Julian Zarb | Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Tourism and the European Union

Malta and Gozo’s dependence on tourism for a large proportion of its GDP, puts a great responsibility on the industry, the Authority as well as Government to ensure that the flow continues and we avoid the stagnant pools that may settle on the murky ground around a crisis. The islands suffer from a number of vulnerabilities which are common to many small states, particularly those geographical areas that are surrounded by water, such as Limited resources – natural as well as mineral; Reduced accessibility; A carrying capacity that reduces the effect from economies of scale; A high dependence on imports of raw materials including food and consumables to support the tourism activity; and Generation of sufficient cash flow, particularly foreign currency, to sustain the economy.
On the other hand, small islands do have the benefit of human resources and it is here that investment in education, training and continuous development needs to be emphasised.
Over the past five years since these islands joined the European Union, there have been improvements in several areas that reflect positively on our tourism industry. An investment in the infrastructure such as roads; waste management processes as well as the numerous projects and funding through which NGOs, the private sector and local councils have enhanced their products and attractions for the foreign visitor as well as the local resident. But there are other benefits that Malta and Gozo have reaped from European Union Membership and this includes the introduction of the Euro currency and the opportunities for students and professionals to take part in study visits, training and university courses through assistance from funding by the EU. The Union has grown from a small, closely knit group of nations set up over fifty years ago to a broad spectrum of nations which work to provide the jobs, welfare and environment that are the real basis for a healthy state. The road to European Union membership has, for most member states, been marked with uphill struggles against opposing political forces which have been sceptical of this post war attempt to get all European states to work together for a better quality of life for its citizens. Certainly tourism does play an important role here. With a potential market of some 500 million residents, the Union provides an ideal market for various niches through the history, culture, leisure and sports opportunities throughout the 27 member states; it offers an intercultural and diverse experience for all visitors and above all it creates the catalyst for creativity, innovation and investment in infrastructure and a better quality of life.
But European Union and Tourism cannot be a success unless they have the input of a committed and civic minded resident population who are convinced that their own role in this continuous process is vital. Malta and Gozo have the highest percentage of GDP dependence from tourism in all the 27 states of the EU, yet we tend to be somewhat complacent about innovation and creativity which are so important to the sustainability and continuity of this industry. International competition, economic recessions, pandemic threats will rear their ugly heads time and again, but this is no time for apathy or stagnation – this is a time when we should be seizing opportunities for recreating ourselves and taking the opportunity from membership in one of the largest global super powers today, to do that we need committed and professional representatives in Brussels who will continue to make this possible if they are convinced of the benefits that can be attained for us in terms of the social, environmental and economical aspects.


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13 May 2009

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