With official figures showing worrying signs that the number of tourists for 2006 visiting Malta could be stagnant, or perhaps even down from 2005, the opportunity for the island to have low cost flights operating from the UK appears to have slipped by for the all important summer season. The island's official airline, Air Malta, reported a drop of over two per cent in the number of passengers it carried in the year from March 2005 to March 2006. The hope among hoteliers and others involved in Malta's tourist trade is that at least one of the low cost airlines will start operating from the UK and perhaps other parts of Europe in the near future to boost visitor numbers.
'With the holiday market vital to the Malta economy,' comment local travel guide YourMalta, 'potentially millions in lost revenue will be lost this year because of delays in agreeing to allow the low cost airlines to fly into Malta. In today's world Malta has to compete with new destinations in Europe as well as Spain and her islands. Cheap Malta flights aren't in themselves enough to sustain tourism at reasonable levels anymore, although this will be welcome, but the trick of sustained tourism is to have repeat business, and unless Malta attracts new first time visitors then repeat business is an impossibility'.
Holidays in Malta and the related tourist sector are a major source of employment in Malta, and with unemployment running at over 8 per cent any fall in tourists could spell long term damage to the island's economy. Another sector of the economy that could suffer with the Malta holidays market is real estate. Malta Property Real estate in Malta has risen in price in recent years, and 2004 saw Malta achieving the highest increase among the EU countries, with speculators buying property in Malta in the hope that joining the EU would see Malta real estate increase in value in the short and medium term. Tribune Properties, who specialise in Malta Real Estate, view the potential downgrading of holidays in Malta as a double edged sword. Managing Director Michael Johnson says that many Malta property buyers do so after visiting the island on holiday, and liking it so much they want to move to the island full time, while others who normally stay in hotels in Malta want to buy a property they can buy for their own and family holidays in Malta, and see buying a property in Malta as an investment for the future that they can enjoy too. With less people taking holidays in Malta, the number of potential buyers will fall too.
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