European countries are doing all they can to reduce the time it takes to process visas but it is still taking too long to issue such travel permits to visit Malta, according to Michael Zammit Tabona.
“Italy and France process some 500 applications a day and have brought the procedure down to a few days. The UK apparently manages to issue visas in just a day or two. “But a Maltese visa still takes over two weeks even though they no longer need to apply in person but can do it through their tour operator. This is an improvement from what it was – and the government is planning to bring the time down to one week – but it is still not good enough,” he said.
Mr Zammit Tabona’s company, Fortel, has teamed up with the Arrigo Group to create Let’s Go Malta, a Beijing-based company aimed at bringing Chinese tourists to Malta.
The company launched its marketing drive by bringing over 30 tour operators in early summer, hoping to raise awareness of what Malta has to offer. Mr Zammit Tabona sees great potential in China, as the increasingly affluent and mobile population is seeking new destinations to visit.
“Malta could be a very good option for Chinese wanting a two- or three-centre holiday. And it could be a great place from which they could join a Mediterranean cruise. If there were a direct flight, as has been mentioned, it would be an advantage as tourists tend to spend the most at their first destination,” he said.
Let’s Go Malta is planning a five-day workshop in Malta later this month, with the help of the Malta Tourism Authority, and will bring over Chinese media organisations, including the state-owned TV station.
“China is such a vast market. Once we manage to tap into it, it would just keep going. “But the MTA needs to set up a special fund to promote Malta there, without diverting existing funds. And this fund would need to be big enough to offer tour operator support, promotions and advertising, as well as to help start direct flights,” he added.