Fabian Demicoli

GRTU Presents its priorities for the tourism sector for Budget 2015

 GRTU President Paul Abela, Deputy President Philip Fenech and
CEO Abigail Psaila Mamo have this week met Hon Edward Zammit Lewis, Minister for
Tourism to discuss its tourism related priorities for Budget 2015.

 

Wider spread of tourism

GRTU explained that other services in the localities
like Cafés and Restaurants and many retailers will benefit if tourists
accommodation spreads from the traditional tourists areas to the localities.
The spread of tourists amongst Malta's localities will ease the increasing pressure
on the infrastructure resulting from a necessary increase in tourists flow to
Malta needed to enhance tourism's contribution to Malta's GDP. Host Families
for instance are a valuable resource. These are dedicated individuals that open
their homes to total strangers and welcome them and do their best to provide
cheap lodging at a good standard while providing the experience of the Maltese
way of living. The GRTU knows of minor shortcomings in the sector however the
whole cannot be made to suffer for it. GRTU therefore proposes to further incentivize
the sector and help it become more competitive. The hotel industry and the host
family sector are currently in competition and we think that it is only fair
that they compete under the same rules. GRTU proposes reducing the Host Family
license per bed which would equal the license per bed paid by hotels.

The value added in the utilization of available
resources that could easily be transformed with the right incentives for
tourism purposes could be remarkable. GRTU proposed allowing for change of use
for these buildings so that more empty buildings can be used for back office
work or for other activities of an economic value, including Boutique Hotels
and B&Bs. GRTU also urges Government to invest in the infrastructure within
the localities so that tourists can have easy access to facilities everywhere
they choose to go and stay. This will help attract tourists to our localities
and better distribute the wealth and business they generate. This includes the
continuation of works on historic sites and village cores, signage, etc…

 

Crafts Village

GRTU said that it welcomed Government's commitment to
invest in the current Crafts Village with the aim of delivering the necessary
upgrades the area badly need. GRTU said it is aware that Government has applied
for over €8M in EU funds to carry out the project but none of these EU funds
will be enjoyed by the operators. Tourists visit the Crafts Village in the most
natural of manners and it is a pity that after finding a way to get there,
because with Arriva it became more difficult to get to the Crafts Village, they
leave disappointed by the experience because of the state of the Village and
the quality of the products. GRTU asked the Minister for support to
re-establish a direct bus route to the crafts village.

MIP's plans for the Crafts Village are very sound but
there is an investment the owners need to make and they will be reluctant to
make it unless they see a return. The current number of visitors is not
encouraging and this can be improved strongly with the support of the Ministry
for Tourism and the MTA. The Crafts Village has the potential of becoming one
of Malta's prime tourist attractions and it should be marketed and regarded as
such. GRTU as such called for a Tourism strategy for the crafts village.

 

Higher quality for our
tourists

To increase the value of local produce GRTU proposed
the investment in quality testing and certification system to test and certify
local produce. This with the aim that only genuinely locally produced products
are marketed as such, this would help crafted goods being associated with
higher quality. Incentives to invest in local produce with easily accessible
standards and quality marks should be specific for those investing in the local
produce.  In addition specialised individuals need to be employed with
Government to certify the authenticity of local produce and a quality mark is
issued. Government should also invest or incentivise the public sector to invest
in systems such as Isotope Testing Equipment. Incentives should also be
targeted specifically at agri-tourism sector and organic farming.

 

Tax incentive

To further encourage crafts GRTU urged the Minister to
reduce the VAT element to 7% on locally produced crafts that are highly labour
intensive and in some cases contain a large amount of energy content such as
glass and ceramics. This would be similar to the incentive that is applicable
on arts where VAT stands at 5%.

 

The Pleasure boat and
Yachting Industry

GRTU requested that funds would be directed towards
the upgrade of current boat yards in order to be able to accommodate larger
boats such as tourist cruise boats. Unlike the fishermen the operators of
cruise boats currently are not offered the facility to put their boats on the
dry, at the Marsaxlokk boat yard for instance, at a reasonable price. The only
options given, including Manuel Island Yacht Yard, are very expensive and
unsustainable. The only sustainable option they see, which in itself cannot be
regarded as sustainable, is to take the boats to Sicily every winter, for
repairs and laying up, often a hugely cheaper option, if not exactly a
desirable one.

GRTU called for a commitment from Government to tackle
the astronomical shortage of marinas and pontoon berths in Malta. This highly
lucrative market is largely side lined in favour of other sectors such as the
cruise liner industry. Whilst appreciating the importance of other touristic
markets, the private yachting industry is unjustifiably being put on hold.
Malta has enormous potential to successfully compete with other yachting
destinations such as those in Southern Italy, South of France, Palma de
Majorca, and even spreading to Croatia, Crete and Greece, attracting foreign
boat owners to moor their vessels permanently in Malta. Nevertheless the sheer
lack of facilities and the huge numbers on the waiting lists for pontoon spaces
as well as the exorbitant costs are a deterrent.

 

Minister's reaction

The Minister was in full agreement with GRTU's arguments
and said that the Ministry will be proposing measures on these lines as he
believed that a wider spread in tourism not just along a larger number of
months but also localities should be our plan to achieve sustainability within
the sector. The Minister also agreed with most of the other points proposed by
the GRTU saying that the GRTU has become an organization that puts forward
sensible and responsible proposals. Dr Zammit Lewis said that he looks forward
to maintaining a healthy relationship with the GRTU.

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