Written by Tony Zahra
President – MHRA
Added: 9 August 2023
The quarter 1 2023 MHRA survey carried out by Deloitte and supported by Bank of Valletta was indeed positive in many aspects as the results were similar to those achieved in 2019 which was the best ever year for the Maltese islands. In 2020 COVID struck and it was in April 2022 that the tourist arrivals took off dramatically. Consequently it was the first time that we had a normal first quarter since 2019 and that is the benchmark that we have to use when comparing numbers and trends.
As has been the case for many years the figures were presented and explained by Raphael Alosio – Partner at Deloitte. Regrettably this was to be Raphael’s last presentation as a Deloitte partner as he is now retiring from Deloitte. MHRA and the tourism industry in Malta is losing one of the most experienced tourism finance men in Malta who has contributed so much to make the industry what it is today. I salute Raphael and thank him for his contribution to the industry. Thank you Raphael for your wise guidance and the patience shown over the years.
The trends for Q1 were all positive although there were some areas of the survey which were noted as a concern. The increased bed stock has been a concern over the last months and although in Q1 there was insignificant bed stock added to the available stock, Raphael Alosio did say that the availability of beds will increase substantially when some big units will come on to the market particularly in Q2 this year. Indeed the Bugibba/Qawra area will see two existing hotels returning to the market with more rooms after a complete revamp of the product. Between these two properties there will be about 1,200 rooms that could represent up to about 3,000 beds given that some rooms will be able to accommodate three or more persons.
Raphael then spoke about the forward booking position and he confirmed that the indications are all positive and it is expected that the rest of the season will either equal the 2019 figures or be slightly up or down, given that this depends very much on whether some more airline connectivity is added and whether the seat occupancy will continue in the 90/94 percent uptake. One hopes that the airlines will indeed put on some more capacity for Malta as then we can aspire to surpass the 2019 arrivals.
So whilst arrivals are looking good for this year nevertheless the rapid expansion of bed availability could be a challenge going forward. Of course one will have to leave investment decisions to the investors and should the government wish to encourage investment in other areas of the economy then the government must make it more attractive for investors to risk their capital.
The strong arrival figures have also had a very positive impact on restaurants whom the MHRA represents and also other service providers such as car hire, souvenir shops, tours organizers and the myriad of industries that support or supply the tourism industry. It is indeed amazing to see how Valletta has been transformed in the last 15 years given the enormous investments that have been made in the capital city. And Valletta is now gaining attention internationally as a food hub and rightly so. As always one has to remain focused and ensure that which makes Malta an attractive destination is protected and nurtured. We must constantly remind ourselves that the tourist is in Malta to experience the islands’ history and culture and do so in a tranquil and relaxed manner. Let’s continue providing this product which will make the industry sustainable for generations to come.