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BY Gary Noakes


WTM 2017: Malta prepares for year in the cultural spotlight

All eyes will be on Malta throughout 2018 when its capital city Valletta takes the title of European Capital of Culture.

Aerial view of Valletta, Malta

"It will be massive; when opportunities like this come along, the Maltese don’t hide."

The year of events kicks off with the opening week, January 14-21, which includes the official opening ceremony on January 20. It will also encompass the Malta Carnival, taking place from February 9-13, while a major event in June will be the Valletta Pageant of the Seas in the Grand Harbour. Literature, film and book festivals will also take place as well as several new museum openings.

“Next year will be Valletta’s year,” said Peter Vella, UK and Ireland director of the Malta Tourism Authority. “It will be massive; when opportunities like this come along, the Maltese don’t hide.”

Malta is already riding high on the back of a big increase in global tourism in the first half of 2017, which saw arrivals up 20.4% year-on-year. The biggest increases in European arrivals were from Italy, up 25% and Germany, 22%, with France up 19% and the UK up 2.3%. Malta has also been successful in the short-break market, with three-night stays up by 41.6% in the first six months of 2017. These now represent 24.5% of the total.

Vella said the small 2017 increase from the UK was due to airlines not adding capacity this year. However, this was set to change, he added, with the first flights from Belfast since 2015 having just resumed and the first-ever Aberdeen connection due to start next summer with Ryanair.

The island is also becoming more attractive to the LGBTQ market following the legalisation of gay marriage in July this year. The move followed the announcement in May that Malta had been ranked number one of 49 destinations on the Europe Rainbow Index of gay-friendly countries for the second year running.

WTM London delegates who visit the Malta Tourism Authority stand (EU1450) can take part in a prize draw to win three nights’ five-star accommodation on Malta plus flights from Southend airport. Additionally, visitors to the stand can sample Maltese food and wine every day at 4pm.

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