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Gozo and the Santa Marija holiday: it’s a love-hate affair

The crowds bring congestion... but they're lucrative, too

On the way to Gozo, an extremely popular destination over Santa Marija.

On the way to Gozo, an extremely popular destination over Santa Marija.

Gozitans have developed a love-hate relationship with the Santa Marija summer break, as hordes of Maltese holidaymakers prepare to cross over for their annual spell of a few days on the sister island.

This year, the public holiday falls on a Wednesday. Residents of Gozo who spoke to The Sunday Times of Malta admitted that traffic on the island next weekend would be a nightmare, but they conceded the influx of tourists would be lucrative.

“We have become more accustomed to the influx of people but we resent the congestion,” one resident said.  “On the other hand, we put up with it because we earn money from these weekends.

“One elderly person told me that he was sick of all the tourists coming to Gozo but quickly added that if each tourist paid one euro, we would profit greatly,” he joked.

Gozitans have also become accustomed to an inflow of people over the weekend but some told The Sunday Times of Malta the situation had become worse over time.

The argument used to be how bad the traffic is, but the real problem is how traffic is managed in the first place

“Weekends in particular are very hectic, but at the end of the day, we cannot stop the people from coming,” another resident insisted.

The frustrations do not stem from the influx of tourists but from an inadequate infrastructure, the man said.

“The argument used to be how bad the traffic is, but the real problem is how traffic is managed in the first place,” the resident explained.

“Long lines at Ċirkewwa will be a nightmare but the problem will happen throughout Gozo as well. I need to drive to the supermarket and I am already feeling apprehensive,” one irate Gozitan noted.

Hoteliers and restaurant owners have reason to celebrate, however, as Gozo Tourism Association CEO Joe Muscat said indications were showing hotels would be “saturated” with business.

In fact, Mr Muscat said indications show this season will be busier than last year’s.

“Gozo has always been a very welcoming island. Statistics show that 30 per cent of tourists have been to Gozo before,” he said.

Those with farmhouses and boutique hotels have seen the greatest increase in bookings, Mr Muscat added. However, hotels enjoyed the largest number of reservations.

“However, business is doing well enough that hoteliers and restaurant owners no longer depend on the Santa Marija holiday,” Mr Muscat added.

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