Tourism in Malta
Tourism in Malta is an important sector of the country's economy, contributing to about 15 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). It is overseen by the Malta Tourism Authority, in turn falls under the responsibility of the Minister for Tourism, the Environment and Culture. Malta features a number of tourism attractions encompassing elements of the island's rich history and culture, as well as aquatic activities associated with the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, medical tourism has become popular in Malta in recent years, especially since government efforts to market the practice to medical tourists in the United Kingdom.
The number of people who visited Malta in 2009 dropped considerably compared to the figures for 2008 - overall, the country's tourism industry suffered an 8 per cent drop from 2008. Visits from non-European Union countries dropped more considerably than visits from European Union countries (and even more so than visits from Eurozone countries), while the average stay length remained the same for both 2008 and 2009. Visitors from most countries require a visa to visit Malta. The nationalities requiring a visa are standardised as per European Union rules. Visitors already holding a valid Schengen Area visa most likely will not need to complete any more formalities to enter Malta (so long as they are already inside the Schengen Area). Visitors holding citizenship of the European Union do not require a visa to enter Malta as they hold the right to free movement within the European Union. In recent years, the country's tourism industry has been faced with a number of issues relating to the nation's small size, both in terms of area and population. These issues include stretched resources and infrastructure (such as water, waste management, beaches and roads), especially during the summer months of July and August.
Malta has a long and rich history, and this is reflected in the island's cultural attractions. The Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines have all occupied Malta at some point in history, leaving a mix of many different architectural styles and artifacts to explore. The sovereignty of the Knights Hospitaller over Malta from 1530 to 1798 resulted in a legacy of elaborate artistry and architecture throughout Malta. The country's modern museums and art galleries feature relics from Malta's history for tourists and Maltese residents alike to enjoy.
There are also a number of aquatic activities to enjoy on Malta as well as Gozo and Comino. Northern Malta is home to the country's beach resorts and holiday areas, with the beaches most popular with holiday-makers being Mellieha Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay. These beaches are large enough to be able to house cafes, restaurants and kiosks, but small enough to be crowded rarely. Malta's northwest is home to the island's quietest beaches, and it is on these that the main island's neighbouring two are nearest. Gozo and Comino are also popular beach spots for holiday-makers, although these are much more likely to be quieter, rockier and more suitable for snorkelling. The Mediterranean Sea surrounding Malta is popular for diving - while shallow dips may be attractive to beginning divers, more experienced divers may be able to dive deeper to find historical artifacts from World War II or earlier.
Major event tourism
Major event tourism, especially events centered around Catholicism, is an important segment of the Maltese tourism sector. During Holy Week, processions and religious services dominate the country, and food stalls are set up in the village squares of Malta. Another popular major event is Carnival, a five centuries-old traditional celebration lasting for the five days preceding Ash Wednesday. Celebrations for Carnival involve float-based pageants, street parties and street food stalls. They are mostly Roman Catholic.
One of the biggest sporting events held on the island is the Malta Marathon. Held every year in late February or early March, the race attracts a number of international competitors and has been sponsored by Land Rover since 2009, BMW from 2003 to 2008, GoMobile in 2002 and Flora Malta in 2001 and prior. In 2009, the full marathon winner, a Belgian, recorded a time of 2:25:59. In 2010, approximately 1,400 entrants participated.
Since 2010, the Malta Tourism Authority has been marketing Malta as a medical tourism destination. Focus areas for medical tourism include "cosmetic surgery, orthopedics, ophthalmic, neurological, urological, oncology, diagnostic, bariatric and cardiac services." The focus target market for medical tourists in Malta is the United Kingdom, followed by North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and North America. Part of the reason for targeting the United Kingdom for medical tourists is that many members of Malta's medical profession were trained in the United Kingdom, increasing the confidence of British patients in those taking care of them. In addition, unlike some medical tourism destinations, Malta has a stable political climate. The Maltese government supports the development of medical tourism on the island but believes that private medical providers should be performing medical procedures, not government-run facilities.
In addition to a valid passport, "documents substantiating the purpose and the conditions of the planned visit" and "sufficient means of support, both for the period of the planned visit and to return to their country of origin," travellers arriving in Malta may be required to have a visa for entry into the country.
European Union citizens have the right to travel freely into Malta without completing any special formalities. The nationals of many countries are not required to hold visas to enter Malta, although many are in accordance with uniform European Union regulations. A full list of nationalities required to hold visas to enter Malta and the Schengen Area is published on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' web site.
While Malta cannot unilaterally drop the requirement for nations it makes agreements with to obtain visas to enter the Schengen Area through its border crossing points, it is permitted to offer visa discounts to certain nationalities. At present, Malta has 'visa facilitation agreements' with eight nations: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Tourism is a major component of the Maltese economy, constituting about 40 per cent of Malta's GDP in 2003/04. 1,183,012 tourists visited Malta in 2009. Although this is an 8 per cent drop from 2008, the number of tourists is expected to reach 1,300,000 by the end of 2010 (figures are not yet available). For the period January to December 2009, drops were recorded in visits from most countries sending large numbers of tourists to Malta, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, whilst a 24.7 per cent increase was recorded in visits to and from Libya. Visits from non-European Union countries took the greatest hit, with visits from these countries decreasing by 15 per cent compared to 2008. Comparatively, visits from European Union countries decreased only 7.4 per cent. Visits from the Eurozone dropped by an even smaller proportion, recording a fall of only 5.6 per cent.
The vast majority of visitors to Malta stayed for seven nights or longer, with the average stay length being 8.5 nights. While the number of people staying seven nights or longer in Malta fell by 13.4 per cent in 2009 compared to 2008, the number of people staying four to six nights jumped 7.5 per cent, and one to three nights by 1.5 per cent. Expenditure by tourists to Malta declined 12 per cent when compared to 2008 levels, with a recorded value of EUR 916.4 million.
Tourism in Malta began to grow beginning in the mid-1960s. During the 1970s, Maltese tourism grew significantly, with numbers growing from 170,800 in 1970 to 705,500 in 1981. From 1981, the figures dropped to approximately 500,000 visitors per year until the late 1980s, when an upward trend began again. In the mid-1990s, figures were as high as 1.2 million tourists per year.
The volatility of the Maltese tourism market in the past has been largely due to trends in the preferences of tourists from the United Kingdom, who comprise Malta's largest tourism market. Although Malta's uniform use of English, its traditional ties to the United Kingdom and low-cost travel options have made it an attractive option to British tourists, changing preferences of these tourists can impact Malta's tourism income quite significantly. For example, the increasing preference of British tourists for Spanish destinations during the 1980s was reflected in a drop in Malta's tourism numbers during that period.
Malta's tourism industry faces a number of issues impacting on it now and threatening to impact on it in the future. One of the clearest issues facing Malta's tourism industry is overcrowding as a result of the island nation's relatively small size, in terms of both area and population. Malta is a nation of just over 400,000 people, yet its infrastructure is required to support over 1.1 million tourists every year. Malta's water works, roads, waste management systems and beaches are stretched to capacity in the summer months of July and August of every year, when tourism numbers are at their peak. This is a challenge facing Maltese tourism operators as it means that they cannot simply pursue the kinds of 'mass tourism' marketing measures taken by operators in other Mediterranean destinations with more space and resources to pursue them. In addition, Maltese tourism operators must balance increased tourism numbers with the needs of the 'native population', as when resources are stretched thin by tourists during the summer season, there are negative impacts on Maltese residents also.
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Malta.|
- Visit Malta Official Tourism Portal
- Sundreams Travel, The Malta Travel Experts - An incoming travel company specialising in Malta