Conventions Malta focuses on conference and incentive travel and Association business to the Maltese Islands. The role of this national bureau is that of promoting Malta, Gozo & Comino as a MICE destination focusing on research and planning, marketing and promotion, product development and quality assurance. Malta has resumed business as from the 5th June with many operators including restaurants and hotels reopening their doors under strict guidelines and measures. After the strong worldwide repercussions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we spoke with the Director, Christophe Berger, to dissect the efforts, initiatives and consequences caused by the business lockdown in these Mediterranean islands.
1) How is your destination containing this whole situation in order to get back on track?
The Maltese Islands were very successful in containing the pandemic and had some of the lowest infection rates in Europe. Following a shutdown of most activities and establishments, Malta has resumed business as from the 5th June with many operators including restaurants and hotels reopening their doors under strict guidelines and measures.
Passenger flights have resumed on the 1st July to a total of 24 destinations and a further 28 destinations were added on the 15th July. Measures are being taken at the Malta International Airport to ensure safety of both passengers and staff. This includes temperature testing upon arrival, distancing measures, and obligatory wearing of face masks at the terminal, amongst other measures.
The Malta Tourism Authority together with the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection have also put in place mandatory measures and protocols for catering establishments and hotels. All operating establishments have been checked and certified compliant and are subjected to periodic checks to ensure continued compliance.
There are also other measures which are being taken across the destination. These include the wearing of a face mask or shield when entering shops and on public transport and taxis. Most shops and establishments also offer hand sanitizers upon entry.
2) What has been the impact for your customers and partners, such as hotels, venues or restaurants, as far as you can tell?
The country was practically on shut down until the 5th of June and this has, of course, impacted all tourism and economic activity at a significant level. The Government listened, evaluated and responded. Several schemes were introduced to assist employees, employers and businesses. Examples include wage supplements, deferral of tax payments, support with telework setup, and social measures for families, amongst others.
Since tourism has resumed, most of the establishments have re-opened and are slowly getting back on track. Cooperation of every citizen is key in overcoming the situation and moving forward.
We remained in close contact with our overseas counterparts and local trade alike so as to encourage more communication and support amongst the network. Having the airport closed also meant that all travel came to a halt, however, there was still a keen interest in the destination. This resulted in a shift in our approach as we adopted more knowledge sharing measures as compared to sales driven ones.
3) What will be your top priority when resuming activities?
Activities have already resumed, and many businesses are taking additional precautionary measures over and above the mandatory ones. As Conventions Malta, we will continue to be of support to our industry players and to those organizations who are keen on bringing their events or visiting our shores. We are in close contact with our trade partners and we promise our full support to ensure a positive future for both our industry and clients.
4) How concerned are you about the crisis in international aviation and the volume of air routes?
Being an island, Malta is mostly dependent on-air travel. A number of international airlines operating to and from Malta have reintroduced their services. Malta’s legacy airline 'Air Malta' restarted its engines with flights to and from European hubs.
We must remain with our feet on the ground and understand that this year, and maybe the next, will not restore all previous routes linking Malta to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that in time the engines will start again and eventually Malta will be once again a hub in the Mediterranean Sea.
5) How do you see the future of events in Malta after this pandemic?
We can confidently say that the network of suppliers and industry players in Malta is a very professional one. They have quickly reacted to the situation and as a destination everyone pulled the rope in the same direction to regain momentum in the safest way.
Many venues and hotels have revised capacity charts for their respective spaces in order to maintain a hygienic environment and prevent close-contact settings. The Maltese Islands are also blessed with great weather and a good variety and selection of outdoor venues and locations, which can easily transform into a safe space for various activities. All of these factors augur well to the future of the events industry in Malta.
Christophe Berger joined the Malta Tourism Authority earlier on in 2019 as Director within the Conventions Malta Directorate. Since moving to Malta, from his native country France some twenty-five years ago, Christophe has worked in various sectors of the local hospitality and tourism industry. His professional background stems from hotel management and in Malta has held positions such as Assistant Sales and Rooms Manager at Grand Hotel Mercure Selmun Palace and Sales Executive Manager at Intercontinental Malta as part of the MICE team. With regards to the latter, his main focus involved commercial sales with international clients in France, Benelux and Switzerland so as to promote Malta as a destination and manage the marketing of the hotel overseas. Christophe also gained further experience within the MICE sector by working for a Destination Management Company (DMC) and heading the French speaking MICE market. His most recent position, prior to joining the MTA team, was as Director at Palazzo Parisio and Gardens - his main responsibilities being Sales and Marketing, hospitality events and overseeing the catering at the events.
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