Commonwealth Heads of Government in Malta

Published: Sun Nov 20 2005

Leaders of over 50 countries from the Commonwealth will be meeting on the Mediterranean island of Malta from November 25 to 27, and for three days the island will be enjoying the attention of hundreds of millions of TV and online news viewers and newspaper readers worldwide.

Malta has often been overlooked by holidaymakers and second home owners in favour of other Mediterranean islands such as Mallorca, Cyprus and Menorca, and hotels and estate agents alike on the island are hoping that the three days of publicity will boost tourist and property buyer numbers for 2006.

With good all year round weather and an English speaking population visitor numbers from the UK, which make up about half of the islandís tourist numbers, have been surprisingly flat in recent years, and with cheaper holidays available in the new destinations from Eastern Europe such as Bulgaria set to capture more of the UK holiday and property market Malta could see tourist numbers remain level or even fall in future years.

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Malta missed itís own target of a modest increase in tourists this summer, and there are worries on the island that the opportunity to increase awareness among potential visitors will be missed.

Michael Johnson of Tribune Properties who specialise in property for sale in Malta comments:

ĎMalta is ideally situated in the Mediterranean to attract tourists from all over Europe and further afield but for a lot of people I speak to in other countries it isnít an obvious destination of choice.

The island has a strong domestic property market and doesnít rely too heavily on overseas property buyers like some of the Mediterranean islands do, but at the same time those that do buy here play a good role in the economy overall.

The timing of the Commonwealth meeting is good as itís just before the New Year when a lot of people decide where they will be going for their summer holidays, and next summerís tourist could be next winterís property buyer. But theyíre only going to do that if they visit the island first, and Iím hoping that Malta will see an increase in tourists in 2006 Ė it really depends on whether the island takes this chance to market itself in the months ahead on the back of the free publicity the Commonwealth will bring..í

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting takes place very two years, and has its roots in the British Empire, with 53 members who were former British colonies belonging to the organisation.

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Commonwealth, and will be visiting with Prince Philip for a two day trip to Malta to open the meeting on November 25 in Valletta, the islandís capital. It will be the royal coupleís first visit to Malta since 1992, and welcoming crowds are expected in similar numbers to their previous four visits.

In addition to the Queen and Prince Philip, among the attendees will be the United Kingdomís Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Prime Ministers of Canada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Singapore and Australia.

ĎAround half of Maltaís tourists are from the UKí adds Michael Johnson, Ďand itís a similar figure for non islanders buying property here. As well as increasing holidaymaker numbers from the traditional UK market we should be trying to appeal to people in Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and other countries who take a holiday in Europe to consider visiting Malta for a few days to sample the fine hotels, hospitality, history and culture that the island is so rich in. But it remains to be seen whether the tourist board is capable of translating good free publicity into visitors for the island.í


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