Staycations in Malta and Gozo: Here to stay?

The pandemic dealt a hefty blow to the hotel industry and to other collective accommodation establishments. The bulk of their clientele comes from abroad, and therefore travel restrictions blocked the key market of these establishments.

To make things worse, besides having to face lower demand from tourists, in the first part of the pandemic hotels and other establishments also saw demand from locals dwindle. After having had a very strong increase in 2019, which saw the share of resident stays rise from 4% to 5%, in 2020 hotels saw locals abandone them.

In the first quarter of 2020, the number of resident stays fell by nearly 6,000 nights, or by 5%. The second quarter marked a veritable low-point, with resident stays barely exceeding 30,000 nights. This was a decline of 69% compared to 2019.

The following quarter saw a complete turnaround. Fear of foreign travel meant that most Maltese and Gozitans, particularly families, opted for a staycation. Furthermore they had the added incentive of the Government scheme. Most hotels and collective accommodation establishments offered substantial discounts and matched the Government scheme.

The result was that in the summer of 2020, the number of resident stays at local hotels more than doubled, with an increase of over 138,000 nights. This meant that staycations were the equivalent of one-thirteenth of the previous summer’s foreign tourist activity. To put it more simply, the number of nights that Maltese and Gozitans spent in local hotels in summer 2020 was higher than the number of nights that German and Austrian tourists had spent in local hotels in summer 2019. The rise in summer staycations during 2020 was equal to the number of hotel nights spent by Spanish tourists in summer 2019.

The rise in summer staycations during 2020 was equal to the number of hotel nights spent by Spanish tourists in summer 2019.

The benefit of the voucher scheme was that it reversed the decline in staycations observed in the first half of 2020. When the voucher scheme expired, staycations did not go back in decline. The gain for hotels and accommodation establishments was not transitory. In both the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 despite all the scares about COVID-19 and restrictions, the number of nights spent by residents in local hotels continued to rise and exceed pre-pandemic levels.

In the last quarter of 2020, there was an increase of nearly 5% over 2019. The first quarter of 2021 saw resident stays rise by 8% compared to the same quarter of 2020. But even if one compares to the first quarter of 2019 one sees a 3% increase.

While in 2019, resident stays were 5% of total stays at hotels and other collective accommodation establishments, in 2020 the share rose to 19%. In the first quarter of 2021, residents accounted for double that share.

With the re-issue of the voucher scheme, there are expectations that staycations will once again feature prominently in summer 2021. This time round, locals will have to compete with returning foreign tourists, and so the relative share of the domestic market is expected to plummet. However, the indications are that at least for 2021, most families will continue to opt for a local rather than an overseas holiday.

Like many things that characterised the pandemic, it might well be that the staycation will remain somewhat a feature of our post-pandemic life.

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Dr. Mark Said
Dr. Mark Said
2 years ago

Ironically, Staycations are one ‘positive’ (excuse the pun) consequence of Covid-19, in that they are indirectly, if not directly, pumping more into Malta’s economic growth, more so if, as predicted, they will be with us for a long time to come.