There is no question of whether improvements in the safety standards of entertainment establishments across the islands are necessary or urgent.
The current scenario that we have on our hands today was created by a
number of contributing factors emanating from the industry, the authorities and also, to a certain extent, the individuals that frequent these areas of entertainment.
Most of what we know today is no news but realization about the real underlying issues were brought about by an unfortunate incident that shook the country and placed everyone in a sudden state of urgency. The reactions have been immediate and in certain cases rash, but everyone needs to take his own responsibilities with regards to the current state of affairs. Pointing fingers will only cause further deterioration and will not contribute to the vision we collectively aspire to.
What is of paramount importance is that the areas that are mostly frequented by our youths are safe. But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this starts and ends with stricter compliance on the establishments. The security issues that exist require a wider approach that necessitates that all the stakeholders work tightly together.
GRTU has brought the main parties together to initiate dialogue and consultation. This we believe will address both the immediate issues and also help us reach the medium to longer-term goals we should aspire for in the future.
The reality is that tourism is a main contributor to Malta’s GDP and while safety can never come second to anything, a sudden aggressive and blanket approach can harm the industry that is a main tourist attraction significantly.
The goal must never change but there are different ways how to get there. The quick and rash can be shortsighted.
In a dialogue session organized by GRTU with Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela, the Minister stated that while we need to send a serious enforcement message on Paceville, to succeed all stakeholders involved including the private sector must act in unity.
This followed another meeting organized by the GRTU between the MTA and the private operators related to compliance issues and licensing.
From the sessions held it became evident that both the industry needed a better understanding of the laws they are subject to and how they can comply and also that the regulatory framework needs clarifying and strengthening.
Through these meetings, GRTU is enhancing the effectiveness of a platform which sees policy makers and the people that work on the ground, working together to understand each other’s realities and devise a way forward.
GRTU feels that Government has so far only tackled the easiest way out by drastically increasing the fine on the establishment when underage youths are found inside. GRTU once again believes that the responsibility must be a shared one.
From a regulatory aspect, the licensing regime is in need of an overhaul because, for instance, while underage youths cannot enter a nightclub, they can enter a bar as long as it doesn’t serve alcohol.
There is also an issue of controlling demand. A deterrent needs to be placed at both ends, not just on the establishments that are trying to keep underage youths out but also on the underage youths themselves that are trying to get in. Both need to have something at stake and made to carry the responsibility of their actions. This we believe will be much more effective.
The industry has not been indifferent. The incident itself served as a wake-up call for many entrepreneurs in the leisure industry, lending to a new wave of self-regulation. Self-regulation does not mean doing away with neither regulation nor inspections but it focuses on empowering those that need to comply with the laws with the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to be successful in their daily business activity.
GRTU believes that, even though important, enforcement is both difficult and costly. A self-regulatory approach would lead to fewer requirements for enforcement and the industry and the authorities would work closer together.
Upgrading security measures
GRTU is helping the industry explore new avenues that would help them in their compliance and minimize human involvement and error though the automation of systems. This would not only greatly help the industry in coping with the influx of people and being better able to control the numbers more effectively but also help the authorities with issues such as headcounts, etc…