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Gozo chamber makes case for airstrip

One of the proposals tabled over the years has been to enlarge the helipad in Xewkija and turn it into an airstrip suitable for fixed-wing aircraft. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

One of the proposals tabled over the years has been to enlarge the helipad in Xewkija and turn it into an airstrip suitable for fixed-wing aircraft. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

The Gozo Business Chamber yesterday insisted that the debate over the development of an airstrip on the sister island should focus on when it would be built not if.

The long-standing issue was stoked again last week by the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Mario de Marco, who argued that, while an airstrip might make the island more accessible, it could also take away the magical attraction it held for tourists. "One has to ask: Is it feasible? Will it promote sustainable development?" he said.

Debate about the airstrip has been going on for years. The tourism industry on the island is keen to have the landing strip, which would complement the seaplane service but environmentalists oppose the idea arguing it would entail expanding the former helicopter landing strip into the countryside.

The president of the Gozo Business Chamber, Michael Galea yesterday insisted the project was long overdue. "Our island needs a vital air link to offer direct means of communication with Malta International Airport. This will translate Gozo's dream, of being sold as a distinct destination, into a reality. Besides other benefits, a direct link will boost foreign investment in Gozo."

Dr Galea said that over 90 companies of 100 polled said they would not invest in the island and mentioned as a main reason the fact that there was no air link. This meant "more travel times and costs" and that "clients coming from abroad would be reluctant to travel to Gozo for a meeting".

The survey results were highlighted recently during a conference on European and Malta Attractiveness Surveys 2009, organised by Ernst & Young.

Gozo deserved a better share of business opportunities, the GBC said. An airstrip would contribute to the growth of tourism and economic prosperity. However, it was not the only project Gozitans were longing for, it added.

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