Just a few years ago the Malta vacations industry was in danger of being relegated by the major travel companies in the UK from mainstream to a speciality one, as the cost of flying to the island was a lot higher than other Mediterranean islands.
But when low cost carrier Ryanair was finally given permission to fly to Malta, it brought the costs down and triggered other airlines to start Malta flights, and the existing ones to lower their fares to compete.
For a few years the island has done well from the budget carriers, with new routes to different parts of Europe, but for the UK tourist it seems that a Malta holiday is again becoming expensive compared to other holiday destinations.
The Times of Malta reported recently that it was cheaper for British holidaymakers to visit Dubai, Spain, Portugal and Greece than the island, with Malta holidays up to 40% more expensive than some of these popular destinations.
Commenting on the survey to the newspaper, conducted by the travel services of the Post Office in the UK who specialise in foreign currency and travel insurance, a leading Maltese politican said:
“It is no wonder that, whereas welcome increases have been registered from the Italian and Spanish markets, the number of UK tourists visiting Malta in 2010 declined by 9% compared to 2008 and by a staggering 14% compared to 2005.”
But in response a spokesman for the island’s tourist authority said that Malta was better value for money for visitors from the UK than Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Croatia, France and Italy.
Given Malta’s official tourism efforts in the past it’s no surprise perhaps that they miss the point state one Malta blog – the main market for British holidaymakers is Spain and her islands. And Spain is a lot less expensive than Malta for everyday items for the typical tourist. But they are probably happy knowing that Croatia is more expensive so they must be doing something right! It’s no wonder that travel site yourmalta is of the opinion that Ryanair has done more for Malta tourism than the millions of Euros spent by the government’s agencies in trying to attract tourists to Malta.
Malta does have some good reasons why someone would want to visit, but if the cost is going to be 40% more expensive for a British family than taking a holiday for example in Majorca, there would have to be a very good reason why they would do it in today’s economy.
One plus point is that the Maltese hotels are good, and have been winning awards in recent years for their standards of service and accommodation. Spa holidays are a good tourist market, and many of the Malta hotels are able to compete with the best in Europe, with the Fortina for example having an excellent reputation.
But if the cost of getting there remains a lot higher than the island’s main competitors for UK families there is a danger that Malta will again be looking at the possibility of become a specialist travel destination, with fewer visitors than in the past few years.
The good news is that the low cost Malta flights continue with airlines who seem committed to the island’s future for the next few years.