The EP election results showed that the Maltese and Gozitans are following in the footsteps of other Europeans and attempting to break free of the polarisation that has gripped these islands in terms of political power, for decades now. Although the results show that the two major parties have remained firmly entrenched in their positions here, there were a number of surprises in the number of votes given to the other parties or persons contesting this very crucial election. It was almost as if those who voted felt they wanted to experiment with their future.
Now, as far as I am concerned, there is simply nothing wrong with experimentation and innovation to get the brain cells moving and to allow creativity to kick in; but perhaps one ought to employ a little cautiousness when we are experimenting with issues that may affect out every day life; not least, when it involves the tourism industry in its broadest aspect. We could be sending out the wrong messages if we are not careful and let me illustrate these statements with some practical examples.
Imagine a person who is considering visiting Malta and Gozo for the first time, all he or she has heard about the islands is that they are popular summer destinations with a fair amount of history and heritage. What some do not know, on the other hand, is that these people have become sceptical about virtually anything, their main issues concern themselves or their family and very little about the environment or their culture and history concerns them. They have become extremely commercialistic – pushing that old reputation for hospitality and service to the backburner. This message for the potential visitor may do little to encourage frequent or further visits by that person and may most definitely affect the experience against the perception.
Now let us take the scenario of an entrepreneur who may be interested in investing in Malta or Gozo because of our great potential for tourism niches and as a selective destination. Looking at some of the recent election results, we may have to forgive that person for getting the impression we are not easy and contented with stability, we are given to make sudden u-turns in our democratic right to select the right direction and strategy that is in the national interest.
Tourism is an activity that depends on inclusivity and a positive host-visitor relationship; we need to encourage a strong element of trust by the host population and an element of loyalty by the visitor, but these two qualities depend on how much we really believe that this socio-economic activity is affecting our quality of life; how much we really believe it can offer an opportunity for new and better jobs and it also depends on the perception we want to give to the visitor, who wants to be here, about our real core product and services and these factors do depend on how much we all exercise our democratic right at elections to choose those people who we believe can deliver the right strategies and policies because they are committed and believe in the national interest. Experimenting with this right, on the other hand, without considering those qualities we need in the people we choose to represent us, whether in Malta or Brussels, means that we may not have altogether considered the pros and cons, we may not have considered the alternatives carefully. Sending messages to our politicians is one thing and is important but, on the other hand, how we do this is important if we want to get the best results that will be in the national interest.