MALTA’S objective in positioning itself as a top-end leisure destination and MICE venue is reaping rewards.
More five-star hotels are opening, and the island is attracting a growing number of major-league events, including last November’s Commonwealth heads of government meetings, where 3,000 delegates from 53 countries were presided over by Queen Elizabeth II. According to the MTA, conference delegates made up 5 per cent of all arrivals in 2004 (latest figures available) adding EUR43.5 million to Malta’s tourism earnings.
EU membership has helped the country considerably: in 2004, the year Malta entered the EU, tourist arrivals were up 6 per cent to 1.16 million and results for the first three quarters of 2005 show that growth has continued, though at a lower pace (up 1.4 per cent on the same period in 2004). International tourism receipts also increased – up 1.3 per cent in the first three quarters of 2005.
Improvements to the Mediterranean island’s top-tier infrastructure continues with the recent openings of the five-star 335-room Radisson SAS Golden Sands last year and Le Méridien’s second Malta property early this year, the 282-room Le Méridien St Julian’s Bay, with its extensive conference facilities. The reopening of the renovated five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior, set in the 16th-century bastion walls of Valetta, is scheduled for the autumn.
At Malta’s international airport, a new arrivals hall will be ready in June, along with four new gates at departures, and new retail areas will be added by March 2007.
Making up the offering is a variety of festivals and events (jazz, Mediterranean food, international choirs, historic cities and fireworks festivals), as well as water sports, after confirmations that the island will be the venue for the next three years for the Powerboat World Championship.