Farsons Group CEO Norman Aquilina, while welcoming updated timelines for Malta to achieve herd immunity by end-June, believes that the island’s chances of recovery are not only dependent on this milestone, but also on what happens in the tourist originating countries visiting Malta.
“Recovery is not only dependent on attaining herd immunity amongst locals but also on what actually happens in the tourist originating countries visiting Malta,” he told WhosWho.mt.
Tourism remains a top concern for Malta’s business community. The country plans to open up to international tourism on 1st June, and the importance of a successful summer from a tourism perspective is widely perceived to be essential for Malta’s chances at swift economic recovery.
Indeed, while Mr Aquilina occupies the top executive spot of a major manufacturing and bottling group of companies, Farsons Group, tourism remains an important component that drives demand for the Group’s products.
Farsons Group is engaged in the brewing, production, sale and distribution of branded beers and beverages, as well as the importation, wholesale and retail of food and beverages, including wines and spirits, the operation of franchised food retailing establishments and property developments.
“In more ‘normal’ times, the beverage business, more specifically the consumption of beer, enjoys a significant swing during the peak summer weeks and months – this is not unique to Malta, but quite typical across most Mediterranean countries with similar climates and robust tourist industries.
“The long, hot, sunny days are lived mainly outdoors – on the beaches, at barbeques, in our gardens, by the pool, at outdoor clubs, strolling at a leisurely pace along the many seaside promenades, with families, friends, visitors and the like. We lost one summer to COVID, and, losing another would have potentially longer-term negative effects on many businesses, not excluding ours.
Asked for his top concerns currently, Mr Aquilina cites lingering uncertainty, which has characterized the pandemic from the start.
“Furthermore, as we start to see a gradual lifting of the restrictive measures, along with some light at the end of the tunnel, there still remains some concern on the expected impact and duration of the spillover effect brought about by the pandemic, both from an economic and social point of view.”
More specific business concerns “mainly lies in the consequential fragility of the on-trade hospitality sector – specifically restaurants, bars, pubs, etc – some of which may not see the light of day, as many remain badly cash strapped and continue to struggle to re-align their cash flows, particularly as conceded moratoria start easing off.
“That apart, there are also looming concerns on some inflationary pressures, with all the knock-on consequences that this could potentially bring.”