ITTN’s Shane Cullen interviews Carlo Micallef, CEO of Malta Tourism Authority and Tolene van der Merwe from Malta Tourism Authority.
Malta Reaping the Rewards from Intensive Marketing Campaign during COVID
Carlo explained how Malta didn’t let the pandemic impact its marketing plans and how they have been able to capitalise on the increased travel trade and consumer awareness of the island as a year-round destination.
Slow Start to 2022 with Dramatic Increase from April Beating Forecasts
While 2022 started poorly, there was a sudden, dramatic improvement from April onwards when Malta was reopened for tourism.
Carolo explains “The recovery has been faster than we thought and at first, we forecasted c. 1.8 million tourists. Now we’re seeing that will be close to 2.2 million. After losing the first three months, that would be very close to our record year and 2019. So the recovery has been good.”
He elaborates “We’re getting tourism from all over Europe and beyond. All markets are performing well, some markets are behind others because of a lack of flight capacity but otherwise, I’m very happy with the performance of tourism. Tourists are coming more and spending more, so it’s very positive overall”.
Boutique Hotels Preserving the Past as Tourism Attracts Investors to the Sector
When asked, about whether the pipeline of new hotels that were earmarked to come on stream this year had, in fact, materialised, Carlo responded that there are “a lot of new hotels coming up online… It shows that the investors have faith in tourism. It’s one of the industries that they have faith in and they are investing in more hotel accommodations. Everybody’s trying to outdo the competition in here.”
“They are coming up with new concepts, more than concepts, big brands coming to get more done. So they are really trying to push the quality up. Where the investors put their money says a lot. And it shows that they have faith in tourism.”
When quizzed in relation to the beautiful and high-standard boutique hotels on offer, Carlo provided the unique history behind this trend.
“Most of them are situated in old palaces and are the last of noble families or rich families, which no one could afford to buy and live in. These investors, or sometimes even some from the families, invest in the regeneration of these properties – they turn them into boutique properties“
“The accommodation with a lot of character, individual character, a story to tell, great history and no one is like the other. So it’s a new selling point that we have”
It is a great way to preserve and maintain the past, the rich tapestry of architecture on the island and to reinvent and protect its survival going forward. Equally, it is in keeping with the landscape and history of Malta and is sensitive to the localities.
Strong Marketing Campaign during Covid Now Paying Dividends
When asked whether the extensive promotions kick-started tourism again and softened the
blow for a lot of the hoteliers, Carlo explained:
“That’s one of our discussions and today, one of our decisions. Yes, we did not spend as much, we were down on third-party advertising but we did a lot in-house. Our teams across the network and in the UK – they were very proactive”.
“They say mother of necessity is invention and we did a lot of stuff online. Sometimes it’s a webinar other times, wine tasting & we get somebody to speak about it, Maltese cuisine recipes and some stories from our history so we have Malta at the top of our minds. Once tourism restarted, we came back [tourism numbers] and that has worked”.
It is very evident Malta has promoted itself as a destination and the awareness of this little archipelago and its offering has increased significantly in recent years firmly placing it as a choice for Irish tourists.
Connectivity Critical for Maltese Archipelago
Carlo points out that a limitation is flight capacity, “I see the flights coming in full. Hopefully we’ll get more flights at more times. What we need more of, as an island, is connectivity. Not only from Ireland but from elsewhere too”.
With 3,000 Hours of Sunshine, the Future is Looking Bright for 2023
Carlos acknowledged, in relation to 2023, “The feedback from the hotels and the airlines is positive. We are aware that Europe is facing challenging times. People may have less money in their pockets. It may be facing some hardships to make ends meet but travel remains on top of [people’s] mind, it remains on top of their needs chain.”
Speaking about tourism, “It’s coming ahead of certain things like technology and your car. So people want to travel. And we are confident that Malta can be one of the best to offer the experience of travel, that people have the best value for their time, their money.”
Watch this space as the team share that they will be very active in Ireland for 2023.
Malta Continues to Illustrate Its Inclusivity
Europride 2023 will take place in Valletta next year. Running from 7 – 17 September 2023, the event promises to enable you “experience the largest gathering of love & diversity Malta has ever seen”. Find out more https://www.europride2023.mt/
The Silver Screen & Soft Adventure Mecca that is Malta
Epic Hollywood movies such as Gladiator, World War Z, Assassin’s Creed, Munich, Captain Phillips and more recently, Jurassic World: Dominion and blockbuster television series such as Game of Thrones have all been filmed on the Maltese shores. The stunning and ancient city of Mdina was the King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and appeared in the Count of Monte Christo. Word has it the new Russell Crowe movie is in production. The next instalment of Mission Impossible may also feature the archipelago. This gives you an inkling of the topology on offer, the spectacular scenery, architecture and coastline for tourists to experience and enjoy. Such is the beauty, that movie sets can forgo the green screens and film the natural setting. My kind of place. Tolene explained there will be a new movie trail tour coming to the island. I’ll be first in line!
For more on what Malta has to offer – https://www.visitmalta.com/en/
In case you missed it, why not watch the replay of our Visit Malta Webinar filmed earlier this year – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpTJvxa_rU0