New routes lend hope for better tourism performance
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New routes lend hope for better tourism performance

An increase of 12,000 tourists in the first quarter of this year has given the authorities hope that the tourism sector will perform strongly this year after last year's disappointment, but Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco cautioned this afternoon that this is a volatile industry where things can change very quickly, as the ash cloud crisis showed.

The first three months of this year saw the number of tourist bednights rise by 80,000 while tourist spending rose by €20 million.

Dr de Marco said a key target this year had been to increase seat capacity and air routes. Sixteen new routes had been promised and 14 have already been introduced, including six being introduced by Ryanair this week. Despite the increase in new services, Dr de Marco said Air Malta had managed to maintain its market share at around 56 per cent, which was unchanged from two years ago.

Ryanair is this week introducing services from Billund (Denmark) Krakow (Poland) Marseille, Seville, Valencia and Bologna having earlier this year also introduced services from Leeds and Bradford and Bournemouth.

EasyJet introduced services from Rome and Malpensa Milan and Liverpoool.

BMI Baby started a service from the East Midlands while Norwegian introduced flights from Oslo and Copenhagen.

Air Malta introduced flights to Torino and Genoa.

Malta is now linked to 76 airports in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf.

Low cost airlines now account for 23 per cent of all traffic.

The volcanic ash crisis last week saw the cancellation of 336 flights to Malta, with an estimated decrease of €11 million in potential earnings from tourism.

The CEO of Malta International Airport, Julian Jaeger, said he hoped that Europe would adopt the US method with regard to dealing with ash clouds. Rather than being based onc omputer models, the US system is based on satellite observations and test flights. As a result airspace is closed for fewer hours.

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