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Malta Tries To Reach New Holidaymakers

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Popular as a holiday island for the British - the people of Malta speak English and drive on the same side of the road - in some ways Malta is a little bit of England in the Mediterranean.

Before developing her tourist infratructure, the Malta economy was geared toward providing services to the British military. During this time, the tourism industry was not as important as the island's strategic military and political placement. After the British government closed down its military base on Malta, tourism began to flourish. The island also became a port for ship repairs and light manufacturing.

In the late 1950s, the Maltese government formalized her efforts to promote Malta as a tourist destination and to improve access to its beaches. Tourism began to grow rapidly. Malta soon was playing host to more than 12,000 tourists and filling its hotels, often to capacity, during prime vacation seasons.

Malta has been a prime holiday destination for years. Its white sandy beaches and many attractions appeal to a wide variety of audiences. For the 2008 holiday season, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) launched an entirely new marketing plan. The plan, launched in late 2007, promoted Malta through a variety of media. Methods included television advertisements, radio spots, posters, billboards and online marketing.

The campaign seemed to be successful, and last year was a good one for the Malta holidays industry - but Malta has also been looking to new markets as well, worried that she is too reliant on her main British market.

In cooperation with Air Malta, MTA launched several key promotions in Italy and France. Promotions in the two countries included television commercials that were played simultaneously on 1,152 large, flat-screen televisions in 22 major train stations. This method alone was seen by millions of potential tourists. More than 600 large posters were hung in the Paris metro stations and another 300 were on display on outdoor furniture.

In March 2008, Malta's representation at the Globe Fair in Rome helped promote Malta to a new, younger crowd of potential tourists. Promotions continued through the month of April and included Maxi Retro advertisements in Rome, Milan, Bologna, Treviso and Mestre. In total, 225 public transit buses and trams bore advertisements for the MTA and Air Malta.

Spain also has seen an increase in MTA advertisements. Barcelona was home to a large, 980-square-foot billboard promoting Malta. The billboard is well-lit and visible from a great distance both during the day and night. In addition to the billboard, hundreds of posters hang in the Barcelona and Madrid subways. Two trams in Valencia also bear advertising, along with two Maxi Retro buses in Barcelona. A radio campaign was launched in Madrid to help promote low cost flights to Malta with flight connections from Spain to Malta using Ryanair, Vueling and Click Air.

A couple of years ago Malta recently changed currency from the Maltese lira to the euro. Some argue that the change might have a detrimental effect on Malta's tourism, and with the British pound falling sharply against the Euro recently they might be proved right for 2009.

But others believe the change will have a positive effect on Malta's economy and tourism. Both sides have valid arguments. In any case, existent exchange rates will cause a bit more of a wallet pinch as international tourists plan overseas holidays. Lower cost airfares will definitely be more popular this year as a result.

Other air carriers offering budget airfares to and from Malta include Ryanair, Vueling, Click Air and easyJet. Low cost flight alternatives offer more flexibility for tourists who enjoy a long weekend away from the rigors of everyday life. Many other ways to lower vacation costs still exist. The thrifty tourist still will be able to find creative ways to make holiday plans for 2009.

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