By H.E. Ms. Marlene Bonnichi, Ambassador of the Republic of Malta.
Malta is well known in many countries as a prime tourist destination. The Netherlands is no exception. Tens of thousands of Dutch people continue to flock to our Islands to get a slice of the Mediterranean life, food and culture. I have yet to meet a Dutch person who has been on holiday to Malta and that has not enjoyed the stay. Right now is not an ideal time for tourism …….but we can still dream…… and travel soon……….. hopefully……..
Tourism is one of the pillars of the Maltese economy and we are very proud of the Malta product which, despite the many Islands and tourist destinations in the Mediterranean, is actually quite distinctive. First of all Malta is an all year destination – many Mediterranean Islands are not. Malta is a country where most people will be able to communicate in at least three languages (Maltese, English and Italian) from three totally different families of language, so tourists, whether from Europe, the wider Mediterranean region and the Gulf or further afar, feel comfortable visiting our Islands, and some even making the archipelago their home. Today, Malta’s population of almost half a million people has about 14% of expatriates, around half of which come from EU Member States.
The Republic of Malta sits right in the middle of the Mediterranean so our language, culture, food …. are a real mix of our European and Christian heritage and our proximity to North Africa and Arab Neighbours.
Our geography makes us a very special and eclectic bunch of people, having been destined to be at the cross roads of European and Arab civilisations. In this sense the Malta experience is very unique to the visitor which belies its size.
The density of cultural heritage – three UNESCO world heritage sites (one of which consists of 7 individual sites) in 316 square kilometres, a monument at every corner and a church for every day of the year – as well as mild weather throughout the year with hardly a day without sunshine; topped with the surrounding azure Mediterranean sea, sets these Islands apart from any other.
Traditional Maltese hospitality for which we have been renowned for many centuries will continue to be the highlight of this experience.
Rabbit is our national dish but of course fish and citrus fruits are favourites too. Expect to be invited to people’s homes where you will not be allowed to leave before you have sampled all the food set before you (and it is a lot😊).
Over 2.6 million tourists visit Malta every year, largely as a result of the excellent work being done by the Malta Tourism Authority and their representatives around the world, including here in the Netherlands; as well as the good air and sea connections between Malta and its main tourist destinations, including from the Netherlands – from Schiphol but also from other parts of the country including Eindhoven and Maastricht.
Tourism is only but one of the industries that underpin this largely “small” service oriented economy of ours. In the last 25 years or so our country has been slowly putting together the building blocks for a sound and diversified economy. Traditional industries such as the hospitality sector, the maritime services sector, as well as a relatively sizeable manufacturing sector continue to grow alongside more innovative and modern industries such as financial services and fintech, i-Gaming, aviation maintenance and the creative sector. Several of these sectors also attract a steady flow of Dutch workers and young people seeking internships.
My tour of duty in The Netherlands is soon coming to an end. I have felt very welcome here and made so many new friends, Dutch friends but also from within the diplomatic community and beyond. I will always treasure this time in my heart and I hope I have planted a seed of curiosity in your hearts too and who knows- maybe I shall meet some of you on one of the promenades along the Maltese coast……