The Queen began her official visit to Malta before she opened the meeting, and was warmly greeted by friendly islanders.
Malta was governed by the British for a hundred and fifty years, and became independent in 1964. But the island has retained many British characteristics, including driving on the left, and British visitors account for nearly half of the island’s tourists.
The George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as Britain’s highest award for bravery – and Malta was awarded the Cross in 1942 by King George VI for the island’s resistance to German attempts to occupy the island, with Malta being under almost constant attack from June 1940.
As well as the challenge of drawing tourists away from other Mediterranean islands like Mallorca and Menorca, Malta has had to face the additional challenge of new holiday destinations in the former Eastern Bloc opening up, such as Bulgaria and Croatia, which tend to be cheaper.
But where the Maltese tourist board has singularly failed to market the island’s appeal to the mass holiday market with any degree of success in recent years, the Queen’s visit has come at the right time for hotels and holiday companies hoping for a good 2006.
Tribune Properties, a British based company specialising in overseas properties including Malta comment:
‘Malta is not a high priority on the list of holiday destinations for many British people compared to the Spanish Costas, Canary and Balearic Islands. The visit of the Queen showed Malta in a very positive light, and hopefully the island’s tourist officials will be able to capitalise on the trip and increase hotel and holiday bookings in the months ahead. Given Malta’s past record of promotion though if 2006 sees an increase in visitors it will be despite of the official promotions, and not because of it.’.
More good news for the Malta holiday industry came in October with the announcement that low cost airlines had been been given the right to fly to the island.