This September marked the largest passenger traffic in our airport since February 2020. 418,473 passengers passed through the Malta International Airport in September, up from 407,435 in August and 311,692 in July.
Airport activity in September had last outpaced that of August in 1999, nearly a generation ago. Quite interestingly passenger traffic this September was better than that in September 2012, which shows that activity is already exceeding what it was before the change in government despite that a global pandemic is still ongoing.
As can be seen from the table, we are now at 55% of the arrivals observed before the pandemic started, up from just 6% in April. Whereas in summer 2020, August had been the peak month, this year September has beat August quite significantly. More importantly September’s outturn beat industry expectations squarely.
In its latest economic projections, the Central Bank had forecast that from July to December, travel to Malta will be at around 30% of its pre-pandemic level. Up to now, in July to September, passenger traffic has amounted to 48% of its 2019 benchmark. In relative terms the Central Bank’s forecast appears off by 60%, with the margin growing every successive month.
The United Kingdom retained its spot as Malta Airport’s top driver of passenger traffic with over 108,000 passengers departing or arriving from this destination in September. This compared with a total of 99,881 passenger movements registered from the United Kingdom in August. Italian, German, French, and Spanish markets also did well in September, beating expectations. The further easing of travel restrictions by the UK government in October, combined with the half-term holidays, augurs well for the coming months.
The other promising trend is that while tourism arrivals are lagging below those pre-pandemic, the tourists that are coming are staying longer and spending much more than before. In the eight months to August, per capita tourist expenditure was €975, or 20% more than pre-pandemic levels. Tourists are, on average, spending more on hotel accommodation and other expenditure in Malta. This is particularly true for UK and German tourists, two of Malta’s largest source markets.
If this trend of rising per capita spend continues, tourist numbers will not need to return to 2019 levels for the industry to regain its previous level of income.