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MALTATODAY 5 December 2021

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THIS week we launched the Malta Tourism Strategy 2021- 2030 an ambitious initiative aimed at placing the industry on solid foundations, ready to face the challenges and grab the op- portunities that lie ahead. We are doing so while COV- ID-19 remains a challenge that is still morphing. Perhaps it is not always clear that the pan- demic's socio-economic im- pacts when it kicked in are dif- ferent from those we face today, or yesterday for that matter. Indeed, it is not only the virus that is mutating. Its effects on all of us are mutating with it, as it were. Arguably, tourism is the sector most acutely hit by the virus variants, booster dose roll- outs and faltering vaccination rates in our source markets. Faced with this unfolding sce- nario, the Strategy is built on three pillars – Recover, Rethink and Re-vitalise. Three pillars that are a call to action to all private and public sectors stake- holders. Three pillars to reboot our tourism industry, fire up its economic pistons again, and strategise with the future as our focus. The Strategy comes hot on the heels of the shorter-term Tour- ism Recovery Strategy launched last March. Less ambitious, the latter served to re-open, recov- er and re-incentivise where and when it was safe. We enhanced connectivity as we cautiously eased travel restrictions by al- lowing in only fully vaccinated tourists. Simultaneously and with smart profiling we did our utmost to attract those travel- lers most likely to take to the skies first. We plan to uphold quality and increase sustainability, harmo- nise visitors' expectations and needs with those of our people, make connectivity more effi- cient, develop the accommoda- tion stock, address HR issues, retain and strengthen our na- tional brand, and fully exploit the potential of digi-talisation. Last but not least we are com- mitted to give Gozo the impor- tance it deserves by high-light- ing its unique and idyllic charm as a stand-alone destination. Our vision embraces a wide range of horizontal attributes ranging from the developmen- tal to the environmental, in- frastructural, digital, social, traditional, gastronomical and motivational, amongst others. Turning to timelines, the strategy will initially focus on recovery. The objective is to close the gap between current losses and the critical mass re- quired to ramp up the industry back to acceptable levels of op- eration and profitability. In par- allel with rebuilding numbers, we will also be rethinking our entire approach with a view to revitalising it. This is the high- way we shall be barrelling down till 2030. We did not pull this ambi- tious Strategy out of thin air. It is built on a thorough analysis of the evo-lution of the Mal- tese tourism industry in the last seven decades. It is also rooted in an in-depth assessment of a wide range of international and domestic factors predicted to be impacting it in the coming years. Quite simply, we are looking at the past, acting in the present and aiming at the future. Let me be clear. We are after deliverables, not good ideas which remain on paper. This Strategy has been conceived and sculpted to lead to calls to action, to produce results not pipedreams, to a nurture a flourishing tourism industry not a wish list. In this light, from the gener- al vision and key objectives we derived 22 strategies translating into 125 Goals and 245 Actions, all measurable and benchmark- able. The Strategy touches all of the sec-tor's key areas – the economic dimension, Gozo, marketing, segmentation, branding, the environ-ment, accommodation, quality, HR, conventions, governance and implementation. The Strategy was launched this week and now we will move to implement it. To this end, we are setting up a structure, the Malta Tourism Observa- tory, which will oversee the strategy's delivery. Its members will be Ministry and MTA offi- cials. Under the Observatory's auspices we are also creat-ing an advisory organ which will be our sounding board for the views and suggestions of the indus-try, academics, NGOs, public entities and others. We strongly believe that this will ensure the wid-est possible par- ticipation in the strategy's exe- cution. Tourism continues to be a key contributor to our country's economic and social wellbeing. It brings out the best of who we are and what we have to of- fer - warm hospitality, natural and cultural di-versity, a perfect climate, 7,000 years of history, creative innovation and partic- ipative experiences. The strategy aims to enhance all that makes this great coun- try of ours uniquely attractive to tour-ists and to us who live here. It also addresses those el- ements which require attention to ensure that the industry re- mains an economic powerhouse in the years to come. So I eagerly invite you to join me in the call to Recover, Re- think and Revitalise. 16 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 5 DECEMBER 2021 OPINION Recover, rethink, revitalise Tourism continues to be a key contributor to our country's economic and social wellbeing. It brings out the best of who we are and what we have to offer Clayton Bartolo Clayton Bartolo is Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection

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