‘Malta is an extraordinary country to visit due to its location and history.’

Situated right in the centre of the Mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, Malta is an extraordinary country to visit for its location and history. The country has been on the crossroads of cultures and travelling routes since antiquity and boasts of its heritage, hospitality and diversity. Government of Malta’s partnership with VFS Global gives it a significant competitive edge as a destination. In an exclusive interview with TnH, Stephen Borg, the High Commissioner of Malta to India spoke about the uniqueness and competitiveness of the country as a tourist destination. Excerpts:

Q. What is extraordinary about Malta as a tourist destination?

We pride ourselves for our heritage, hospitality and diversity. malta is an extraordinary country to visit by virtue of its location and its history. It is right in the centre of the mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, and has been on the crossroads of cultures and travelling routes since antiquity. malta’s 7,000 years of history and its unique historic legacy are reflected in its architecture, its cuisine, its language and its culture, which is most visible in malta’s fortified capital city, Valletta, already a UNEScO World heritage Site and soon-to-be European capital of culture in 2018. Wherever you are in malta, you are within reach of the sea and its year-round sunshine and clear blue waters together with its cultural heritage make it an ideal destination for the discerning traveler. malta’s natural beauty has provided an unparalleled location for several films and offers a perfect backdrop to a memorable visit or even weddings. As a long-standing tourist destination, malta offers world class tourism infrastructure and beautiful resorts.

Q. Why do you think that Malta is a good destination for Indian visitors?

Malta and India have a shared history with both being members of the commonwealth. English is an official language which makes communication easy. maltese are spontaneous and creative people and these are also very Indian traits. malta is home to a long-standing and well-respected Indian community established since the nineteenth century and which has flourished over the years. As a member of the European Union, with the euro as its currency, malta offers a solid infrastructure and reliable services for holiday visitors and businesspersons alike. Interest in studying in malta by Indian students has been on the steady increase especially at the University of malta, which offers degree courses in popular fields such as medicine, pharmacy, engineering and IcT as well as in more creative fields. malta’s dynamic hospitality, maritime, pharmaceutical and financial services sectors, to name a few; have also increasingly become attractive opportunities of cooperation between maltese and Indian businesses.

Q. How simple is the visa process of Malta for Indian travellers? How about first time travellers?

Visa applicants need to inform us of the reason for their visit to malta and show evidence of sufficient means to support themselves during their stay. malta is part of the Schengen area and prospective visitors therefore apply for a Schengen visa. We welcome first time travelers who are particularly interested in visiting malta for tourism, studies or on business and we hope they become regular travelers to malta. Needless to say it is easier for us to process applications of repeat visitors. The main principle is that all visa applications are considered on their own merit.

Q. How does Malta’s visa service remain competitive?

Malta’s visa service offers all the facilities and services offered to Schengen visa applicants coupled with the dedicated attention that may be expected from a country our size. Our partnership with VFS Global enables us to collect and process applications in Delhi, mumbai, Bangalore, chennai, chandigarh and Kolkatta. This mutually responsive partnership contributes greatly to our competitive edge.

Q. What tips can you offer to Indian nationals applying for Malta Schengen visas?

To apply in good time in order to allow for our 15-working days standard application timeframe; to closely follow the checklist and submit all the documentation requested including previous travel documents, proof of finances and accommodation; and, most importantly, to adopt an open approach in the application.

Q. How important is the Indian outbound market for Malta? How many Indian tourists visited Malta last year?

Malta’s tourism industry has been enjoying record year after record year since 2009, consistently managing to register significant growth in the number of tourists and the length of stay year on year. In 2015, malta welcomed 1.8 million tourists and more than 6,00,000 cruise passenger visitors. These are impressive numbers for an archipelago with a population of just 4,30,000. malta’s tourism marketing activity in India only started very recently and it is clear that the maltese islands are yet to be truly discovered by the Indian outbound travel market. Still, first results are very encouraging and we are noticing a consistent increase in interest from the Indian outbound travel industry, media, as well as from the Indian traveller. We are already seeing signs of fulfilling this great potential, particularly in niches where we have been actively marketing our islands, such as in weddings and conference and incentive travel. Our objective is to steadily develop and spread malta’s marketing activity in the Indian market by increasing our cooperation with travel operators. A great way to boost our marketing efforts in India would be to showcase malta’s natural beauty and architectural heritage through film. The malta Film commission has been very successful in attracting several big hollywood film productions to malta. We aim to repeat this success with Bollywood and other Indian productions.

Q. How is the air-connectivity between the two countries?

Emirates offers daily flights to malta via Dubai while Turkish Airlines flies twice a day to malta from Istanbul. malta’s International Airport also enjoys daily flight connections to all major European airports like London, rome, Paris, milan, Brussels, Frankfurt, and munich.

Q. What do you like the most about India?

The spirit of spontaneity and creativity that I encounter every day in India together with the genuine friendliness of the people I meet. It reminds me of my own country.

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