Malta is expanding its appeal in order to attract both business and leisure travellers every month of the year. A combination of history and shopping make it an obvious port of call for cruise ships, while excellent facilities attract international conferences. As English is an official language it’s also ideal for international students.
A year-round destination
With its agreeable climate, excellent infrastructure and position at the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta – which includes the sister islands of Gozo and Comino – is perfectly placed to become a year-round destination.
Long a magnet for European visitors in the spring and summer, Malta is now extending its reach around the world and throughout the year by identifying niche markets. The country is targeting the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) sector, while its capital Valletta is being promoted as a good city break destination.
“We are very different to a lot of other Mediterranean resorts that have wonderful beaches but not Malta’s cultural offerings,” says Josef Formosa Gauci, CEO of Malta Tourism Authority.
“Malta is one of those destinations that is growing, with nearly 1.6 million arrivals in 2013 by air – four times the population of the island,” he adds.
Malta is served by a number of airlines, including the national carrier Air Malta, Turkish Airlines and British Airways.
It is sometimes said that the Maltese are more English than the English. With a long historical association with Great Britain, and with English Malta’s second language, the islands are fast becoming an ideal location for language students. The University of Malta is one of Europe’s oldest, having been founded in 1592, and the tradition of education remains strong today. Each year sees students from all over the world flock to Malta’s language schools, which are licensed by the ministry for education. Malta’s cosmopolitan seaside vibe makes it an inspirational seat of learning, and many students choose to stay with a host family, forging strong bonds with the local community and improving their language skills at the same time.
“For Chinese visitors, Malta can fit in easily with Paris, Rome, London and other destinations.”
Josef Formosa Gauci CEO of Malta Tourism AuthorityTweet This
A combination of old and new makes Malta one of the most intriguing conference destinations in Europe. There is a wealth of characterful venues such as charming palazzos and converted traditional farmhouses, as well as numerous four- and five-star hotels with first-class meeting facilities. Malta’s destination management companies are well versed in catering to the needs of international travellers, such as the International Council of Women and The Economist Round Table, both of which came to Malta this year. Whether it’s a meeting, conference, incentive or exhibition, Malta – an English-speaking environment with a tradition of hospitality – has the know-how to put it together.
Nearly half a million cruise passengers arrive in Malta every year, making the historic port of Valletta the gateway to the Mediterranean. The islands’ central location makes them a perfect base for cruise lines, whether they are headed for the east or the west of the Mediterranean.
“Chinese passengers can fly into Malta and start and end their cruise here, and stay a few days as well,” says John Portelli, CEO of Valletta Cruise Port.
The company recently renovated several historic buildings which have been converted into restaurants, and inaugurated a 40-berth marina. Cruise passenger arrivals this year are expected to increase by five percent.
Portelli points to the vast concentration of history concentrated into a small area as Malta’s major attraction. “The safety aspect is another key selling point. Passengers come here and they feel safe,” he concludes.
One of the biggest names in Maltese tourism, Silvio Debono runs a mini empire of hotels and food and beverage outlets including the award-winning Hard Rock Café.
“The people are fantastic, everyone plays their part. The success is not mine, it is ours.”
Silvio DeBono Chairman of Seabank GroupTweet This
Gozo: A legendary neighbour
Located off the northwest of the main island of Malta, Gozo offers a very different experience to the visitor and with a population of just 30,000, the island is much more rural in flavour than its larger neighbour. The 25-minute ferry ride along the Gozo channel is enough to give it a distinct identity.
The island of Malta is the largest of the archipelago which makes up the country, but there are two other inhabited islands, Gozo and Comino, which have their own rich history and lore. Gozo, the largest of the two, is where the nymph Calypso is reputed to have held Odysseus captive in Homer’s Odyssey and many of its natural features would not appear to be out of place in a Greek myth. The Azure Window limestone arch and the island’s many beautiful bays make Gozo a favourite for scuba divers, but it also has man-made attractions, such as ancient megalithic temples and stunning churches. Meanwhile, the island is seeking to boost its status as an investment magnet, in particular by improving its transport links. Gozo is in the process of introducing a fast-ferry service to Malta, as well as building a cruise liner terminal and a new yacht marina.