Many have noticed that for the first time, in September, the year-to-date amount of tourist arrivals has started to show a positive sign since the pandemic began. While this is a positive development, it is shadowed by much more important positive developments.
Inbound tourists for the first nine months of 2021 amounted to 588,234, 0.4% higher than the same period of 2020. Total nights stayed, however, rose to nearly 5.4 million nights, 22.4% more than in 2020. Even more importantly is the fact that total tourism expenditure was estimated at €567 million, which is 44.3% higher than in the same period of 2020. This means that total expenditure per capita of tourists rose to €967, up from €673 in 2020.
What the numbers are telling us is that for each euro spent by a tourist who visited us in 2020, each tourist who visited us in 2021 spent one euro and forty four cents. This is far beyond expectations.
For every €1 spent by a tourist in Malta last year, this year’s tourists spent €1.44 each.
If one compares overall arrivals during the first three quarters of 2020 with those of the same period in 2019, one finds that arrivals are at 27% of pre-pandemic levels. If one looks instead at nights stayed activity stands at 35% of pre-pandemic activity. Finally if one focuses on spending, we are now at 32% of pre-pandemic earnings.
September tourism earnings were at 58% of pre-pandemic levels, while nights stayed in hotels were at 68% of pre-pandemic levels. Spending not related to flights or to accommodation in September stood at 66% of pre-pandemic levels.
What is even more impressive about these figures is that this extraordinary rise in per capita expenditure has occured despite that non-EU tourism has continued to decline. Before COVID, the highest spenders were non-EU tourists. Australian, Swiss and American tourists used to spend one and a half times more than the average tourist.
The average Spanish tourist used to spend around €680 in 2019. This year they spent €820, a fifth more. The average German tourist spent €830 in 2019. Now they spent over €1,060, a quarter more. The average Dutch tourist went from spending less than €800 in 2019 to spending nearly €1,100 this year.
EU tourists have started to spend as much as non-EU tourists used to spend before, and the most important thing is that whereas non-EU tourists mainly spent more because of higher flight costs, EU tourists are spending more because they are buying more things and consuming better than they used to do before.
This is a very positive development. If it is maintained in future years, we will be able to get the same amount of tourism revenue without the pressure of returning to the very high number of tourists that we had before.
It will therefore be key that we continue to adopt the strategy adopted recently and target our markets better.