The issue over whether Gozo should have an airstrip for fixed wing aircraft was raised by Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco today as an example of the delicate balance which Malta needs to strike between development and environmental protection.

"There is never a win-win situation in cases such as this, and we have to tread a delicate line," Dr de Marco said when addressing a conference on Innovation in Island Tourism.

He said that sustainable development, along with jobs and education, were the government's main priorities.

Tourism involved development, which had to be sustainable and such that it did not ruin the very characteristics which tourists came to Malta to enjoy, he said.

An example of this delicate balance was how last week Mepa issued a permit for the extension of a hotel, despite objections by environmentalists, because the hotel otherwise risked not being sustainable.

There was a similar situation in Gozo, an island which depended heavily on tourism. There had been several requests for the building of an airstrip, but how feasible would this be? Would the building of an airstrip promote sustainable development? Would it alter the magic of Gozo? Would the island lose something which attracted tourists?

In his speech, Dr de Marco suggested that Malta should start promoting its traditional villages as an example of Maltese character. He also raised questions over the building of high-rise structures and their impact on tourism.

When he spoke on training, Dr de Marco said that under the EU’s leader programme, 1,500 people in the tourism industry would receive additional training.

The conference was organised by the GRTU.

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