Winter tourism is looking promising, with airlines reporting solid bookings for October and giving positive indications for the following months, according to the president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurant Association, Tony Zahra.

He said that in September and October, the airlines had received at least 60 per cent of the bookings they took during the same period in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In the circumstances, this was positive, he said. “Airlines are saying winter is looking good, too, but since bookings, as a result of the pandemic, are last minute, which is the new trend, we can only talk about indications for November and December.”

Other players within the industry, whom he talked to on a regular basis, were also optimistic about the winter.

“I am in touch with players from across the sector all the time and, so far, they are all hopeful about the winter the way things are going at the moment,” he said.

The ‘reopening of tourism’ in June hit a snag early on with a sudden change of protocol, requiring all incoming travellers to be vaccinated in response to mounting COVID-19 infections attributed to the influx of foreign students.

As a result of these measures, which saw tourist numbers plummet, the association’s assessment was that if the number of incoming travellers from July to December hit 60 per cent of figures in the same months two years earlier, they would consider the period a success, Zahra said.

In August it was still at 50 per cent but the figures for September and October were heading towards more than 60 per cent, he said.

And while the majority of tourists in June were from Germany and France, the UK had emerged as the dominant market again, Zahra added.

Westin Dragonara Resort’s general manager Michael Camilleri Kamsky said the hotel had seen an outstanding recovery in bookings in September, with numbers matching those of 2019.

“September is excellent as far as bookings are concerned. Conference business is really not performing due to the regulations of social distancing, but it has been replaced with leisure business. The market is predominantly from the UK,” he said.

He explained that bookings were coming in steadily for October, and based on discussions with overseas partners, winter was looking “favourable”.

Echoing Zahra, he said booking windows had become very short, so they were expecting bookings for November and December to come in at a later date.

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