Malta Sets its Sights on Improving Infrastructure for Accessible Tourism
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Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture, Mario de Marco explained at a recent seminar in Malta how the Mediterranean island is preparing to make its tourism offers accessible for all.
Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, the Environment and Culture, Mario de Marco highlighted that in today’s world where freedom of movement has been facilitated and where barriers have been removed, particularly between European Union countries, nonetheless there still exist a number of factors which impede certain segments of society from travelling.
Many travellers with different needs have to be reassured that their travel experience will be facilitated and not hampered resulting in stress and a lack of comfort, he said.
Dr de Marco was speaking at the closing of a Seminar on “Accessibility for People with Special Needs - Infrastructures for Accessible Tourism” organized by the Product Development Directorate of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA).
He explained that contrary to the general perception, it is not only people with disabilities that require particular facilities, but also other categories such as senior citizens, families with young children, and people with particular physical conditions.
Dr de Marco added that with the ever-growing ageing population, the more tourists will demand special facilities. This is an important market, particularly during the off peak months where we need to increase arrivals. This tourist category is more flexible to travel and therefore it becomes more important that travelling for such segments is greatly facilitated. A lack of such facilities means that the Maltese Islands will lose out on these markets since their choice would be on destinations which facilitate their movement within the country.
He referred to the fact that Malta’s National Tourism Plan under section 7.07 states that ‘we will promote equal opportunities and accessibility for all in the tourism industry’. This process sees the collaboration between various Ministries and departments as well as the MTA and the Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b’Di'abilità (KNPD). Hence this seminar was a step towards strengthening this collaboration and creating awareness amongst the industry players.
This collaboration with the KNPD should lead to creating a greater awareness within the industry towards such issues and these should not be perceived as onerous requirements on the industry but rather as a means to widen the market opportunities which would otherwise be missed out.
Dr de Marco referred also to social tourism which offers people the possibility to go on holiday and therefore, significantly aids mobility. Moreover, it can also contribute to combat seasonality, strengthen the notion of European citizenship and to promote regional development besides facilitating the development of specific local economies.
He concluded by mentioning the implementation of the initiative launched last year, through which, government was promoting domestic tourism to the sister island of Gozo in the off-peak days of Monday to Thursday, through the organisation of vacations for the elderly. This was achieved through the collaboration of the Local Councils which all have some type of network for senior citizens in their locality, and the Gozo Tourism Association. This has not only assisted the Gozo tourism sector address the issue of bed-nights during the quiet working week period, but also assisted a relatively-vulnerable age group to gain further access to travel and tourism on a domestic level.