Gozo is eager and yearning for an active summer season for tourism but does not expect tourist intake to match that from before the pandemic, Gozo Tourism Authority (GTA) President Joe Muscat told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
Sources told this newsroom that Gozo is expected to be fully booked for the weekend of the 5th of June, including the 7th, which is a public holiday.
When this newsroom spoke to Muscat last March, Gozo was barred from local tourism and only essential trips were allowed. Additionally, the domestic market was virtually non-existent and catering establishments were only offering take-away services.
The lack of foreign tourists also implied that tourist attractions, hotels and diving schools entered into a dry season.
Muscat noted that, during this time, the tourism industry was at a “standstill”.
Two months on, with the re-opening of inter-island travel, as well as restaurants welcoming customers to their establishments, Gozo’s tourism industry is regaining momentum.
The high-demand of local tourists for the weekend of the 5th of June, thus, appears to be one of Gozo’s first signs of recovery.
Muscat confirmed that there is an accommodation demand between the 5th and 7th of June. It is “early days”, he said, to confirm if accommodation is fully booked, however the GTA expects to see a surge in local tourists making their way to the island, due to the long weekend.
Gozo’s tourism industry has been steadily on the rise since the island reopened for local tourism, Muscat confirmed.
“During the past weekends of May the accommodation gradually started picking up on bookings, while restaurants were also kept busy even though during most of May these catering establishments were operating till 5.00 pm,” he said.
These interests in the restaurant and accommodation sectors are “positive signs of the recovery of the tourism sector” Muscat said, and shows that both the Maltese and the Gozitans “are eager to break away from the restrictions.”
It is evident that Gozo remains the preferred location for a short break by the Maltese, Muscat said.
Last year, Gozo’s tourism industry received a huge blow, with a 78% drop in foreign arrivals.
This year, Muscat said that he expects to see a steady flow of foreign tourists making their way to Gozo, however he doesn’t expect numbers to reach the same level as a pre-Covid summer season would.
“Obviously being so reliant on tourism, Gozo is yearning and eager for a summer season,” he said. “Expectations are that this season will be better than that of 2020, although we know that it won’t be on the levels that the island is familiar with.”
He added that Gozo remains in “a wait and see situation” with regards to confirmed bookings from the United Kingdom, given that Malta did not make it on to the UK’s green travel list.
The last time this newsroom spoke to Muscat, he said that there is the possibility of Gozo reaching herd immunity in early June, thanks to the opening of a new vaccination centre in Aurora Theatre, Victoria.
He added that Gozo could reach herd immunity status before Malta, given its smaller size.
The herd immunity milestone was reached before Muscat’s stipulated timeframe, when Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that Malta reached the target last Monday. 42% of the population are currently fully vaccinated and have received both doses.
While it is not clear if Gozo reached herd immunity before her sister island, Muscat told this newsroom that the GTA is “confident that even Gozo managed to achieve herd immunity” and that the vaccine programme has been advancing swiftly on the island.