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Will Gozo just continue copying Malta? Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Gozo is at a crossroads. It must not repeat Malta’s mistakes – Joe Muscat

  • Post category:News & Press
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Way back in 1999, the Gozo Tourism Association, still in its early days, started promoting the catch phrase ‘Gozo, a distinct destination’.

At the beginning, even though entrenched in the tourism master plan of that time, this tag line was not easily accepted and believed in. On the contrary, the association was often mocked when officials advocated the distinctiveness of the sister island.

The sleepy villages are still (though only in some cases) separate and detached from one another, perched on lofty hills or nestled in lowlands, all dominated by their respective church dome or belfry. Even the way one gets to the island is different as, up to now, the only mode of inter-island connectivity is by sea.

All these unique selling propositions are positioning destination Gozo as different from Malta, as well as from neighbouring competing destinations.

Since 1999, Gozo has been promoted and marketed as a different holiday destination, yet one complementary to mainland Malta. Nowadays, this catchphrase is no longer disputed and, today, it is the main feature of all the promotional and advertising material produced.

However, can we actually say, with hand on heart, that these unique selling propositions are still applicable and convincing today? It is of utmost importance to keep in mind that a destination can only market the product that it actually possesses. Conveying an image and then delivering another is counterproductive.

With the advent of COVID, the tourism industry worldwide is at a crossroads, not any less so here in Malta and Gozo. Yet, tourism in Gozo is at another crossroads. Which way will it take on our little island?

The Malta Tourism Strategy 2021-2030 rightly states that the island should continue building on the distinctiveness of Gozo, focusing more exclusively on its unique selling propositions and embracing the principles of climate friendly tourism.

 

It seems that Gozo has not learned enough from Malta’s missteps.– Joe Muscat

 

Even the Gozo Regional Development Authority, in its strategy for 2021-2030, published recently, included sustainable tourism as one of its priority areas, based on niche and quality tourism.

Can we truly say that tourism in Gozo is able to move forward in line with the above policies? Do we really and truly want to continue offering Gozo as a different destination?

It seems that Gozo has not learned enough from Malta’s missteps. We are, in fact, in a frenzy to duplicate whatever one finds in Malta. But, yes, it was the fact that Gozo was different from Malta that contributed heavily towards a flourishing domestic market. To be different is absolutely not to copy.

We are going in the opposite direction of branding Gozo as a distinct and unique tourism destination. The tourism sector on Gozo is concerned about this issue, yet, at the same time, the Gozitan entrepreneur is not against development.

On the contrary, the Gozitan tourism entrepreneur has given examples of how to develop new touristic products while staying in line with the island’s unique selling propositions.

The conversion of old, often derelict buildings in the quaint and rural areas of Gozo into comfortable tourist accommodation, found in the farmhouses, is an undisputed case in point.

The recent conversion of town houses into boutique hotels in the various Gozitan localities, some of them even in the town and village cores, is a clear paradigm of how development can blend with and enhance the rustic characteristics of our beautiful little island.

Gozo has excellent potential. Let us not stumble in our own feet. Let us not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Let’s not disappoint our visitors and shatter their expectations.

We all know the winning formula. Let us act together to uphold Gozo’s vocation as a diverse tourist destination within the Maltese archipelago and the Mediterranean basin.

Joe Muscat is CEO of the Gozo Tourism Association.

Article source: Times of Malta