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The number of people who traveled to Malta for business during the month of September increased by 75 per cent compared to the month earlier, to hit 6,307, according to tourism figures released by the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Compared to the same period the year before where 2,074 business travellers visited Malta, this was an even more dramatic increase, of more than 200 per cent.

These figures bode well for the rebound of the badly battered MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, events) industry in the country, which aside from the damage wrought by the pandemic, faces long-term risks associated with the shift towards virtual working.

The MICE segment is “crucial to the tourism mix as it contributes to reducing the impact of seasonality,” according to the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents

However, travel leaders, including Malta International Airport CEO Alan Borg, have warned that while leisure travel will rebound to pre-COVID levels in the coming years, business travel will likely be impacted in the longer term.

“People will still travel for work, but they will do it less – and not just because of the pandemic, but because sustainability is becoming a louder conversation too,” he predicted

Indeed, despite the relative increase, figures are still significantly below the levels recorded before the onset of the pandemic, and in September 2019, nearly three times as many people traveled to Malta for business as they did in the same month this year.

Compared to leisure tourism figures, which are more promising, this is likely to be especially troubling.

A total of 149,760 people travelled to Malta for holidays in September, which is just under 60 per cent of the 261,696 recorded in the same month in 2019.

Month on month, reflecting expected seasonal changes, tourism figures dipped slightly in September, falling by just over 7,000 compared to August.

Inbound tourists for the first nine months of 2021 amounted to 586,234, an increase of 0.4 per cent over the same period in 2020.

Total nights spent by inbound tourists increased by 22.4 per cent, and reached nearly 5.4 million nights.

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