ITS must vacate its premises by summer

No indication of where students will have classes

The Institute of Tourism Studies in St George’s Bay. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Institute of Tourism Studies in St George’s Bay. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Institute of Tourism Studies in St George’s Bay must be vacated this summer, but it is not yet known where students will attend classes in the new academic year, Times of Malta has been told.

According to the contract signed between the government and the db Group, the public property earmarked for a mega project has to be transferred to the private developer in the summer months.

It stipulates that while the building housing the ITS will have to be vacated by June 30, it has to be handed over to the new owners “vacant and unencumbered” by not later than the end of September. The ITS premises include various amenities, including fully equipped kitchens and specialised laboratories where students have been trained in their respective trades.

Although all items within the building will remain government property, everything has to be dismantled and moved out by the end of summer.

Asked repeatedly to say where the ITS will function from in the new academic year, given that the building of a new ITS in SmartCity has not yet started, the government failed to reply.

Questions sent to Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis over the past two months got a template reply: "The planning phase for the development of the new Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) in SmartCity is at an advanced stage.

"Once this phase is completed, detailed information on construction and the eventual move will be provided."

Sources close to the Tourism Ministry said the government had yet to find a temporary alternative site where the ITS could be sited until the new SmartCity premises are up and running.

The government might even want to delay the whole project, the sources added.

Such a move, they continued, might benefit the investors as they would have more time to sell the project and raise more finance.

The sources pointed that although the ITS fell within the remit of the Tourism Minister, the deal was in effect handled by the Office of the Prime Minister, mainly under the guidance of Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Originally, Dr Zammit Lewis announced that the government would be moving the ITS to SmartCity where a new €50-million campus would be built.

Although no specific details were given, the ministry has already revised the cost of the project to €75 million.

The Prime Minister said the db Group would be paying €60 million for the 25,000-square-metre site in the island’s ‘golden mile’. However, it later resulted that, according to the contract, the company would, in fact, be paying €15 million staggered over seven years.

The deal has been slammed in many quarters, including the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, the Malta Developers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Alternattiva Demokratika, the Democratic Party and the Nationalist Party.

The National Audit Office has been asked by the Opposition to review the deal.

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