Brand Malta: Ghosts of the Past vs a Resilient Present

In 2005 and 2006, the Malta Tourism Authority embarked on a disastrous campaign which was called Brand Malta. It was spearheaded by the then executive chairman of the MTA, who engaged a supposed Norwegian brand expert to come up with the goods. Notwithstanding the obscene money thrown at this gentleman’s feet, nothing really came out of this exercise, much to the then MTA Board’s chagrin, since they were left completely in the dark about what this expensive exercise was really all about.

At that time, I was the only Maltese marketer who was liveried as such in the City of London, apart from being a fully-fledged member of the Worshipful Company of Marketors. The Worshipful Company of Marketors is one of the 110 livery companies of the City of London. The Company was founded in 1975 and ranks ninetieth in the order of precedence for livery companies. Its church is London’s St Bride’s Church.

The Company of Marketors is the City livery company for leaders in marketing. The Marketors promote marketing as a force for economic and public benefit, encouraging marketing education and marketing in practice. The Company’s presence in the City of London focuses on the need for marketing principles being at the heart of corporate decision-making within the Square Mile and beyond. The Company aims to promote the benefits of marketing and encourage excellence in marketing practice.

In 2005 and 2006, the Malta Tourism Authority embarked on a disastrous campaign which was called Brand Malta.

A strong and numbered delegation visited Malta during this period and had several meetings with the government of that time. Brand Malta was also mentioned in the meetings held with the then Minister for Tourism and MTA officials. I formed part of that delegation, which included a number of heavyweight marketors operating in the City, all with extensive experience in country branding, not just in the UK but across several countries worldwide. They offered their aid, expertise and networking prowess to the Maltese authorities without asking for any remuneration. They never received any form of answer. Instead – and this is just one example of many – silly money was spent on CNN adverts aired at 2am in the morning in regions which were not even serviced by any connecting flights to Malta. Naturally, someone somewhere was making a killing in the exorbitant commissions being dished out.

At that time, there was no Repubblika or Civil Society Network protesting in tents outside the Ministry or reporting such flagrant abuse of power to every Tom, Dick and Harry outside Malta’s shores. And this was just one teeny, weenie episode of many during the golden years of a conservative government. Of course they weren’t protesting. They were mostly occupied with sizzling direct orders or contracted as persons of trust at that time.

Where is Malta now?

It is now 2021. Immediately after two years of an international pandemic which has crippled the economy of most nations, irrespective of size and political leaning. It has created an economic impasse without any textbook to follow, with countries having to improvise their way through the economic, social, medical and mental fallout of COVID-19.

And where is Malta now? It has been deemed, together with Portugal, as the safest EU tourist destination. It has been recognised as a European and world leader in vaccination and booster numbers to combat the pandemic. Its deaths per capita are also recognised as the lowest in the EU. Its social welfare injections have been assessed as the most effective throughout Europe, whilst simultaneously registering the lowest dependence ever on social assistance. The government’s green credentials in the 2022 budget was lauded by the EU Commission President as a blueprint for other EU states to follow. In the last 17 months of pandemic, 10,000 new jobs were created, making Malta the number one EU country with the least unemployment figures. We boast the lowest tax burden per capita in these last two decades, and a staggering 80% of foreign investors state that their future lies in Malta.

Today, Malta has been deemed, together with Portugal, as the safest EU tourist destination.

The list goes on. These are not self-made statistical glorification for propaganda purposes. These are valid and trustworthy reports and findings issued by the European Commission and its institutions, the International Monetary Fund, Eurostat, the leading international credit ratings agencies.

In the meantime, a minute portion of our community continue bashing their heads against the wall and try to convince all and sundry that Malta is the shittiest place to be. Ironically, these proponents are as Maltese as you and I. With the exception that they cannot yet grasp the notion that they do not feature as the electorate’s choice for overseeing such wealth and progress.

Sad indeed. But what antidote can one take to spirit away the demons of sour grapes? In the meantime, a personal anecdote will suffice to close my argument for this week: during the last weekend, I was quite busy chairing an international symposium in Malta which featured delegates from sixteen different countries. The Swedish delegate had last been to Malta more than a decade ago. This is his note, quoted verbatim, which he put up on his Facebook wall:

‘Lovely Malta! One of few places that I would actually like to live in. Much have changed since I worked there about a decade ago, but only for the better I’d say!’

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