Gozo tunnel ongoing debate is “based mostly on perceptions” – GTA
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During a debate held recently regarding the proposed Gozo tunnel, the Gozo Tourism Association expressed its views with regards the importance of the inter-island connectivity, “since this is the backbone of success for any tourism destination,” it said.
“The ongoing debate is based mostly on perceptions,” said the GTA, “as up to now there are so many unanswered questions.”
The Association added that the general public, especially the Gozitans and the Gozitan social and economic entities, “need to be properly and objectively informed on the car tunnel.”
The GTA argued that although much was achieved along the years with regards to the connection between Malta and Gozo, the Gozitan tourism industry needs to continue improving the overnighting tourist arrivals.
It also expressed concern that as yet no Impact Assessment Study on Gozitan tourism has been carried out for if the car tunnel is built.
“Bearing in mind that tourism in Gozo constitutes 50% of the Gozitan Gross Domestic Product, GTA feels responsibility towards the tourism sector which the Association represents, as well as the Gozitans in general, that an objective and an unbiased study is carried out,” the Association said.
The GTA said that it will be embarking on an initiative to commission an Impact Assessment Study on Gozitan Tourism, hopefully to address the following tourism sectors’ concerns and will include:
“The Gozo Tourism Association is asking how will the Gozitan tourism composite and scenario change once a car tunnel is established?
Is the Gozitan accommodation annual occupancy going to improve or otherwise once Gozo becomes an extension of Malta?
Will the Island of Gozo become a day trip destination once we have the car tunnel in operation?
Will the Gozitan Island remain a distinct destination and continue offering a different product from Malta, once both islands are physically connected?
For these last forty years Gozo has been, and is still, being promoted as a different destination from Malta, with a touristic offer which pose more value to the visitors experience. Will Gozo live up to this present mission once the car tunnel is built?”
As well as the direct questions related to tourism, the GTA said that it is “constantly asking other relevant questions, that will affect us Gozitans.”
It asked “will the Public Service Obligation presently in place allowing us Gozitans to pay a reduced fare on Gozo Channel Ferries remain in force, once the car tunnel is operational?”
The Association pointed out that “this PSO was granted for the benefit of the Gozitan residents, precisely because Gozo is separated by sea from Malta.”
The GTA explained that once it became aware that the government is adamant in carrying out the car tunnel project, “we publicly expressed our position based on the views, opinions and thoughts mentioned earlier.”
The Association continued by saying that “if an underseabed tunnel is going to be constructed just the same, this should cater for a mass underground transportation system and not for vehicles.”
“Hence incorporating an underground rail system that connects the Centre of Gozo to centres like Valletta, Mater Dei, University, Malta International Airport and Sliema,” the GTA said.
The Gozo Tourism Association concluded by explaining that “this way Gozitans will save time in commuting, this way we can offer a quicker transfer to the tourist so they can enjoy the Gozitan characteristics. Through such a network the Gozitan tourism industry will remain sustainable.”