Malta is often referred to as a ‘sun and sea’ destination in Europe, with 7000 years of history and culture. It is home to charming palaces, ultra-modern boutique hotels and everything in between. It is a hidden gem, a short distance away from Italy and is a gateway between Europe and MENA.
Minister of tourism for Malta, Edward Zammit Lewis says that things have certainly gotten better on the leisure tourism front, and the destination is becoming increasingly popular. “We have managed to not only increase the number of tourists but also the bed nights, which is very important for the hotels, along with the expenditure per head.”
He adds that the government has made a conscious effort to increase air connectivity, with point-to-point flights, and a roster of airlines. It has also built on its offerings for the film industry, roping in €29 million ($32.1mn) in 2014 and already surpassing that figure in the first four months of 2015.
Despite the beautiful weather, scenic locales and scrumptious F&B offerings, it is not a popular holiday destination for the Middle East, as a number of travel agents confirmed, and the popularity dips perilously when it comes to MICE.
On the whole, MICE accounts for approximately 7% of all arrivals in Malta. Commenting on its importance, Malta Tourism Authority director new markets, cruise and segment marketing Carlo Micallef says: “It is an important segment as it mostly comes in winter and shoulder seasons, and creates more income in the economy. We know that MICE delegates spend three times as much as a normal tourist. It is high yield and it gives us diversity in our products, so our hotels can invest to enhance certain aspects of the hotel, which would otherwise not be feasible to invest in.”
The majority of the MICE business in Malta is driven by its European neighbours, and with a vision to expand the horizon, the government has established a separate entity to lead the development in this sector. The objective is to explore new markets — including the Middle East, increase the offerings and create a steady revenue stream.
Currently, Malta attracts approximately 10,000 business travellers from the Middle East. Micallef adds: “We are at a stage where after five to six record years, we are investing into new markets, where we see opportunity for growth. And the Gulf is one of the regions where we see good opportunity. Although MICE business from the Middle East is a few thousand, it is still not an insignificant number — it is still important.”