Recently issued data show that last December nearly 76,000 tourists visited Malta. This was just over half the amount that had come to Malta in December before the pandemic, but was nearly 6 times the amount of tourists who visited Malta in December 2020.
So while the Omicron variant did affect Malta’s tourism industry, the impact was not devastating. Relatively speaking, the situation in December was even better than it had been in August, as back then arrivals were still below half the pre-pandemic levels.
Moreover when one digs deeper, beyond the arrival numbers, one finds that in terms of nights stayed, the recovery has continued to strengthen. In December tourists spent more than 775,000 nights in Malta as against just over one million nights in 2019. This means that tourist nights were 77% those observed in the last December before the pandemic. This is the best result ever in relative terms on a monthly basis, beating November. As a result, tourist spending continued to be quite strong.
If one looks at the whole of 2021 tourist expenditure per capita shot up to €899, €200 more than the tourists who visited Malta in 2020, and nearly €100 more than the tourists who visited before the pandemic. Tourist spending per capita in 2021 was only exceeded by that recorded in 2015. Aside from that single year, average tourist expenditure last year was the best ever recorded.
In 2021 tourist expenditure per capita shot up to €899, €200 more than the tourists who visited Malta in 2020.
While back in 2019, tourists on average spent €279 on accommodation, this year they spent €334. Outside of hotels they spent on average €374 each, as against €295 in 2019. While tourist numbers may seem still lagging the pre-pandemic heights, when one looks at the type of tourists visiting, it is clear that it is the better spending ones who are travelling to Malta.
Indications for January confirm the industry’s resilience. Almost 160,000 passengers passed through Malta International Airport last January, or more than four times the footfall during the same month a year earlier. Compared to the pre-pandemic level of passenger traffic the airport was at 44% of the 2019 level. By contrast, in January 2021 passenger traffic was only 11 % of pre-pandemic activity. Compared to before the pandemic, passenger movements through the airport during January were better than in June and July and similar to those in August of last year.
In recent months we have seen that with fewer tourists, we are having a much better per capita economic return than we were before the pandemic. Managing to retain this going forward will be crucial for the success of Malta’s strategy to build back better its tourist industry.
If tourist expenditure remains one-eighth higher than pre-pandemic, this would reduce greatly the pressure on infrastructure of the tourism sector while landing operators the same revenue as before.