If you’re tempted to book a subsidised trip to Malta this summer, this is what you need to know about responsible travel when visiting the island.
And helping to conserve Malta’s supply of fresh water should be uppermost in your thoughts, according to experts.
The sun-drenched Mediterranean destination has been dominating headlines in recent days.
Malta was famously home to the Queen and Prince Philip during the early years of their marriage - who lived in the marina-side eastern district of Pieta between 1949 and 1951.
The Malta Tourism Authority has also announced plans to ‘pay’ tourists to visit the nation - with holidaymakers able to claim up to €200 in compensation, depending on which hotel they stay in.
With the UK Government looking for ways to open up foreign travel this summer, providing you’ve been vaccinated or can show a negative test result, you might well end up with a Maltese stamp in your passport in 2021.
And Reverend Paul Rooney, Head of Geography and Environmental Science at Liverpool Hope University, is urging tourists to consider their impact when visiting Malta.
The University has close ties with Malta and the Malta Tourism Authority, running regular research field trips there and monitoring the impact of continued tourism development.
Rev. Rooney says one of the big things to remember is the responsible use of water - with Malta having a very limited natural water supply and instead relying on imported water and ‘desalination’ and ‘reverse osmosis’, the process of removing salt from seawater.
He explains: “The environmental impact of tourism and any international travel can be and is significant. These contribute significantly to the issue of climate change and pose a grave threat to our planet.
“However, there are simple things that people can do to minimise their impacts when travelling abroad for holiday and business.
“And when visiting Malta, I’d strongly recommend visitors shower rather than taking a bath in their hotel room.
“For many countries, including Malta, water is a scarce resource so minimising its use is a responsible action.
“You should also choose to travel on public transport while away on holiday or business in Malta, as the nation has an excellent bus service.”
The good news for eco-conscious travellers is that when you visit Malta, tourists are levied a small additional charge through the ECO Contribution Act.
Rev. Rooney adds: “This is chargeable at the rate of €0.50 per person per night, subject to a maximum of €5 per person per visit.
“This helps to maintain tourist zones in Malta, which is crucial at a time when the island could experience a real influx of visitors.
“You could also consider off-setting your carbon when booking your flight. Many airlines offer this option already as part of the booking process.
“And remember that during the pandemic we’ve seen a significant reduction in some of the negative environmental impacts.
“For instance, air quality has improved in many places due to a reduction in traffic and biodiversity has benefited in places due to a reduction in human disturbance.
“Trying to maintain some of these gains made should be at the forefront of minds for the responsible traveller.”
The subsidised travel scheme announced by the Malta Tourism Authority will see visitors who book a three-night stay in select hotels handed compensation on a scaled basis, with the amounts also matched by hotels.
If you stay in a five star hotel, for example, you’ll be awarded €100 Euros from the Malta Tourism Authority and €100 Euros from the hotel itself, for a total €200 (£173).
Dr Victoria Kennedy, Lecturer in Tourism at Hope, points out that prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, tourism in Malta had been particularly buoyant - sustaining a 10-year period of growth, with tourist arrival figures reaching 2.8 million 2019.
Meanwhile Steve Fowler, Professional Tutor in Tourism Management, predicts the compensation will prove a success - which may prompt other nations in the Mediterranean to follow suit in the long run.
He says: “This is a novel approach from Malta and is likely to be of benefit.
“Malta has had a successful roll-out of the vaccine domestically, and is already popular with the older or traditional UK market, a demographic that is likely to have been fully vaccinated and, therefore, will be able to travel.
“The initiative is likely, therefore, to appeal to a core market for Malta on two fronts. Firstly, Malta, which receives 98% of its international arrivals by air, is able to manage its borders effectively and this will provide confidence regarding Covid-related issues.
“And secondly, the opportunity for a subsidised holiday will appeal to those older, or traditional UK visitors who would normally have visited over the quieter Winter period in order to soak up a Mediterranean climate.
“In tandem, it will also go some way to delivering a Summer tourism season in Malta that may otherwise have been lost, as younger visitors would be unable to travel, having not been fully vaccinated.
“Whilst the initiative is presented as 'paying' people to visit Malta, which may seem strange if taken at face value, it could simply be viewed as just another means of subsidising a vital sector of the Maltese economy, not unlike business support that has been offered to the tourism sector in the UK and elsewhere throughout the pandemic.”
** You can visit the Malta Tourism Authority website here.