Stakeholders in Malta’s tourism industry have minimised concerns that the nation’s strict mask mandate will dissuade tourists from coming to Malta this summer, saying it is “not a deal-breaker”.
Speaking as commentators remain divided about the issue of wearing masks outside, and especially while on beaches during hot months, they point out that as things stand, other factors will likely be more pressing to tourists.
Asked whether it was a concern that the continued mask mandate might make summer tourists, seeking sunny weather not come to Malta, Federated Association of Travel & Tourism (FATTA) President Iain Tonna said it was not.
Similarly, Mr Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) commented: “I think wearing masks is something everyone has got used to, and I don’t think it will effect many people’s decision making about where, or where not to go”.
Asked whether countries, such as Spain, which has recently rescinded some of its mask rules to allow people to sunbathe and swim maskless, might be more appealing to tourists, they diverged slightly in their viewpoints.
Mr Zahra explained that he thinks Malta will appeal to tourists as “one of the best-vaccinated destinations”, and that this will take precedence over any reluctance to wear masks outside.
When tourists look at prospective destinations, Malta will appeal as a safe country, where they face less risk of contracting the virus, Mr Zahra believes.
Aside from the individual tourist’s sentiment, he predicts that “Governments will be pushing people to go towards those places where vaccination numbers are high”.
On the other hand, Mr Tonna warned that what happens in competing destinations will “have an impact” on Malta’s attraction to tourists. Regardless, he emphasised that the science, and what the health authorities are advocating needs to be respected.
As things stand, the majority of European countries have mask mandates in place, including Malta’s summer tourism competitors, Italy, Portugal, and Cyprus.
“I think we need to move based on scientific evidence, and what other countries are doing as well”, Mr Tonna said.
Discussion had arisen over whether the mask mandate, which requires people in Malta to wear masks in public places, including at beaches, would be withdrawn as the weather begins to heat up, with many seemingly assuming it would.
This week, however, Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci moved to dispel this theory, saying “it is very important that we do not relax on mask-wearing, hand washing and social distancing”.
It comes as the nation anxiously looks forward to 1st June when tourists are expected to be welcomed back into the country.
As things stand, in the UK, which has been identified as one of Malta’s key target markets for tourism this summer, Government regulations state that masks are required to be worn indoors, but can be removed when outside.
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