The Gozo Tourism Association’s (GTA) CEO Joe Muscat said that he does not believe Gozo will return to a state of closure, “because we have the vaccine against Covid-19 as a weapon.”
Over the past year, tourism was among the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic due to an increase in active Covid-19 cases, travel restrictions as well as other precautionary measures. With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine, local businesses are trying to move forward with hopes of getting back on their feet following a pandemic.
Speaking with the Malta Independent, Muscat said: “We are not worried about closures, but we are more concerned with the fact that we are being deprived of potential foreign tourists who cannot travel to Malta because they are still not vaccinated against the virus.”
Under the current travel restrictions, all unvaccinated people must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Asked whether the association saw an increase in cancellations following this change in policy by the health authorities, Muscat said that the situation fluctuates, as since things are constantly changing one cannot identify a clear-cut pattern of what is happening.
Muscat added that while a number of tourists have been entering Malta according to the current travel restrictions, it is nothing compared to the number of tourists who visited Malta in 2019. “Nonetheless, some tourists are still here, which is positive to see.”
“We can only hope that the present situation improves at a slow and responsible pace. It is crucial that as a country, we are careful and cautious and avoid making hasty and rushed decisions which will only cause confusion,” Muscat said.
He explained that members of the GTA report a number of cancellations made mostly by foreign families. “The reason is that, since many families might have children who are 12 and who are still unvaccinated, the new travel restrictions pose a problem as these families would have to go into mandatory quarantine upon arrival.”
On a more positive note, Muscat highlighted that cancellations made by foreign tourists are being substituted by the demand from the domestic market.
Consequently, he also noted that bookings made by Maltese residents compensate for the cancelled bookings made by foreigners, but said that this does not compensate for the bed nights.
Muscat explained that “when foreign tourists visit Malta, their duration of stay would probably be between five to seven days, whilst when Maltese visit the island of Gozo, their stay would probably be over the weekend, thus for two to three days. Therefore, although bookings made by Maltese citizens compensate from the aspect of arrivals, they do not compensate from the aspect of bed nights.”
The local market will never fully compensate for the foreign market, Muscat said.
Asked for an overview as to what Gozo’s tourism industry is like, Muscat remarked that although a number of restrictions have been eased in terms of travelling, many people are still sceptical and do not feel safe to travel to another country just yet. Consequently, people opt to take a holiday break and visit Gozo instead.
Meanwhile, he said that when people visit Gozo this is reflected in restaurants. “These businesses are trying their utmost to move forward, and they now have the possibility to do so. The Covid-19 government vouchers have also been of great help for food establishments,” Muscat said.
Overall, he expressed his hope that the situation gathers momentum, in the sense that more people will get vaccinated and the number of active cases will decrease.
“At this stage, we are building confidence in the hopes of returning to a steady normality but at a slow pace. We should not be adventurous, but instead ensure that all precautionary measures are respected and followed. As long as the health situation is under control, the tourism industry will continue working,” Muscat said.