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Despite the cancellation of Gozo Carnival festivities in 2021 due to COVID-19, Gozo accommodation owners appear to be experiencing increased demand for bookings during that period.

Carnival weekend takes place between 12-14th February 2021, and, this year, it coincides with Valentine’s Day, celebrated on 14th February, which has seen increased demand for two-person hotel rooms.

A spokesperson for Cesca Boutique Hotel in Xlendi told BusinessNow.mt that they are experiencing high demand for the Carnival/Valentine’s weekend, adding that it is couples who are generally booking, rather than friends.

The spokesperson highlighted how Valentine’s Day does not usually coincide with Carnival weekend, and that many couples are looking to celebrate the holiday in Gozo.

Further corroborating the spokesperson’s assertion, a search on Booking.com for two-person hotel rooms in Gozo for the weekend of 12-14th February reveals that 96 per cent of places to stay are unavailable.

The same search widened to include hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, vacation homes and guesthouses also reveals that 82 per cent of rooms on Booking.com are unavailable for that weekend.

Furthermore, the same search for two-person rooms at hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, vacation homes and guesthouses for the weekend before Carnival, between 5-7th February on Booking.com shows 72 per cent of properties unavailable, a difference of 10 per cent.

Indeed, with travel limitations across Europe, couples who would ordinarily travel for weekend-breaks are left with ‘stay-cations’ in either Malta or Gozo.

From Booking.com’s stats, it would appear that couples are also seeking to celebrate Valentine’s Day at hotels in Malta, with 89 per cent of two-person hotel rooms unavailable for the weekend of 12-14th February.

Over the New Years, heavy criticism was levelled against those who visited Gozo to celebrate the holidays, due to fears of increased COVID transmission rates, which ultimately materialised.

The Gozo Tourism Authority, in comments to The Times of Malta about increased demand for Gozo accommodation for the Carnival weekend, called out such criticism against the authority for encouraging Maltese to cross over to the sister island.

He stressed that the onus should not be placed on operators or the authority that represents them to manage crowds gathering in Gozo.

“If operators are given the go-ahead by the authorities to open and there is demand there’s little we can do,” he told the Times, adding that large numbers were also likely to head to Gozo during other particular weekends like Easter.

He stressed that the only time Maltese stopped visiting Gozo was non-essential travel to the sister island was prohibited.

While crowds gathering in Gozo for private parties to celebrate Carnival can be a cause for concern in the efforts to return Malta’s economy to normality by limiting the spread of the virus, the same cannot be said for couples who are part of the same ‘social/family bubble’.

Whether in agreement with Maltese visiting Gozo in droves while the pandemic rages on, the Carnival/Valentine’s weekend is set to be a stellar one for Gozitan businesses.

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