The number of nights spent by residents on holiday locally totalled just over one million in 2020, representing a massive 72.3 per cent increase on the 2019 total, new figures show.
According to regional tourism data, compiled by the National Statistics Office (NSO), these domestic tourists spent an estimated €59.4 million in 2020, an increase of 51.1 per cent compared to the previous year.
Indeed, 2020 saw the brunt of international travel restrictions at a time before the vaccine was widely available, forcing aspiring tourists to spend their leisure time locally.
Significantly for the badly-battered hospitality sector, the majority of domestic tourists stayed in short-term rented quarters, including collective accommodation like regular and boutique hotels and short-let private properties, such as those booked through AirBnB.
This was especially important for Gozo-based businesses, particularly vulnerable to declines in tourist numbers, where 50.3 per cent of domestic tourists stayed in rented accommodation.
In a further positive sign for Gozo businesses, in terms of inter-island tourism, increased tourism seems to have largely taken place in one direction, from Malta to Gozo.
The number of Malta residents travelling to Gozo/Comino increased by 61.9 per cent in 2020, compared to the year before.
On the other hand, the number of Gozo/Comino residents holidaying in Malta actually declined markedly, by 45.5 per cent compared to 2019.
While domestic tourists are expected to have provided a lifeline to the battered local hospitality industry, as locals spent €20 million more on local tourism in 2020 than 2019.
This increase, however, pales in comparison to the precipitous decline recorded in terms of foreign tourists’ spending.
According to the NSO statistics, foreign tourists spent €455 million on trips to Malta in 2020 – €1.77 billion less than in 2019.
Also reflected in the data, domestic tourists’ reasons for travelling changed during the year.
The number of people traveling to visit family increase by nearly three times (183.5 per cent) when compared to 2020.
The number of people travelling for leisure also increased, although much less markedly, by 41.2 per cent.
One to three night visits were the most popular and the data shows that 290,374 people spent this amount of time on a trip.
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