Joe Muscat / LinkedIn

Gozo Tourism Association (GTA) CEO Joe Muscat has called for Government to put in place initiatives aimed at safeguarding Gozo’s distinctiveness.

His comments come after the association released a list of proposals for Budget 2024 on Thursday, in which it emphasised that it does not want Gozo to “become another smaller Malta”. GTA reaffirmed that Gozo should remain an “island of villages”, and so planning and environmental policies that are applicable for Malta “are not necessarily fitting for Gozo”.

Speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt, Mr Muscat said: “We need to uphold and support the distinctiveness of Gozo.”

“Gozo has always been projected, marketed, and promoted as a different destination, based on its singular characteristics, natural and rural landscapes, and its particular chequered history,” he remarked.

He added that the present tourism strategy states Gozo should “continue building” on its distinctiveness, focusing more exclusively on its “unique selling propositions and embracing the principles of climate friendly tourism”.

“However, can we effectively say that presently tourism in Gozo is moving forward in line with the above policies? On the other hand, do we really and truly want to continue offering Gozo as a different destination?” Mr Muscat questioned.

He highlighted that the Gozitan tourism sector is “concerned” about which direction Gozo will be marketed and promoted as a destination in the future.

“The GTA budget proposals are mostly aimed towards the upholding and supporting the distinctiveness of Gozo,” he reaffirmed.

The proposals include the call for the introduction of a fiscal incentive scheme aimed at restoring existing traditional Gozitan properties into new residential homes and boutique hotels, together with the removal of all fiscal incentives on sales of buildings and land for development into apartment buildings.

Over recent years, overdevelopment in Gozo has made headlines on various occasions, with members of the public worried about the way it is being handled, fearing it may be heading in the same direction as Malta.

The association also proposed the extension of incentives in all vernacular and post-war properties including urban conservation areas (UCAs) where the buyer undertakes to “preserve the integrity of the property, respecting and not exceeding the surrounding traditional village heights”.

In terms of connectivity, GTA highlighted the need for the construction of a new fourth ferry to replace the MV Nikolaos, as well as the development of the Gozo Airfield to have a fixed wing airlink between Malta and the sister island.

GTA also highlighted the need for a grant scheme for local students who decide to work in Gozitan tourism establishments during weekends of holidays. It also called for the start of courses targeting foreign employees to learn basic Maltese and English, together with the history and culture of the Maltese Islands.

It also urged Government to ensure that the public sector is “no longer in competition” with the private sector when it comes to the recruitment of employees by providing “favourable and unmatchable working conditions”.

In terms of marketing and promotion, GTA requested the provision of assistance and incentives to small touristic establishments to set up their respective websites. It also urged for the re-introduction of the Extended Gozo Stays scheme, which provides travellers with a discount of up to €300 when they book a 10-day or more stay in Gozo for between October and March.

Social image: Visit Gozo

Featured Image:

GTA CEO Joe Muscat / LinkedIn

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