Gozitan businesses operating in the tourism sector are largely supportive of a new measure that will see third-country nationals (TCNs) working in their establishments being obliged to obtain a skills card, but the timing and the cost involved are key points of contention, according to a survey conducted by the Gozo Tourism Association (GTA).
In October, the Government announced that tourism workers will need to have their skills certified to work in the tourism sector Under the proposed rules, prospective employees will need to sit for a course and pass a theory test, costing €450, on which the issuing of a work permit and visa will be conditional. Once they arrive in Malta, they must sit for a practical test against a fee of €125. Should they fail, they will be sent back to their home country.
The skills card will become obligatory from 1st January 2024 for TCNs who wish to work in Malta, and will gradually be introduced for those already in Malta and finally for Maltese and EU workers.
In a statement, the GTA said “it is evidently clear that the tourism operators in Gozo agree that TCNs should obtain a skills card before being employed in local tourism establishments.”
This was expressed by 63 per cent of Gozitan operators in a survey conducted among GTA members over the last fortnight. This survey was conducted to assess the views and concerns of the Gozitan operators on the introduction of the skills card.
The encouraging response to this survey from Gozitan tourism operators covered a wide range of the tourism sector on Gozo. The categories that filled in the survey were coming from all the accommodation sectors, restaurants, diving centres, tourist attractions, transport, tour operators, DMCs, travel agencies, real estate and tourism consultancy firms.
More than half of respondents (54 per cent) to the survey declared that the introduction of the skills card will hinder their respective operations further, given the present scenario of lack of locals interested in seeking a tourism related job.
Better communication (32 per cent), curbing abuse in the entry visa (28 per cent), upgrading of the touristic services (24 per cent) were highlighted by the survey participants as some of the main benefits of the skills card for the tourism employees.
When asked if the skills card introduction date as of 1st January 2024 is the right time to implement such a measure, 54 per cent of survey respondents stated that it is not the appropriate time. On the other hand, 46 per cent stated that the intended introduction date is the right time to implement such a scheme.
The absolute majority (86 per cent) of the survey participants agreed that the basic knowledge of the English language should be a requirement for foreign employees to obtain the skills card.
The majority of the survey participants (86 per cent) do not agree with the fee being contemplated for the skills card application, stating that most TCNs cannot afford such an amount of money (€575 for the course and theory and practical tests). At the same time, only 33 per cent of the respondents said they are ready to pay the fee on behalf of prospective TCN employees.
The Gozitan tourism operators in their majority (68 per cent) are agreed that all local and EU employees in the touristic sector should eventually be in possession of the skills card, although all agreed that this is to be introduced gradually.
Finally, 53 per cent of the survey respondents stated that if TCNs already in employment in Gozitan tourism establishments fail the English language assessment, these should not be eligible for the skills cards. The other respondents (47 per cent) stated that these employees should be eligible to the skills card.
The GTA said that after going through the findings of this survey and the comments therein, it would be passing on these findings to the various competent authorities “to tackle in a synergised effort the issues raised in this survey for the benefit of the tourism sector.”
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