MEIA Paceville streets

Unlikely as it may sound to those who best remember Paceville as a hub of cheap alcohol and gentlemen’s clubs, Malta’s most popular entertainment district might obtain Purple Flag accreditation, which denotes “excellence in the evening and night-time economy”, according to Philip Fenech, the chairperson of Town Centre Management (TCM) Paceville.

Last Friday, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo announced that the TCM, an organ within the Regeneration Agency for Tourist Areas, will involve several representatives of the public and private sector which are in operation in Paceville, including the Malta Hotel and Restaurants Association (MHRA), the St Julian’s Local Council, the Police Force, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), Transport Malta, the Association for Catering Establishments, the Chamber of SMEs, and other elements from the private and public sectors.

Minister for Tourism and Public Cleansing Clayton Bartolo remarked that Paceville is undergoing a major transformation in terms of new projects, creating both opportunities and inconveniences until the projects are completed.

Philip Fenech

“The objectives of the Town Centre Management committee for Paceville will consist that in collaboration between a private and public sector it will meet regularly to discuss and implement proposals aimed at landscaping, research on commercial activities, sustainability of an urban centre, social and residential elements and even various challenges related to this area which welcomes thousands of visitors almost every day,” he said.

The ultimate aim will be to acquire the Purple Flag, a recognition whereby an area involving tourist activity and leisure meets criteria involving higher quality standards in terms of business, infrastructure, security, cleanliness and the environment in general.

Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, Mr Fenech explains that TCM, an initiative within the Agency for the Regeneration of Tourism Zones, has been in touch with the UK’s Association of Town and City Management, the promoter of the scheme, to understand what it really entails.

“This involves a very broad consultation process and we are still at the early stages of putting it all together,” he says. “Now that we know the steps we need to take, we have started reaching out to other stakeholders, bringing authorities on board, local councils, businesses – it will take full cooperation between a lot of players, but it will help focus our efforts as we look to upgrade and manage the entire area.”

The association’s website notes that “innovation, curation, planning and partnership are all key elements” to creating a destination that can delight users after dark.

The accreditation process takes towns and cities through a comprehensive set of standards, management processes and good practice examples all designed to help transform the evening and night-time economy (ENTE) and provide a research, training and development programme.

Mr Fenech says that the scheme outlines the Key Performance Indicators Paceville needs to assess itself on to attain the standards expected. These cover all aspects of the destination experience, from the quality of establishments to the infrastructure, as well as the safety and security of the area.

The Purple Flag status will further guide the TCM’s work by keeping it in line with its objectives, and will also hold Paceville to ever higher standards, with regular assessments resulting in new goals and initiatives to continue improving the area’s offering.

The industry veteran is frank about the challenges ahead, but says there is “nothing that Paceville is incapable of attaining as long as there is teamwork between the private sector and public sector.”

He continues: “There is a lot of ongoing development, but when it settles – and we expect to see much less disruption in one to three years – we will end up with a much-improved product with higher standards.”

Questioned on the perception of Paceville as an unsafe destination full of violence, Mr Philip dismisses such concerns, noting that the area ranks safer than comparable nightlife zones: “Needless to say, every problem dealt with is one less…”

As to whether the Purple Flag is indeed attainable given the occasional headline-grabbing fights and brawls taking place in Malta’s nightlife mecca, he argues that problems can never be eliminated in their entirety: “With all those thousands of people gravitating towards the area, there will always be some trouble, and the Purple Flag recognises that. Rather, it’s about making sure that safeguards are in place and well managed, so as to minimise the total risk.”

He stresses that although this is a long-term project, the benefits of holding the area to the highest standards will be felt much before Paceville actually gains the accreditation.

Some things, such as the electricity infrastructure, has already undergone a total overhaul, while others, such as roads and pavements, will need to wait until the major construction projects in the vicinity reach completion. Nonetheless, maintenance and patching works will be done in the meantime.

“Once we have stability in the centre of the district, we can start segmenting it,” explains Mr Fenech, who believes major improvement is not far off for the entertainment destination. “We will be able to reach those standards even as works on major projects remain ongoing, since finishings are not as disruptive as the actual construction.”

While many major projects are being led by the private sector, the public sector is conducting works to support the evolving locality, from traffic management, roadworks and other services.

He adds that the destination is practically active seven days a week, 365 days a year, noting that this necessitates a piecemeal approach: “Paceville simply does not have the luxury of putting up a ‘closed for refurbishment’ sign, he says.

The role of TCM in all this is to coordinate all the many moving parts so that, step by step, Paceville approaches the criteria required of Purple Flag destinations.

The ultimate plan, Mr Fenech says, is to see the possibility for parts of Paceville to be pedestrianised, allowing more efficient transportation, less pollution, and giving the town more of a socially inhabited feeling.

“We have a long road ahead of us,” he concludes, “but, with patience, persistence, and cooperation between parties, we will get there.”

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