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Responding to suggestions by the Maltese nurse’s union, that at the current rate of vaccination, herd immunity would not be reached by September, Iain Tonna, president of the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (FATTA), called the revelation “an eye-opener”.

As reported by MaltaToday, the president of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses, Paul Pace, revealed on Tuesday, that he does not expect Malta to reach the ever-elusive herd immunity by September.

In comments, Mr Pace suggested that unless there is a change in the vaccine rollout strategy, “there will never be even close to 70 per cent her immunity”.

BusinessNow.mt spoke to two industry leaders whose sectors have been especially hard hit by changes brought by COVID.

Iain Tonna, President of the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents

Iain Tonna is president of FATTA, a registered non-profit employers’ association that represents the interests of the Travel and Tourism Industry. 

When asked to respond to the news, Mr Tonna told BusinessNow.mt that it was “a bit of an eye-opener,” continuing that “in light of this information, many operators will be revisiting their plans and their contingencies.”

FATTA, and the wider tourist industry, is “counting on some level of recovery over summer,” he said, “even with a soft summer, at least some operators will get a lifeline.”

Mr Tonna emphasised that the longer the drought in industry lasts, the more likely it is that more and more travel and tourism companies will not be able to survive, and said that even “those that do survive will have to make plans to contain costs further, which might place pressure on employment numbers.”

When asked how the news would alter operators’ strategies, he said that “most of [Malta’s travel and tourism operators] were banking on a recovery, or the beginning of a meaningful recovery, in Q4,” and that “a lot of operators are stretching their resources to get to September, in the hope that there will be some recovery by then.”

“If the indications show that it more unlikely than likely that we will get there,” he told BusinessNow.mt, “then some operators may decide to not to continue investing in something that might now happen”.

Similarly, the language school sector, that, before the pandemic attracted aspiring English-speakers to Malta from all over the world, has naturally been hard hit by COVID travel restrictions.

James Perry, CEO of the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations Malta

Similarly, the language school sector, that, before the pandemic attracted aspiring English-speakers to Malta from all over the world, has naturally been hard hit by COVID travel restrictions.

For James Perry then, who is the CEO of the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations Malta (FELTOM), the news is similarly worrying.

Like Mr Tonna, he said that the industry was “hoping to have some kind of summer,” and that herd immunity was important for this, as it “gives the traveller the idea that the Island is safe.”

In normal circumstances, Malta attracts around 83,000 to 87,000 foreign students each year, which leads to a cumulative student expenditure of around €145 million.

Mr Perry commented that accurate information is essential, especially for the survival of Malta’s language schools.

Schools especially, Mr Perry highlighted, need to be able to plan in advance. 

A reliable timeline for recovery is important in order to launch effective advertising which is essential for attracting students, but also so that prospective clients can plan their travel. Unlike leisure travellers who can travel fairly spontaneously, travelling students need to plan in advance.

Mr Perry warned, “[language] schools have struggled in 2020, but 2021 is going to be harder, for sure”.

Both men say they would welcome further Government measures to support their industries, and Mr Tonna said that his association was preparing proposals to submit to the Government.

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