Editorial: Endangering the proverbial goose
Statistics published by the National Statistics Office show that in the second quarter of this year, between April and June 2012, commuters to Gozo decreased by 1.6%, when compared to the corresponding period in 2011. This may not be a significant decrease when considering that 1,079,367 passengers crossed between Malta and Gozo in three months.
The number of vehicles crossing over to Gozo also declined, by 4%, and totalling 274,123. It is estimated that 53% of the commuters are Gozitans while 47% are Maltese and tourists.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Gozo Tourism Authority, Joe Muscat, indicated that the blame for the decrease could be due to the inconveniences caused by roadworks on the way to Gozo, particularly between Mellieha and Cirkewwa and also in Gozo. This might be true to some extent, but is it just roadworks that is putting off the Maltese from visiting Gozo and vacationing on the sister island?
The decrease in visitors has to be analysed further before any judgement can be made. Logically, most of the Gozitan residents that commute on a daily basis are forced to do so irrespective of the roadworks. Thus a precise and in depth analysis has to be made on the “Maltese” decrease since foreigners who visit on holiday will not be off put by the Gozo and Mellieha roadworks.
However, with regards to internal tourism it is a completely different situation. A recent survey showed that 75% of the Maltese will not be taking a holiday this year. In the context of Gozo, this might translate into some Maltese skipping their Easter visit to Gozo and a vacation abroad in summer and will be taking their yearly holiday in Gozo instead. The mid-August visit to Gozo was a popular option until a few years ago and perhaps the next set of statistics will confirm this. This scenario could also mean that the spending power of the Maltese has decreased.
What really matters for the Gozitan economy is how much the Maltese are willing and able to spend during their holiday in Gozo compared to a holiday in Sicily, Tunisia or even Crete. Thus, it is not the number of Maltese commuters which really counts, but how much money they have available to spend while in Gozo besides the cost for the lodging.
Commuters to Gozo can notice an increase in the number of Maltese transporting all their necessities with them. This means that they prefer shopping and stocking up for their farmhouse holiday in Gozo in Malta. Perhaps this too is an indication that the cost of living in Gozo is beyond what the norm that the Maltese are ready to accept.
Perhaps the statistics and the perception are the initial evidence that it is a case of endangering the goose that lays the golden eggs.