” scheme whereby the island would be promoted as a destination for adventure and sports besides other established niches.
Meanwhile, transport between the airport and Gozo should be facilitated through the introduction of a co-ordinated transport system between Luqa and Cirkewwa, while the existing ferries crossing the Gozo channel should be replaced by hybrid ones.
Gastronomy was also high on the Party’s agenda, with proposals for gastro tours, a “made in Malta” badge for local products, farmers’ markets like those found in London and Barcelona, and the organisation of an International Food Festival which would invite world-renowned chefs to join local ones in working with Maltese food and produce.
The sector continues to require an influx of skilled labour, so the PN recommends that hospitality be included as a subject in the national curriculum, with instruction in the topic offered all levels.
To further professionalise the sector, the PN also suggests that all operators should be subject to a formal licensing process following the completion of a 40-hour training programme.
All these should be supported by a rigorous response to COVID-19, with the establishment of two testing centres in Malta, along with another one in Gozo, to facilitate tourist testing.
The PN also called for mandatory vaccine passports and a 1st June deadline for all those working in the tourism to be fully vaccinated against the virus.
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