Julian Zarb | Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Taking the Sting out of the Bite

Julian Zarb

Last week, I attended this year’s edition of the Tourism Studies Association (TSA) Annual Conference. The event was an opportunity to hear reactions and proposals for overcoming this bleak period of economic chaos. At least, it seems that the overall attitude to changing the negative scenario into a positive one is being done by instilling a good dose of cautious optimism. The Malta Tourism Authority seems to be taking this rather well and is already planning a strategy for improving the element of value for money and the promotional budget for advertising overseas; the academic solution lies in considering a number of facts and answering some questions that are, intrinsically, soul searchers; the students even put forward their own theories for reducing the sting from the credit crunch; there were some good presentations by Malta International Airport and Air Malta which dealt more on the aspect of strategic management policies rather than any special tactics for dealing with these unusual times. Obviously, in this year dedicated to creative thinking and innovation it seemed appropriate for some home grown ideas about dealing with the crunch by adopting Lateral thinking and finally we had the economic scenario and the concluding remarks by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.
It was a very well motivated half day event and everyone left the conference room full of hope and elation; it is always the case with most conferences that one sees the light, one can sense the rainbow forming in the grey sky and one can feel this sense of optimism, but somehow we do find ourselves sliding back into our sombre moods, bemoaning our sad state and thinking about the “Good ol’ Times”; but we need to shake off the temptation for pessimism – this is the enemy of success and recovery.
These times should help us to think more about the way we did things back in the “Good Ol’Times”; they were times that were congruent to the international scene at that time, today is different to yesterday and tomorrow will be different to today; we need to accept this and be ready to change our policies and strategies accordingly; innovation and creativity are not expensive toys for the rich and famous, they are within the reach of all of us – all we need is to think carefully about the processes we follow at work, we need to consider any idea with a thematic and unique flavour because that might bear the seed for an interesting attraction that places our islands in a different niche to the other mass tourism destinations in the region. The idea of promoting the islands through the MTV Concert each year is already bringing new perspectives and ideas to our traditional tourism idea – now these islands are not just the sun and sea resorts that they were in the “Good Ol’ Days”, now music fans can visit the islands to follow their pop idols as well as take in the uniqueness of this “Isle” with its culture and history. The concept of the “Notte Bianca” in various localities over the past two or three years could also provide the basis for an even bigger and diverse activity that could be held more often during the whole year and include up to six localities at the same time, with different themes and with a variety of entertainment, history and culture – this will even spread the flow of traffic, crowds and economic benefits between more localities,
Two ideas that could change our image out there; from an island in the sun to an island of diverse landscapes. Certainly, the antidote that takes the sting out of the bite.


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22 April 2009

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