Saturday, February 10, 2007

Malta Air Show Boosts Hotel Reservations

Malta is set for her annual international air show to be the best ever this year, with tens of thousands of islanders and tourists attending the event.

Making the event a truly international one, as well as the Armed Forces of Malta participating, the French, Italian, Dutch Swiss and Spanish will all have planes and crew in attendance, plus the British Royal Air Force and US Air Force.

Among the planes taking part are two Alpha jets from France, one of which will be doing an aerial display, six F-16's with two Dutch F-16's flying, and from the RAF two Harriers and two Tornados, with one of the Harriers expected to do an aerial demonstration.

Ticket prices for the Saturday or Sunday are low compared to many international air shows, ensuring access is available to many of the Maltese population as well as enthusiasts and veterans who travel from around Europe for the weekend. Prices this year are 4.5 Maltese (around US $12) for either day, with public transport to the show available throughout the island.

With the tourist season beginning to slow down, many of the Malta hotels see the air show as a tourist attraction and organise transport to and from the event.

An advantage of holding the show in the second half of September is that the Malta weather can almost be assured to be good, with the all important clear skies allowing viewing of the participating planes.

Malta Airport

The air show is seen by many in the Malta holidays industry as evidence that Malta can produce events which will not only prove an attraction to those tourists already on the island, but also as part of a package of other attractions to draw new tourists to the island.

The first half of the year has been a disappointing one for the holiday to Malta industry, with a drop in tourists for the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year.

Commenting on the recently released figures showing a drop in visitors, one independent travel guide for Malta believes that events like the air show should be promoted more.

'Malta needs good news', they say, 'and if potential tourists could see on a Malta map of events quality displays such as the air show it would be a good reason to visit the island.

The island needs to compete against other destinations in the Mediterranean, but while most of them are seeing an increase in visitor numbers, Malta is showing a drop'.

Many hoteliers and others in the holiday industry are hoping that cheap flights to Malta might become a reality in the near future. There has been talk of low cost carriers from the UK and Ireland providing services to the island for some time now, but no deals have been struck yet.

Unemployment on the island is high at over 8 per cent, and tourism is a major employer, but many feel that the government is reluctant to see the national carrier Air Malta face potentially subsidised competiton. But by doing nothing the island faces the danger of the whole tourist industry suffering.

'Malta can be a high quality destination with low cost fares', comment the travel guide. 'We already have good accommodation like the Qawra Palace Hotel, so potentially we can do it'.