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Mediterranean Conference Centre – Valletta


Speakers, Moderators and Panellists

Moderators and Panellists



Professor - University of Malta

Godfrey Baldacchino is professor of sociology at the University of Malta and Malta's Ambassador-at-Large for Islands and Small States. He has been researching island tourism over four decades and his publications include Global Tourism and Informal Labour Relations (Mansell, 1997); Extreme Tourism: Lessons from the World's Cold Water Islands (Elsevier, 2006) and Archipelago Tourism (Ashgate, 2015). He is editing a book on island tourism after the pandemic for Routledge, to appear in 2024.


Ms Michelle BORG

Unit Manager - Planning Authority

A geographer and marine resource manager by training, with over twenty-five years’ experience in spatial policy development and environmental management. Responsible for developing the first national policy framework on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in 2002. Represented Malta in EU and Mediterranean forums on ICZM and Maritime Spatial Planning and formed part of the Maltese delegation in the UN Climate Change meetings from 2008 – 2010. She was the co-ordinator for the preparation of the national spatial strategy (SPED) between 2011-2013. Currently heading the Green and Blue Development Unit within the Planning Authority, with work focused on mainstreaming environment and climate policy within spatial planning, monitoring the application of SEA process and co-ordinating work for the implementation of MSP including co-ordination of EU funded projects and the chairing of the MSP Technical Committee.



Senior Lecturer - University of Malta

Noel Buttigieg is a senior lecturer and an academic researcher at the Department of Tourism Management of the University of Malta specialising in cultural heritage with a particular interest in food culture. He co-authored the book L-Istorja tal-Kultura tal-Ikel f’Malta (2004) and is the co-editor of Food as ‘Voice’ (2020). His most recent publications are Food and the Pilgrim: Nourishment for Pilgrims and Faith-Based Tourists (Peter Lang AG International Academic Publishers, 2023), and Bread and Bakers in Eighteenth-Century Malta (Midsea Books, 2023). Dr Buttigieg was the main sponsor for the successful application for Ftira [a traditional sourdough flatbread] to be included in the UNESCO List for Intangible Cultural Heritage for Humanity in 2020. Dr Buttigieg is one of the directors of Taste History Limited, an arm of the national agency Heritage Malta. He is actively engaged in various projects on a national and regional level. Currently, Noel is the vice-president of the Malta Historical Society.



COO Academia - ITS

Glen Farrugia holds a PhD in Heritage and Tourism Management from the University of Leicester. He is currently the Chief Operations Officer of Academia at the Institute of Tourism Studies Malta, where he oversees all academic matters and is responsible for the academic strategy of the same institute. In addition to his academic administrative roles, Glen lectures on subjects related to Tourism Management, Culture Heritage and Organisational Research at postgraduate and doctoral level in Malta and abroad. His academic responsibility also covers supervision of Doctoral theses, external examination and tutoring on topics related to Heritage and Tourism Management. He holds a professorial chair at the University of Vitez and Triagon Academy and is also a member of Research Ethics Board at the Institute for Education and a Board Member of the MATSEC Examinations at the University of Malta. He also serves the Government of Malta through two boards; the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Appeals Board and the National Curriculum Framework Implementation Board. Glen is also specialised in undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum development and implementation and is currently the editor of the International Journal of Tour Guiding Research and the Editor-in-Chief of the Futouristic Journal. Dr Farrugia published several papers and books and his contribution to Heritage, Tourism & Higher Education is widely known.


Prof. Timmy GAMBIN

Professor - University of Malta

Timmy Gambin is a Professor of Maritime Archaeology in the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta, where he obtained a BA in History. Professor Gambin went on to attain an MA in Maritime Archaeology and History at the University of Bristol and later a doctorate in Maritime Archaeology. Since 2019, Professor Gambin heads Heritage Malta’s newly established Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit. Over the past years, he has been involved in the opening of historic shipwrecks to the public as well as promoting Malta's Underwater Cultural Heritage through the use of immersive technologies.


Mr Richard HIGGINS

Chief Financial Officer - Malta Air

Richard Higgins is Chief Financial Officer and Accountable Manager of Malta Air. Malta Air is a Ryanair Group company and provides wet lease services to the Ryanair Group. Malta Air is headquartered in Pieta' and has a fleet of over 160 aircraft on the Maltese Aircraft Register. It has 34 operational bases across 8 countries, including Malta where it has 6 based aircraft. Prior to joining Malta Air, Richard held several senior finance roles across the Ryanair Group. Richard is a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland and a Chartered Tax Advisor.



Deputy Chairman - Malta Tourism Observatory

George Micallef has worked in the tourism industry his entire life. He has been a practising freelance tourism development consultant since 1987 but remained actively involved in the hotel industry ever since. He holds directorships on a number of companies and sits on various tourism governing local and international boards. George has led several projects in the Public and Private, sector both in Malta and overseas and served as a consultant to various Ministers of Tourism over the years. He has extensive experience in tourism development at a national level and has collaborated with various international institutions, published various articles and studies, and delivered papers at international fora on tourism development. George is a Board Member of the Malta Tourism Authority and Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of the Malta Tourism Observatory since its inception.



CEO - Gozo Tourism Association

Having worked in one of the leading Gozitan hotels since 1979, Joe Muscat joined the Gozo Tourism Association (GTA) in 2011 on a full-time basis and is currently its Chief Executive Officer. He is one of the founder members of the GTA, which represents the diverse sectors of the tourism industry on the island, ranging from accommodation to catering and other establishments offering various tourist services. He has served on the association’s Council since its inception in 1999, and throughout these years, up to 2010, Joe has been successively endorsed as General Secretary of this association. As Vice-Chairman of the Gozo Regional Committee (GRC), Joe Muscat currently sits as one of its representatives on the Maltese Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD). At present, Joe Muscat is also a Director on the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) Board, where he represents the Gozitan tourism sector. He is a member of the Dwejra Steering Committee, and a member of the Coordination Committee for Sustainable Urban Development (COCOSUD).



Lecturer - University of Malta

Dr Dylan Seychell is an AI and computer vision specialist. He lectures at the University of Malta and is a technical expert certified by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority.  He served as a Maltese government's AI task force member, which drafted the National AI Strategy in 2019.  Dylan founded Colour My Travel and Beyond Museums and is trusted in the industry with several high-profile projects that apply AI and high-tech to tourism and cultural heritage.  These include the Caravaggio Wing and the National AI Tourism Platform. He is also a Tourism Operators Business Section committee member within The Malta Chamber.


Mr Alan BORG

CEO - Malta International Airport

Having a background in hospitality, Alan Borg joined Malta International Airport in 2007. He was instrumental in the expansion of the airport’s route network as well as the diversification of the company’s non-aviation activities. An important non-aviation project that was completed under his watch was the company’s first office block, SkyParks Business Centre, the success of which spurred further development plans for the wider airport campus. Mr Borg has served as Malta International Airport's Chief Executive Officer since January 2015. In 2023, he was elected to Airports Council International Europe’s regional board where, together with the other board members, he represents European airports.


Prof. Simone BORG

Ambassador for Climate Action

Prof. Simone Borg has been Malta’s Ambassador for Climate Action since 2011 and chairs the National Climate Action Board. She is a resident academic at the University of Malta, a visiting professor at the International Maritime Law Institute and has lectured at various Universities abroad. Prof. Borg specialises in International law and policy relating to climate, ocean governance and biodiversity conservation.  She started her career as a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then headed the Legal and Multilateral Affairs department within the Ministry responsible for the Environment where she drafted national environmental law and was Malta’s negotiator for various Environmental Multilateral Agreements. She coordinated the transposition of the environmental acquis communautaire before Malta joined the European Union in 2004. In 2017, during Malta’s tenure of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, she chaired the EU working party on climate negotiations. She is also very active in promoting climate action with stakeholders and civil society. Prof. Borg is a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law, its sub-committee on the oceans and has authored various publications on both ocean governance and climate change. In 2017 she received the French National Order of Merit. She was recently awarded the Inspirational Leadership Award by the British High Commission in Malta, and In 2022 received the Medal for Service to the Republic of Malta.



Executive Chairman - Air Malta p.l.c

David Curmi is a financial services professional and corporate executive with more than three decades of senior executive leadership experience. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Air Malta p.l.c. the flag carrier of the Maltese Islands. He previously served as Chief Executive Officer of MAPFRE MSV Life p.l.c. (a MAPFRE Company), Director of MAPFRE Middlesea p.l.c. (a MAPFRE company), Director of various publicly listed entities and as the first Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Development and Social Fund (NDSF) and of Trade Malta Ltd. David is a former President of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry - the leading business representative body in Malta. David is an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute of the United Kingdom and a Chartered Insurer.



Registrar - SUNx Malta Climate Friendly Travel

Dr Hans Friederich FRGS is a Dutch geographer with a PhD from the University of Bristol, UK.  He is the Registrar of the SUNx Malta Climate Friendly Travel registry and a member of the IUCN Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group.  He is global Ambassador of the World Bamboo Organisation and Senior Advisor to the European Bamboo Programme which is managed by Bamboologic in the Netherlands. From 2014 to 2019, Hans was the Director-General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), a treaty-based Inter-Governmental Organisation with its Headquarters in Beijing, China.  Prior to his appointment in China, Hans was the Regional Director for Europe of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based in the global Headquarters in Switzerland. Hans has previously lived and worked in Botswana, Kenya, Thailand, and Vietnam, and is now resident of Malta, living in Victoria, Gozo.


Dr Tarek HABIB

CEO - Murmuration

Dr Tarek Habib is a telecommunications engineer with a PhD from the French Space Agency - CNES in artificial intelligence applied to satellite image processing. He led business development activities within various structures: an SME, a large group and one of the world leaders in satellite service provision. He cofounded Murmuration in 2019 to build satellite earth observation-enabled services. The Murmuration team is developing state-of-the-art technologies to support decision-making in key and complex markets such as tourism. The team has been distinguished in 2023 by UN-World Tourism Organisation and ESA Rising Stars for the operational ability of their services to support institutions in defining and reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.


Prof. Geoffrey LIPMAN

Co-Founder and President - SUNx Malta

Geoffrey is co-Founder and current President of SUNx Malta - Strong Universal Network – a global initiative to support Climate Resilience, related SDGs, and Emergency Response through Climate Friendly Travel. He is also envoy for Sustainable Tourism Global Centre and lead for TPCC – Tourism Panel on Climate Change. Throughout his long career, Geoffrey played a key role in the emergence of Tourism as a serious socio-economic sector. He occupied leadership positions in various international bodies, including Executive Director at IATA, first President of WTTC and Assistant Secretary General of UNWTO. Geoffrey served on public / private sector boards in Africa, Europe, Middle East, and Canada. He was Tourism Envoy to UNDP Administrator; Member EU Commissions on Airline Liberalisation and on Tourism Employment: Environment Advisor to the Governor of Jeju Island, Korea: President ICTP (International Coalition of Tourism Partners). Worked closely with the World Economic Forum on its Competitiveness and Smart Travel activities. Geoffrey has written and lectured widely on tourism strategy, sustainability, and liberalisation.


Prof. Luciano MULE' STAGNO

Director - Institute for Sustainable Energy University of Malta

Prof. Luciano Mule’ Stagno Is the Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and Group Leader of the Solar Research Lab at the University of Malta. He holds a PhD in Physics from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He returned to his native Malta in 2007 from the US where, after his PhD studies, he spent 12 years working with MEMC Electronic Materials (now Global Wafers, formerly SunEdison). His last post there was that of Director of Worldwide Labs with responsibility for labs in Asia, Europe and the US. He was also responsible for failure analysis and was often involved with making technical presentations to customers. His major expertise is in the characterization, engineering and synthesis of semiconductor and solar materials, and on solar systems including offshore solar. He has published extensively and holds 10 patents on semiconductor/solar materials. His current research interests are in photovoltaics systems and materials and other renewable energy technologies. He is involved in several funded research projects and lead ERDF335 – the 4.2M Euro project to fund a solar research lab within the same Institute. He is also the leader of Solaqua, a project to study and develop offshore solar energy for which a startup is being formed.  Last year together with his group he filed three patent applications including one for Solaqua. Luciano has a passion for heritage and environmental issues. His first post in Malta was that of CEO of Heritage Malta (2007-2009) and he is currently Council member of Din L-Art Ħelwa (The National Trust of Malta). He is also Chairman of the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) scientific committee and has served on the boards of several local companies.



Managing Director - Wizz Air Malta

Diarmuid Ó Conghaile joined Wizz Air as Managing Director of Wizz Air Malta on 1 November 2022. Mr Ó Conghaile has a long background in aviation, having served as Chief Executive of the Irish Aviation Regulator, 2021-2022, and with Ryanair from 2016-2021 as Chief Executive of Malta Air (Ryanair Group) and before that Director of Public Affairs. Mr Ó Conghaile was General Manager of Strategy, Pricing & Economic Regulation with Dublin Airport Authority from 2011- 2016. He holds BA Mod, MA and MLitt degrees from Trinity College Dublin in economics and a postgraduate diploma in EU competition law from Kings College London. Prior to entering the aviation sector, he worked in a number of industry and government positions, including with the European Commission and the Irish Department of Finance.


Perit Karmenu VELLA

Former Minister for Tourism & Aviation

Karmenu Vella graduated in Architecture and Civil Engineering from the University of Malta and later obtained a Master of Science in Tourism Management from the University of Sheffield. During his political career, he has been appointed Minister for Public Works, Minister for Industry, and Minister for Tourism and Aviation twice. In 2014, he was appointed European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries. During his term in office, Mr. Vella addressed some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time and thus helped improve the well-being of our citizens and our planet. Under his leadership, the European Union adopted and implemented in full the Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted new rules to reduce single-use plastic products, and stepped-up action to improve air quality across Europe, amongst others.



Hon Dr Robert ABELA

Prime Minister of Malta

Hon Robert Abela was born in Sliema on 7 December 1977. He received his primary education at St Francis School and attended St Aloysius’ College for his secondary education and sixth form. He graduated as a lawyer from the University of Malta in 2002. Dr Abela worked in the family law firm and has acted as the legal consultant of various organisations including public entities and trade unions.  He was elected as Member of Parliament in June 2017 and was appointed as legal adviser to the Cabinet of Ministers. On 13 January 2020, he took office as the 14th Prime Minister of Malta after being elected as Party Leader by the members of Partit Laburista. Whilst steering the country through a global pandemic, Dr Abela presented his vision for Malta’s future built on five pillars: quality of life, infrastructure, education, environment, and good governance. Despite the challenges and difficulties presented by the pandemic, the government led by Robert Abela continued to reap successful economic results which led to the country’s lowest unemployment rate in history, whilst in parallel, implementing unprecedented reforms in good governance and rule of law. Dr Abela took office once again on 28 March 2022 after confirming victory in the General Elections of 26 March 2022 which saw Partit Laburista winning with the greatest majority in Maltese history. Dr Abela is married to Lydia, nee’ Zerafa, also a lawyer, and they have a daughter Giorgia Mae.


Dr Gavin GULIA

Chairman - Malta Tourism Authority

Dr Gavin Gulia graduated Doctor of Laws from the University of Malta in 1988. For the last 32 years, he has been a practising lawyer specialising in private law, civil law, real estate law and tourism law. He was a Local Councillor at Ħaż-Żebbuġ, his hometown, in 1993 - 1995. He was then elected to the Malta House of Representatives in 1996, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2021. In 1996 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for the Self-Employed and then Minister of Justice in 1998. Post 1998, he served as Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Shadow Minister for the Economy and Shadow Minister for Tourism. During his tenure as Chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) since May 2013, a position he still holds today, Dr Gulia assumed various other positions within MTA including that of Executive Chairman of the MTA from 2018 to 2020. Dr Gulia is the Honorary President of the St Philip Band Club at Ħaż-Żebbuġ, and Honorary President of the Zebbug Rangers Football Club.


Prof. Alessandra PRIANTE

Regional Director for Europe - UNWTO

Alessandra Priante is the Director for Europe at UNWTO, the UN agency that promotes sustainable, responsible and universally accessible tourism. She was previously the Chief of multilateral relations and tourism policy in Italy for the Ministries where tourism was positioned (Ministry of Culture and subsequently the Ministry of Agricultural, Food, Forestry policies) She is a first-degree business graduate at Bocconi University and holds an Executive MBA at Luiss Guido Carli University. She merged her experience in corporate finance and M&A operations with her cultural expertise, joining since 2002 the Ministry of Culture, with the task of restructuring public finances for the culture sector. As an expert of the Middle East area, she was appointed from 2010 to 2015 the Diplomatic Cultural Representative for the Gulf Area. Alessandra knows 6 languages and is an author of numerous sector publications. She is also an adjoint Professor at Luiss Business School and teaches culture and tourism management at other major universities in Italy and abroad.


Prof. Ian YEOMAN

Professor - NHL Stenden University

Dr Ian Yeoman is a Professor of Disruption, Innovation and New Phenomena at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands) and a Visiting Professor at Ulster University (United Kingdom) and Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). Ian is passionate about the future of tourism, loves to write about it and talk about the topic. The future is a topic of imagination and innovation, but at the same time challenge and resilience. Dr Yeoman is co-editor of the Journal of Tourism Futures, and co-editor of Channelview’s Tourism Futures series. He has written / edited over 20 books about the future of tourism and 70 research papers. Most recently, he was ranked in the world’s top 2.5% scientists according to the latest Stanford University Index.



Hon Clayton Bartolo

Minister for Tourism

Hon Clayton Bartolo is Malta’s Minister for Tourism. As Minister, he introduced a number of reforms aimed at recovering Malta’s primary economic pillar.  As a result of these reforms, tourism to Malta is one of the least seasonal in the Mediterranean, generating incremental tourism volume and value throughout the year. As Minister he piloted the launch of Malta’s Tourism Strategy 2021 - 2030 based on the three overlapping pillars of Recover, Rethink, Revitalise.  2023 is expected to be the year of full recovery for Malta, a full twelve months ahead of initial projections.  He is a certified public accountant and auditor by profession and is a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) within the House of Representatives.



CEO - Malta Tourism Authority

Carlo Micallef is a graduate of the University of Malta with a Bachelor of Commerce, Management specialised in Marketing. In a career that spans more than 25 years, he held various important roles within the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS). During this period, Carlo served as MTA’s Director in its Amsterdam office where he was responsible for the promotion of the Maltese Islands in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Nordic Countries. Upon his return to Malta, he was entrusted with the expansion of our country’s promotion in new tourism markets and niches. In 2014, Carlo was appointed Chief Marketing Officer at MTA and in 2017 he was appointed as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the same authority. In 2013, he started serving on the Board of Governors of ITS and in 2017 he was appointed Chairperson of the same educational institution. In 2022, Carlo was appointed CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority.


Mr Leslie VELLA

Managing Director - Malta Tourism Observatory

Leslie Vella was born in 1964 and graduated from the University of Malta with a BA (Hons) in Business Management. He has a 40-year career in tourism with the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) where he is currently Deputy CEO and Chief Officer Strategic Development. He specialises in Policy, Strategy, Research and Planning. Leslie served for 17 years as Chair of the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) Market Intelligence Group between 1997 and 2014 and served as ETC’s Vice President between 2016 and 2017. He is Malta’s Focal Point to the UNWTO and in 2023 was elected to the UNWTO’s Committee on Tourism and Competitiveness until 2028. In 1999 he co-authored “The Economic Impact of Tourism in Malta” and in 2015 drafted Malta’s National Tourism Policy to 2020. He has also drafted Malta’s Tourism Strategy and Recovery Plan for the period 2021-2030. In 2022, Leslie was appointed Managing Director of the Malta Tourism Observatory.

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