Chief Economist of the Malta Fiscal Advisory Council Malcolm Bray, speaking in his personal capacity on social media, questioned the wisdom of Malta’s current business model in terms of the tourism product when many inbound travellers are served by fellow foreign nationals.
“Having a tourist coming to Malta and served by another foreigner (be it a driver, a waiter, a receptionist, etc) does not provide a ‘genuine’ tourism product, just like buying a cheap souvenir made in another country.”
Mr Bray, who is also a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Malta’s Institute for Tourism, Travel & Culture, acknowledged how tourism suffered “a significant blow” because of the pandemic.
Beyond the direct impact of the virus on travel restrictions, a recent spike of daily COVID transmissions in Malta has been attributed to largely unvaccinated inbound travellers to the country, resulting in Malta requiring all tourists or visitors who are unvaccinated to quarantine on arrival.
Turning to the controversial issue of Malta’s hospitality workforce, which has recently been battered by the number of foreign nationals returning to their home country as well as a trend whereby workers are seeking to be employed in sectors less susceptible to COVID restrictions, Mr Bray said:
“Aspects of sustainable tourism deal with providing a refreshing experience to the tourist, while offering employment opportunities for the locals.
“In this respect, operators should rebalance their staff complement with more locals,” he writes.
Indeed, while Mr Gray’s sentiment is one that has been echoed by consumers of hospitality products and industry players alike, a number of factors have to be considered.
For starters, hospitality companies tend to favour candidates that are able to speak more languages and thus serve a wider range of tourists with greater ease. Ideally, hospitality candidates are also trained in the sector.
And, the situation gets more complicated when considering that hospitality wages and perks in Malta are lower compared to other European countries, as confirmed by AX Director of Hospitality Claire Zammit Xuereb as well as MRecruitment Operations Manager Martin Spiteri.
Additionally, Charles Selvaggi, who operates MHCS, has also confirmed that for the local hospitality job market, poaching seems to be the order of the day.
“Few locals want to do lower grades of work, notwithstanding how important they are,” he said in comments to BusinessNow.mt.