New Low Cost Airline To Offer Cheap Flights To Malta

The announcement was made after Norwegian AS — one of Europe’s leading low-cost airlines — successfully concluded negotiations with Malta International Airport (MIA) and the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), opening the doors for Norwegian AS to operate the route offering cheap flights to Malta.

Norwegian Air Shuttle will operate two flights to Malta a week, every Tuesday and Saturday, and is expected to move tourism to Malta in Norway, providing the Mediterranean island with a new influx in tourism. Joining the likes of Ryanair, who have been operating direct routes to Malta for over a year with relative success.

The addition of yet another low cost airline is expected to further boost tourist numbers visiting Malta and Norwegian Air Shuttle opens a window of opportunity to attract more Scandinavian tourists to visit the Maltese islands. Malta’s economy heavily depends on tourism and the introduction of low cost airlines to offer cheap flights to Malta is seen as a positive move by the authorities who had been protective of national airline Air Malta.

Norwegian AS commenced operations in September 2002 with four domestic routes and six B737-300 aircraft but has grown considerably since then and nowadays has 31 aircrafts and an additional 53 new B737-800′s on order from early next year. The low-cost airline offers a flight network of 128 routes to 76 destinations from Norway, Sweden and Poland.

“We are very proud to include Malta in our already extensive European network” said Daniel Skjeldam, Chief Commercial Officer of Norwegian AS.

“Malta has always been a favourite destination for Scandinavians and we realised that there is a great demand, judging from the numerous enquiries we receive from our customers. We believe that with low prices and a direct flight, it will be a success”. Mr Skjeldam added.

He went on to say that the airline is collaborating with the MTA and MIA to promote the route in Norway, offering cheap flights to Malta, and he expressed his appreciation for the support that both entities have shown throughout.

New Target For Malta Holidays

The Malta holiday industry has received the latest target set by the island’s tourism authority with more than a little sceptism after an announcement that a target of a million and half visitors a year to the island could be achieved in three years time.

The Malta Tourist Authority has consistently set targets in the past that have failed to be met, and early signs for this year indicate a stagnation if not a dip in tourists visiting Malta.

Part of a new plan to increase tourism in Malta is to include promoting the neighbouring and quieter island of Gozo as a holiday destination and to increase accessibility to Malta.

Commenting on the new targets, one independent Malta’s travel guide say that there is nothing new or innovative in the tourist authority’s plans that would make an increase in tourism likely to happen in itself.

‘Unfortunately the Malta Tourist Authority to us sometimes resembles a planning office in the old Soviet bureauracy. Good at producing statistics, excellent at identify problems and what the future needs, but failing miserably to deliver anything like the targets they set.

We feel that it is the private rather than the public sector that is more likely to increase tourist numbers to Malta, as they have a direct interest in seeing their plans work, while the tourist authority bureaucrats will still be drawing their salaries and annual leave whether or not the targets they set are met.’

Malta Holidays

One example the travel guide gives for poor Malta tourist figures is the delay in the introduction of low cost airlines to Malta and the possibility from that of an increase in tourist numbers.

With official figures showing worrying signs that the number of tourists for 2006 visiting Malta could be similar, or perhaps even down from 2005, the opportunity for the island to have low cost flights operating from the UK appears to have slipped by for the all important summer season.

The island’s official airline, Air Malta, reported a drop of over two per cent in the number of passengers it carried in the year from March 2005 to March 2006.

The good news for hotels in Malta and others involved in Malta’s tourist trade is that at least one of the low cost airlines will start operating from the UK and perhaps other parts of Europe next year from the UK which should boost visitor numbers.

‘With the holiday market vital to the Malta economy,’ comment the guide, ‘potentially millions in lost revenue will be lost this year because of delays in agreeing to allow the low cost airlines to fly into Malta. In today’s world Malta has to compete with new destinations in Europe as well as Spain and her islands. Cheap Malta flights aren’t in themselves enough to sustain tourism at reasonable levels anymore, although this will be welcome, but the trick of sustained tourism is to have repeat business, and unless Malta attracts new first time visitors then repeat business is an impossibility’.

Holidays in Malta and the related tourist sector are a major source of employment in Malta, and with unemployment running at over 8 per cent any fall in tourists could spell long term damage to the island’s economy.

Malta Holidays – Rumours Hit Tourist Island

Holidays in Malta could be off the list of destinations offered by major tour operators from next summer, according to press reports.

While nothing has been confirmed yet, it has been reported that at least one of the tour operators is seriously considering withdrawing Malta as one of their destinations, and the fear among Malta hotel owners and those in the holiday industry is that once one holiday company pulls the plug on the island, others will follow, relegating Malta from a mainstream holiday island offered by major travel agents to smaller specialist companies.

But First Choice Holidays, winner of the ‘Holiday Company of the Year’ travel award in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and one of the UK’s best known holiday companies have told one independent Malta travel guide that despite being named in the Malta press as the company most likely to do so they have never said they were pulling out of the Malta holiday market, but did admit that the Malta market was ‘increasingly difficult’ to sale.

Malta has been struggling for some years to adapt to the modern traveller, but government figures released for March showed a year on year drop in tourists of nearly 10 per cent, and most worrying of all was that the number of tourists arriving from the UK, Malta’s main market, fell by over 13 per cent, and visitors from Italy, a market the Tourist Office had been trying to cultivate also fell.

Holidays in Malta and the related tourist sector are a major source of employment in Malta, and with unemployment running at over 8 per cent any fall in tourists could spell long term damage to the island’s economy.

Another sector of the economy that could suffer with the Malta holidays market is real estate.

Property in Malta has risen in price in recent years, and 2004 saw Malta achieving the highest increase among the EU countries, with speculators buying property in Malta in the hope that joining the EU would see Malta real estate increase in value in the short and medium term.

Tribune Properties, who specialise in Malta Real Estate, view the potential downgrading of holidays in Malta as a double edged sword.

Managing Director Michael Johnson says that many Malta property buyers do so after visiting the island on holiday, and liking it so much they want to move to the island full time, while others who normally stay in hotels in Malta want to buy a property they can buy for their own and family holidays in Malta, and see buying a property in Malta as an investment for the future that they can enjoy too.

With less people taking holidays in Malta, the number of potential buyers will fall too.

Silver Lining

While Malta hotels and the tourist industry in Malta wait anxiously for news, the withdrawal of major tour operators from the island might not be all bad news.

There has been some discontent on the island about the rising prices of property in Malta, and with less overseas buyers the possibility of prices falling and more islanders being able to get on the property ladder could be welcome news.

In addition to lower property prices, YourMalta feel that projections of a collapse in the island’s holiday market if tour operators did withdraw could be exaggerated.

‘While the loss of the tour operators bringing tourists to the island is significant, in time the island will be less reliant on their business as more and more people make independent travel plans through the internet, and book their flights and hotels in Malta independently of traditional holiday companies.

Malta tends to attract the older tourist, so it might take longer than somewhere like Ibiza for example which attracts a younger visitor who as a group are more internet friendly’, states Managing Director Roger Munns, ‘but in time when the internet is seen as the primary source of booking a holiday across the age range, Malta will stand as much chance as anywhere of attracting tourists.

There has been speculation for some time now that low cost airlines are going to start offering flights to Malta, and this will help the Malta hotels and holiday market as more people consider three and four day breaks instead of the traditional week or fortnight, boosting the overall number of visitors, especially if Air Malta and the low cost airlines bring the cost of Malta flights to levels seen for the Spanish islands.

With an ineffective promotions board there is plenty of hope still for the holiday market in Malta, despite and not because of the Malta Tourist Authority, who are failing to promote Malta in the UK in any meaningful way.

Low Cost Boost For Malta Holidays

News that the Malta tourist industry has been waiting for so long for has finally been confirmed – low cost flights to the island have been granted approval and are already flying to the Mediterranean island.

Visitor numbers to the Mediterranean holiday island have been in decline this year, and culmilated in rumours that a UK tour operator was considering pulling Malta out of its brochures for next year, which would sharply accelerate the decline from a destination competing with Spain and her islands for tourists to a much smaller niche market player.

Hotel and resort owners have seen the Maltese government drag the negotiations out with the low cost airlines for some time, with delays in agreements losing Malta the potential of having extra tourists for this summer season.

‘It’s been painful to watch’, comment local travel guide YourMalta.com , ‘The impression the government have given is that they were quite happy to protect part of Malta’s industry – the flag carrier Air Malta – at the expense of the overall travel trade. As a result the number of visitors this year has already shown a drop. If they had acted quicker this last summer season could have been much better for the Malta holidays and hotel industry’.

Statements from Ryanair, the first low cost carrier to be flying to Malta, seem to back up the claims by YourMalta as they say they were at one stage taking a booking a minute for their new Malta route.

‘If the Malta government had got the agreement in place six months ago, the tourist industry would be in a much better position today, after a good summer’, add YourMalta.

Some of the anticipation of an increase in hotel and holiday bookings for Malta has been tempered recently after a survey in the UK – Malta’s largest market – showed that package holidays in 2007 would be more expensive than comparable holidays in Spain and her islands.

Malta Property

‘There is a possibility’, comment YourMalta, ‘That the introduction of the low cost airlines flying to Malta will merely delay the long term decline of the island’s tourist industry. Unless money is spent on the infrastructure and improving the environment for the tourists generally there is a danger that a lot of visitors will be one-off. If there’s a lesson to be learned in Malta that the government and her agencies have failed to grasp it is that sustainable tourism is built on repeat visitors. At the moment a lot of visitors from the UK see Malta as a one-off trip’.

As well as Ryanair, easyjet are also in talks about flights to Malta, with the possibility of operations beginning in spring next year.

The property market will also be keeping a close eye on tourist numbers now that the new flights have been given the green light. If visitor numbers do drop in the medium term it could be good news for locals looking to buy their first property.

There has been some discontent on the island about the rising prices of property in Malta, and with less overseas buyers the possibility of prices falling and more islanders being able to get on the property ladder could be welcome news, as today’s tourist is often tomorrow’s property buyer.

But now that low cost airlines are going to start offering flights to Malta, this could help the Malta hotels and holiday market as more people consider three and four day breaks instead of the traditional week or fortnight, boosting the overall number of visitors, especially if Air Malta and the low cost airlines bring the cost of Malta flights to levels seen for the Spanish islands.

Malta has traditionally seen the majority of her visitors from the UK, but this could be changing to a more diverse mix in future years.

Last year saw a record number of visitors from Italy, and increased enquiries have been received at estate agents across the island from Scandanvia, Holland, France and Belgium, helping to increase the demand for Malta properties.