An article published this past Sunday in Malta Today illustrates well the tensions that arise when hoteliers, the national tourism authority, the government, and the local flagship air carrier jostle for power in the face of the arrival of low-cost carriers on the scene.
In sum: Hoteliers want greater volume of Ryanair flights and the government isn’t moving toward a decision as quickly as the tourism industry would like. Meanwhile, even the most zealous Ryanair advocates in Malta are loyal to Air Malta, which is awarded first dibs on core routes.
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) notes that Ryanair has significantly boosted tourist numbers into Malta since initiating routes last fall. To illustrate, the March 2007 tourist count is up 10% over the March 2006 tourist tally. And according to Matthew Vella’s Malta Today article, Ryanair has some serious expansion plans for the tiny EU state:
Ryanair is proposing new routes to Malta from Glasgow Prestwick, Bristol, Doncaster, as well as Madrid, Bremen, another German airport close to the Dutch border, and an Eastern European airport. Also included are Venice and Trapani.
With a decline in tour operator business, the MHRA argues that increased low-cost flights are essential to the short-term future of tourism in Malta. It’s not hard to see how the MHRA has arrived at this position. But is Malta ready for the resultant tourist explosion?