Turiżmu li jagħti kas lin-nies

Id-dibattitu dwar l-impatti tat-turiżmu hu wieħed li ma jispiċċa qatt. X’impatti soċjali u ambjentali huma ġustifikabbli minħabba l-gwadann ekonomiku tat-turiżmu? Ir-riżorsi tal-pajjiż, fi ftit kliem x’numru ta’ turisti jifilħu?

Iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, Tony Zahra, President tal-MHRA (l-Assoċjazzjoni Maltija tal-Lukandi u r-Restoranti) kien kritiku dwar in-numru ta’ turisti u l-impatt tagħhom. Kien rappurtat li qal li n-numru ta’ turisti li qed jiġu Malta kien qed jikber wisq. Emfasizza li l-pajjiż ma jiflaħx għall-impatti li jiġġeneraw daqshekk turisti. L-interess ta’ Tony Zahra fit-turiżmu dejjem kien limitat għall-impatt fuq dawk li joperaw il-lukandi: fejn Zahra għandu l-interessi finanzjarji tiegħu. Għadni qatt ma smajt lill- MHRA u lil Tony Zahra, per eżempju, jinkoraġixxu l-agri-turiżmu, u l-importanza ta’ dan (kieku jsir sewwa) biex jiddiversifika b’mod sostenibbli l-prodott turistiku Malti.

Kważi simultanjament għall-kummenti ta’ Tony Zahra, l-Istitut tal-Università ta’ Malta dwar il-Gżejjer u l-Istati Żgħar (The Islands and Small States Institute) ippubblika studju tal-Professuri Lino Briguglio u Marie Avellino, intitolat : Has overtourism reached the Maltese Islands?

Fl-istudju tagħhom, Briguglio u Avellino jagħtu daqqa t’għajn u jidentifikaw dak li għaddej fit-turiżmu u jidentifikaw l-argumenti kritiċi li qed ikunu żviluppati dwar il-materja. Turiżmu li qed jikber iżżejjed (overtourism) u l-biża’ mit-turiżmu (tourismphobia) huma termini li qed jintużaw bi frekwenza li qed tiżdied biex jiddeskrivu l-impatti soċjali negativi li qed jiżviluppaw bħala riżultat ta’ turiżmu li qed jikber kważi bla rażan. Kien fl-2008 li l-antropologu Katalan Manoel Delgado ddeskriva it- turistofobia bħala taħlita ta’ stmerrija, nuqqas ta’ fiduċja u tmaqdir tat-turiżmu.

Fl-istudju ta’ Briguglio u Avellino hu analizzat stħarriġ li għalih, 51% ta’ dawk li wieġbu qalu illi ma jixtiqux jaraw iktar turisti fil-belt jew raħal tagħhom. L-awturi jinterpretaw dan bħala li jindika li t-turiżmu f’Malta kiber wisq (overtourism), avolja jqisu li l-kampjun ta’ dawk li wieġbu l-istħarriġ hu ftit dgħajjef minħabba li mhux rappresentattiv b’mod adegwat.

Fost l-affarijiet li qed jikkontribwixxu għall-iżvilupp ta’ din il-biża mit-turiżmu hemm il-pressjonijiet soċjali u l-impatti ambjentali (kemm skart b’mod ġenerali kif ukoll il-kontribut għal attività esaġerata tal-industrija tal-kostruzzjoni), konġestjoni tat-traffiku, storbju, it-theddida tat-telf tal-identità kulturali u konflitti soċjo-kulturali.

L-MHRA, kif indika Tony Zahra, tidher li hi tal-istess fehma, avolja Zahra tkellem b’mod ġenerali u evita li jitkellem fid-dettall. L-interess tiegħu, wara kollox, hu l-impatt fuq il-but tal-membri tal-MHRA.

L-istudju ta’ Briguglio u Avellino jemfasizza l-ħtieġa li l-politika dwar it-turiżmu għandha tfittex li tindirizza l-impatti negattivi tal-industrija. Dan mhux biss biex tkun indirizzat il-kwalità tal-ħajja tar-residenti lokali imma ukoll biex l-esperjenza tat-turist tkun waħda aħjar u awtentika. It-triq ‘il-quddiem, jgħidulna Briguglio u Avellino, hi d-demokratizzazzjoni tal-iżvilupp turistiku u dan billi jkun inkoraġġit l-impenn tar-residenti milquta fil-komunitajiet tagħna. L-awturi ma jidħlux f’dettall biex jispjegaw dan kollu x’jista’ jfisser. Għandna nifhmu, iżda, li l-proċess tat-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet kollha li jikkonċernaw l-iżvilupp tat-turiżmu għandhom ikunu soġġetti għal skrutinju pubbliku kontinwu. Dan m’għandux ifisser biss is-sehem tar-residenti milquta f’dan l-iskrutinju imma fuq kollox li dak li jgħidu jkun rifless fid-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu.

Permezz tad-demokratizzazzjoni tal-iżvilupp turistiku, hu iktar possibli li l-interessi u aġendi konfliġġenti fit-turiżmu jkunu indirizzati. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-imprenditur li jħares lejn il-qliegħ immedjat ikollu jiffaċċja r-realtajiet soċjali u l-impatti ambjentali u kulturali tal-ħidma tiegħu. Bħalissa l-operaturi turistiċi jimpalaw il-profitti u aħna, l-bqija, ndewwu l-feriti soċjali, kulturali u ambjentali li jkunu ħolqu b’ħidmiethom.

It-turiżmu mhiex attività li issir f’bozza. Isseħħ f’komunità magħmula min-nies li għandhom ikollhom l-assigurazzjonijiet kollha neċessarji li l-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħhom mhux ser taqla’ daqqa l-isfel bħala riżultat. It-turiżmu mhux dwar numri ta’ turisti, miljuni ta’ ewro li jintefqu inkella dwar il-kontribut lejn il-Prodott Gross Nazzjonali. Hu ukoll dwar il-kwalità tal-ħajja tagħna lkoll.

It-turiżmu sostenibbli huwa primarjament dwar in-nies u mhux dwar il-profitt. Stennejna iktar minn biżżejjed biex dawk li huma effettwati jkunu assigurati li l-ħajja tagħhom ma tibqax imtappna minn dawk li jaraw biss il-flus. Biex dan iseħħ ma hemm l-ebda alternattiva għajr li l-iżvilupp turistiku jkun demokratizzat.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum: il-Ħadd 11 t’Awwissu 2019

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The democratisation of tourism

The debate on the impacts of tourism is never-ending. To what extent does the economic impact of tourism justify its social and environmental impacts? What is the carrying capacity of our islands, that is, what is the number of tourists with which our resources can reasonably cope?

Earlier this week, Tony Zahra, President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) sounded the alarm: he was reported as saying that the number of tourists visiting Malta was too high. He emphasised that it is substantially exceeding the limits of what the country can take sustainably. Tony Zahra’s interest in tourism is limited to the impacts on hotels and hoteliers, his bread and butter. I have yet to hear the MHRA and Tony Zahra advocating agri-tourism, for example, and its importance in diversifying Malta’s tourism product sustainably.

Almost simultaneously The Islands and Small States Institute of the University of Malta published a Paper authored by Professors Lino Briguglio and Marie Avellino, entitled: Has overtourism reached the Maltese Islands?

In their Paper Briguglio/Avellino skim though the issues, identifying the trends and an ever-growing literature on over-tourism. “Over-tourism” and “tourismphobia” are increasingly used as terms to describe the emergence of social discontent with the pressures linked to tourism growth. It was way back in 2008 that  the Catalan anthropologist Manoel Delgado had described turistofobia as a mixture of repudiation, mistrust and contempt for tourists.

In a survey which is discussed in the Briguglio/Avellino paper, 51 per cent of respondents said that they did not want to see more tourists in their town or village. The authors interpret this as indicating the existence of over-tourism in the Maltese islands, even though they consider the sample of respondents as being weak and not adequately representative.

Among the issues contributing to this developing tourist phobia are social discomfort, environmental degradation (including both generation of waste and excessive construction activity), traffic congestion, noise, the loss of cultural identity and socio-cultural clashes.

The MHRA, as indicated by its President Tony Zahra, seems to be on the same wavelength although Tony Zahra limits himself to speaking in general terms, as his primary interest is the financial bottom-line of MHRA members.

The Briguglio/Avellino paper points at the need for tourism policy to consider mitigating the negative impacts of tourism. This could address not just the well-being of the local residents but also the tourist experience. The democratisation of tourism development through encouraging the active participation of the residents suffering the impact in our communities, opine Briguglio/Avellino, could be the way forward. The authors do not go in detail as to what the “democratisation of tourism development” would actually mean. It is, however, understood that the decision-making process of tourism development should be subjected to more public scrutiny by the community suffering from the impact and, that the views of the community are not only heard but acted upon.

Through the democratisation of tourism development, the conflicting interests and agendas involved in tourism must be addressed. As a result, the short-term gains of tourism entrepreneurs would be compelled to face the reality of social responsibility, as well as cultural and environmental costs. So far, the tourism operators pocket the profits and we, the rest, face the impacts.

Tourism is not an activity that happens in a vacuum. It takes place in a community of persons, who should be assured that their quality of life is not impacted negatively upon as a result of the experience. Tourism is not just about numbers of tourists, or the millions of euros spent or a contribution to the Gross National Product: it is also about our quality of life.

Sustainable tourism is primarily about people – not about profit! Is it not about time that those feeling the impacted are involved in ensuring that their lives are not made miserable by others whose vision is limited to euros on the horizon?

The democratisation of touristic development is the only way forward.

 

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday: 11 August 2019

In Tourism – small is beautiful too

Villa del Porto Kalkara

First published in 1973, Ernst Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful – economics as if people mattered has always presented a challenge to politicians and economic planners. It contrasts to, and in many instances it actually is, the direct antithesis of the “economies of scale” and as such it is often discarded by those who dream of quick results.

Schumacher, an economist by training, had one specific message: the promotion of people-centred economics. Our economics are profit-focused, with decisions being constantly made on profitability criteria, rather than on human needs. People should come before profits.

Human needs as well as environmental impact should be factored in at the drawing-board stage of all economic decisions. Reading through plans and strategies on the development of tourism in Malta over the years, one inevitably reaches the conclusion that these plans and strategies are focused on hotels, as if nothing else mattered. Tourism is, however, much more than hotels and the hotel industry.

It is only fairly recently that some thought is being given to boutique hotels and agri-tourism: alternative, small-scale tourism opportunities.  Yet much more needs to be done if we are to move along the path of sustainable tourism which, whilst being practically harmless environmentally, can be of considerable benefit not just to our economy but also to our families, in particular those in small communities.

Earlier this week, I was alerted by residents in Lija to an application submitted to MEPA [PA2822/15] to convert a large townhouse in a residential area into a boutique hotel. This proposed hotel would have nine bedrooms with ancillary facilities and it covers a total area of 1,110 square metres, including a garden. When finished, it could cater for a maximum of twenty guests.

Being small, such a boutique hotel would  fit in easily in any of our towns or villages. Its impact would be compatible with that generated by three or four families in the community. Being generally family-run helps considerably to give a human face to this tourism outlet as well as offering excellent service.

However the local residents are  worried about the compatibility of this development with the residential nature of the area. Their worries are not just about the impact of the hotel’s services but more on the possible spinoffs such as whether the bar and restaurant, as well as the swimming pool  – to be constructed in what is currently the garden – would be open to people who are  not actually staying in the hotel. The residents are worried about noise pollution well into the silent hours, the generation of increased traffic and subsequent parking problems – problems they associate with such spin-off activities.

The residents cannot be blamed for their concerns because no one has explained what the practical operational limits of boutique hotels will be – and this is because there are no MEPA guidelines on the subject. The various applications for the provision of boutique hotels that MEPA has processed in the recent past are considered within existing general policies. Likewise, perusal of the Malta Tourism Authority’s website does not reveal any guidelines to help prospective developers of boutique hotels navigate the relatively unchartered waters of such an activity in a residential area.

A number of local councils are similarly concerned because, although they understand and appreciate the benefits to the local economy of encouraging the use of large properties as boutique hotels they are apprehensive about the collateral damage to community life. Large townhouses as well as historical buildings in our towns and villages can be given a new life by being converted to boutique hotels but great care must be taken to ensure that this development is not driven by economics alone. It needs to be community driven and local councils in particular need to be partners in this drive to develop an untapped area of sustainable tourism.

If handled properly, it is potentially a win-win situation but the concerns of the residential communities must be addressed immediately. If this is done, tourism will take a gigantic step forward as it will develop a human face.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 August 2015

L-agri-turiżmu

Agritourism 1

L-agri-turiżmu ma jfissirx li jkollna l-lukandi fil-kampanja. L-agri-turiżmu hu ġabra ta’ attivitajiet u servizzi li l-komunitajiet rurali joffru biex jiġbdu l-viżitaturi. Dan it-turiżmu hu kkaraterizzat minn negozju ta’ daqs żgħir ġeneralment immexxi  b’mod dirett mis-sidien infushom (il-bdiewa) u jkun sitwat f’żoni fejn l-agrikultura hi l-użu predominanti tal-art.

M’hemmx agri-turiżmu jekk m’hemmx ukoll l-agrikultura.

L-agri-turiżmu għandu għaldaqstant tlett karatteristċi prinċipali: iseħħ flimkien mal-ħidma agrikola, jagħti esperjenza tal-ħidma agrikola lit-turist u joħloq iktar ħidma utli u li tirrendi lin-negozju agrikolu.

L-agri-turiżmu  ma jieħux post l-agrikultura iżda hu prodott ieħor tal-istess agrikultura.  It-turist  f’dan l-ambjent għal żmien qasir jifforma parti mill-komunita’ agrikola hu ukoll għaliex jgħix għal xi ġranet f’nofs komunita’ agrikola ħajja. L-agri-turiżmu hu turiżmu sostenibbli għax l-impatti tiegħu huma posittivi. L-impatti ambjentali huma minimi. L-impatti soċjali huma tajbin. L-impatti ekonomiċi huma eċċellenti. L –impatti kulturali tiegħu joħolqu rabta mal-komunita agrikola. It-turist m’huwiex sempliċiment qed jingħata servizz iżda għal żmien qasir isir parti mill-familja agrikola.

L-agri-turiżmu hu mod kif il-bdiewa jistgħu iżidu fid-dħul tagħhom u fl-istess ħin jibqgħu jaħdmu fir-raba’ tagħhom stess.

Fil-pajjiż ġar tagħna l-Italja, l-agri-turiżmu ġie rikonoxxut fl-1985. Illum għandhom agri-turiżmu żviluppat u varjat. Fl-2010 fl-Italja madwar 20,000 operatur agri-turistiku bejthom ipprovdew 200,000 sodda lis-suq turistiku Taljan. Offrew lit-turist fl-Italja prodott varjat:  minn razzett żgħir immexxi minn familja sa servizz ta’ lussu. Kif jidher miċ-ċifri l-medja hi ta’ 10 sodod għal kull operatur. Ċara ħafna li l-operaturi tat-turiżmu agrikolu huma operaturi żgħar li filwaqt li jibqgħu għaddejjin bil-ħidma agrikola normali tagħhom iżidu ftit fix-xogħol billi jipprovdu ukoll is-servizz ta’ ospitalita’.

Il-MEPA għadha kif ħabbret illi ser tikkonsolida f’dokument wieħed il-politika ta’ l-użu tal-art barra miż-żoni ta’ żvilupp  kif ukoll dik dwar l-agrikoltura. Fost l-iskopijiet li trid tilħaq hemm li jkun inkoraġġit l-agri-turiżmu. Minnu innifsu dan hu skop tajjeb dejjem sakemm ma jintużax biex jiġġustifika iktar żvilupp ta’ art barra miż-żona ta’ żvilupp.

Hu necessarju li l-bini eżstenti fiż-żoni agrikoli tagħna nagħtuh użu li jgħin lill-komunita agrikola tissaħħaħ u per konsegwenza tkun f’posizzjoni aħjar li tħares l-art li tinħadem. Hemm bosta binjiet agrikoli abbandunati li jistgħu jerġgħu jingħataw il-ħajja kemm għall-ġid ta’ l-agrikultura innifisha kif ukoll għal turiżmu agrikolu. Huwa eżerċizzju iżda li jirrikjedi l-għaqal u l-paċenzja.

Jekk isir sewwa jagħti tifisira ġdida lill-karriera agrikola. Joħloq skop għal iktar investiment f’dan il-qasam u jiġbed’ lura lejn l-art lil bosta minn ulied il-bdiewa li dabbru rashom snin ilu. Fuq kollox jista’ jagħti l-ħajja lill-bini agrikolu li ilu mitluq għal snin twal.

Il-protagonist ta’ din il-bidla jrid ikun il-bidwi li filwaqt illi jibqa’ jaħdem l-art jew irabbi l-bhejjem jibda bil-mod joffri servizzi ġodda.

Dan hu l-mod li bih nimxu l-quddiem.

Ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar it-Tlieta 17 ta’ Settembru 2013

Runway għal Għawdex ?

 

 

 

Donnu li d-diskussjoni dwar runway għal Għawdex qatt ma tieqaf.

 

L-argument li qiegħed jinġieb huwa li hu ferm iktar ekonomiku li topera b’ajruplan żgħir li jġorr madwar 19-il ruħ milli b’helicopter. Allura xi piloti u oħrajn midħla tal-industrija qed jipproponu runway ta’ 1000 metru. Qed jgħidu li dan jibbenefika lit-turiżmu !

 

Interessanti li xi ħadd jispjega kif dan jinkwadra fil-pjan ta’ trasformazzjoni ta’ Għawdex fi gżira ekologika. Mhux aħjar li jsir sforz ikbar biex Għawdex isir ċentru ta’ turiżmu sostenibbli ? X’qiegħed isir biex ikun sviluppat l-agrituriżmu f’Għawdex ? Diġa jeżisti imma fuq skala żgħira. Imma ma jidhirx li hemm l-ebda inkoraġġiment mill-awtorita. Għax l-emfasi qegħda fuq it-turiżmu tal-lukandi.

 

 

Jinġiebu ħafna argumenti fuq airstips f’Lampedusa, Pantalleria u l-Gżejjer Griegi, imma ma jgħidux illi dawn huma l-bogħod mhux ħażin mill-eqreb art. Imbagħad wara kollox issa beda jaħdem l-airplane. Mhux aħjar naraw ftit kif jista’ jitjieb dan is-servizz bl-inqas impatti ambjentali, milli nippruvaw neqirdu iktar raba’ ?  Ma nqerditx biżżejjed matul is-snin ?

 

 

Imbagħad hemm argument ieħor li ftit jitkellmu dwaru. Malta u Għawdex kemm jifilħu turisti ? L-infrastruttura tagħna tiflaħ il-kwantita ta’ turisti li nitkellmu dwarha?

 

Ejja naraw ftit x’nifhmu b’turiżmu sostenibbli. Xi jfisser fir-realta’ għalina ilkoll. Mhux għal Għawdex biss, iżda għal Malta ukoll.