Travel

The record number of cases seen on Tuesday has been met with calls for a lockdown or measures similar to those imposed in March of last year, but Malta’s tourism industry insiders are divided in their response despite their unity in concern.

Iain Tonna, President of the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (FATTA), said that “what needs to be done, needs to be done, whether it’s a partial or full lockdown,” stressing his concern that Malta may face another summer with little or no tourism in light of the “deteriorating situation”.

“If health authorities find it necessary to step up measures,” he said, “the sooner it is done, the better – the longer we leave it, the longer it will take to go back to any semblance of normality.”

President of the Malta Union of Tourist Guides Frans van Avendonk similarly believes that the health authorities need to take any action they deem fit, noting that his sector has effectively been in lockdown for a year.

He said that, while not in favour of a total lockdown, much depends on society’s response, and called for stricter enforcement of current measures.

Mr van Avendonk highlighted the impact of the past year on tourist guides, saying that many had retired or changed job, while others are pursuing further education to upskill or reskill themselves for other fields.

“We will not be seeing 3 million tourists again for a long time,” he said.

Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president Tony Zahra also mentioned the low levels of activity in the industry, saying, “I don’t know how much more locked down we can get.”

“The hotels are virtually locked down, the airport is practically at a standstill, the restaurants are all locked down except for takeaways… The hospitality industry is basically at a standstill.”

Mr Zahra opted to leave the decision making to politicians, simply expressing his hope that the MHRA would again be consulted prior to the making of said decisions.

Meanwhile, Howard Keith Debono, president of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA), said that the Association feels that “a lockdown of sorts is inevitable”, with “bolder” measures that “leave no room for grey areas and interpretation” since “[the Maltese] are known to find loopholes.”

“We have seen the majority of countries around the world adopt this measure as a last resort because it was the only way to stall the high numbers.”

He called for stricter enforcement that is supported by “a stern and bold statement by our leaders to ensure that the situation is brought under control”, stressing that “management by crisis needs to be avoided”.

“This is not a time to point fingers and moan, but a time to lead by example and to encourage everyone to do their bit in society,” he said.

“Summer is already written off by most of us in the industry,” he added, noting that “We always said that missing out on Q3 twice in a row will have long lasting effects on our industry.”

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