The total number of inbound tourists decreased by 56.5 percent in March, compared with the same month last year. Figures by the National Statistics Office reveal the harsh reality for the tourism sector in Malta as measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus started coming into effect from the end of February.
Between January and March, inbound tourism fell by 13 percent from the first quarter in 2019 and by 11.6 from 2018, There were around 371,000 visits translating into 2.2 million nights – a 20 percent drop from the previous year.
The number of visitors in March was slightly over 75,000 pushing the total night-spend down by 60 percent from March 2019.
Tourism over the three months fell sharply across all categories: leisure, business, and specialised holidays; however, inbound travel from non-EU countries still rose by almost 125 percent. In March, too, tourism from outside the EU, which includes the United Kingdom, was up by 25 percent. Incidentally, the UK represents the largest market corresponding to roughly a third of all incoming tourists.
Expenditure by tourists over the three-month period was around €600 per capita, a decline of more than five percent from the first quarter of 2019. Excluding accommodation and travel costs, each visitor spent an average €240 during their stay, the lowest amount in three years. In fact, total tourism expenditure was estimated at just under €225 million, 17.5 percent down from the year before.
The first Covid-19 measures came into force on February 28 mandating a quarantine period for inbound travellers from high-risk countries. Restrictions were gradually increased until ports were closed on March 18 and the airport, three days later.