Tourism in Malta
Facts and Figures 2016
2016 marked the seventh consecutive year of growth in inbound tourism, where a new record high was reached. The number of total inbound tourists to Malta almost touched the 2 million figure, recording a significant increase of 10.0%. This achievement is even more remarkable as it comes on top of the increases achieved in the previous years.
Within an international context, Malta’s inbound tourism growth rates in 2016, surpassed those for the World, which grew by 3.9%, Europe (+2.1%) and the Southern Mediterranean European region (+1.3%).
This success is mainly attributed to the efforts of the relevant authorities in securing and expanding air connectivity, along with the strengthening of brand Malta in the origin markets overseas.
The United Kingdom is the foremost market for Malta with a share of 28.5%, followed by Italy (16.0%), Germany (8.0%) and France (7.4%). These markets have been top source origin markets for Malta for many years. In 2016, growth was not exclusively achieved in these long established markets but also from other so-called ‘secondary’ and ’emerging’ markets. The strategy implemented to expand Malta’s connectivity was successful in tapping markets which up to some years ago were non-existent for Malta. Buoyant figures are being attracted from relative newcomer source markets such as Poland, Spain and Hungary, which in turn are also exhibiting growth on a year-on-year basis. In fact, in 2016, Poland ranked the 5th largest source market for Malta, followed by Spain in 6th position.
Tourism as an integral part of global business is highly dependent on seasonal changes in climatic conditions, economic activities as well as human behaviour and society in general. Seasonality in tourism activity is experienced in almost all countries and destinations in the world. The most significant aspect of seasonality is that it involves the concentration of tourist flows in particular periods of the year. In this regard, Malta can boast of the fact that it is one of the least seasonal destinations in the Mediterranean, where the distribution of the number of tourists throughout the year is more evenly spread than that of its competitors, namely Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
Over the recent years, Malta has strengthened its position as an all-year round destination. Volumes of inbound tourists which up to a few years ago were reached in the peak summer months, are nowadays also being achieved in the off-peak months. Additionally, the growth rates achieved in the low season months considerably surpass those achieved in the peak months of summer.
The diversity of the offer is one of the main aspects which feeds into achieving a relatively even spread in the number of tourists throughout the whole year. Research findings show that most tourists visit Malta to enjoy the sun along with immersing themselves in its culture. ‘Sun seekers’ rank second followed by tourists who come to visit their friends and relatives. The seasonal pattern of ‘culture vultures’ (travellers whose motivations are purely driven by culture) together with ‘business travellers’ (who visit the island for conferences, incentives or other work-related reasons) favours the off-peak months. Alternatively, segments such as scuba diving and TEFL (English language learning related travel) are still very much skewed towards the peak months of summer.
Other Factors Influencing Destination Choice
The expansion in air connectivity is making it possible for Malta to attract tourists from new markets. In this regard, novelty of destination features as an important factor in the decision making process for 53.8% of tourists visiting Malta. On the other hand, 3 out of every 10 tourists visiting Malta are repeat visitors, where their decision to revisit was attributed to a positive previous experience. The fact that English is spoken widely in Malta is important for around 1 in every 3 tourists, closely followed by price/value for money.
Over the recent years, the film industry in Malta has increasingly garnered priority and interest. This industry was further reinforced with the launch of the very first policy focusing on the film industry which was published in January 2016, covering the period 2016-2020. The film industry is another effective vehicle which improves and boosts Malta’s awareness and positioning as a tourism destination overseas. MTA research findings show that around 1.4% of incoming tourists base their decision to visit Malta on a film shot locally, equivalent to 190 full plane loads of arriving tourists.
Official tourism statistics highlight that Malta’s appeal to a relatively younger age tourist is on the increase. In 2016, the biggest growth rates were registered in the 25-44 age bracket followed by tourists aged 24 years or younger. A richer and more varied calendar of events is further safeguarding the islands’ appeal towards a more dynamic age profile. Moreover, research findings show that age profiles do vary by origin market, where, tourists residing in Italy and Spain are relatively younger than those hailing from the UK and Germany.
Most Influential Communication Channels
In recent years, ‘digital media’ has surpassed ‘recommendation by friends and relatives’ as the top influential communication channel for tourists during trip decision making. Nonetheless, the two are deeply inter-related as nowadays travellers choices are not only based on experiences of friends and relatives but also on online reviews. In view of this, reputation management is key for the tourism industry to ensure that these remarkable results are maintained. By listening better to clients we can ensure optimal reputation management by communicating better, adapting current offer and introducing new products and services accordingly.
Tourist’s Perceptions Of Malta
Destination Malta exceeds the expectations of around 1 out of every 4 tourists visiting Malta. Furthermore it meets the expectations of the majority. Also, 9 out of every 10 tourists would recommend Malta to friends and relatives. Tourists describe Malta as a welcoming destination, rich in history and culture. The destination evokes feelings of relaxation, warmth and safety. The colours associated with Malta by tourists are mainly blue and yellow.
One may refer to the ‘Tourism in Malta, Facts and Figures 2016’ report for a more detailed numeric overview, where a digital copy is available on the MTA’s corporate website (www.mta.com.mt/research). This MTA’s publication gives a snapshot of global and local tourism performance for the year. In addition, it provides a detailed overview of socio-demographic and behavioural characteristics of tourists visiting the island. The aim of this user-friendly publication is to facilitate the understanding of the tourism industry in Malta for all interested parties, including the tourism trade, public entities, students, journalists and the population at large.