Malta expands appeal with new hotels, other plans

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NEW YORK -- The addition of some deluxe hotels is giving Malta a new look, reflected in the recent openings of the Hilton Malta in Valletta, the Xara Palace Hotel in Mdina on Malta and the San Lawrenz Leisure Resort on Gozo.

"In the last few years we have added 700 rooms to our five-star hotel inventory," said Franco Debono, newly appointed director of the Malta Tourist Office in North America, "which permits us to target the upscale travel market and to make a big push for meetings and incentive groups."

Standard low season double room rates average from $140 to $180 among Malta's deluxe hotels.

Debono said the convention market in particular will find Malta appealing when a new convention and conference center opens next year in the Portomaso waterfront development area, adjacent to the Hilton Malta.

Malta's newly approved cruise terminal, scheduled to be completed by 2003, is another potential boon for tourism, Debono said. He expects Malta to not be just a stopover destination, but a departure and arrival hub for cruise line itineraries.

Debono added that Malta's inventory of hotels, which includes brands like Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Radisson SAS and Westin, gives the relatively small country, whose archipelago covers 123 square miles, international exposure.

Though only 27,000 North Americans visited Malta in 1999, the figure represents an increase of 5% over the previous year.

"This points to a continuation of the positive trend in arrivals over the past five years when the numbers have more than doubled," Debono said.

Malta's primary tourist markets are the U.K., which sent more than 400,000 visitors last year, and Germany, whose visitor count topped 200,000.

Malta's attractions range from prehistoric temples (declared Unesco World Heritage Sites) to grandiose cathedrals, early Christian tombs and a 16th century walled city capital of baroque architecture built by the Knights of Malta.

Cultural events include the village "festa" festivals blending folklore and religion; the annual Jazz Festival (this year July 21 to 23) and the October through May theater season, which includes performances in the historic Manoel Theatre in Valletta.

Malta Tourist Office
Phone: (973) 884-0899 or (877) GO MALTA
Web: www.visitmalta.com

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