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Valletta from the air

Brand Footprint

Strategy 8.

To continue to strengthen the City dimension of Malta’s cosmopolitan offer through the further development of Brand Valletta to encompass the destination’s historic and contemporary urban offer.


Malta presents the paradoxical dichotomy of a destination which is concentrated within the spatial constraints of a small territory but possesses the variety and diversity of tourism products and experiences normally found in larger destinations.

It is thus a small territory but yet a sovereign country, an archipelago comprising a number of distinct islands, the population of a medium sized city within a nation of 66 different localities and a varied destination with an urban, rural and coastal/maritime dimension.

Over the past years, Malta has successfully managed to commence a process which led to the establishment of the Valletta Brand as a stand-alone off-shoot of the umbrella Malta brand. Valletta has become a recognizable brand in its own right representing a historic, urban experience based on an eclectic mix of attractions, shops, vistas, restaurants, theatre and outdoor experiences within a beautifully restored and integrated historical urban fabric within the city’s extensive historic walls.


The rise of Brand Valletta has been instrumental in channeling investment into new tourism accommodation establishments thus changing the locality from one which was previously a day-trip destination to one where apart from day-trippers and cruise passengers, it now also hosts a population of bona-fide tourists who actually overnight within its precincts.

Whereas to the Maltese, Valletta consists of the actual 0.61 square kilometers citadel built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th Century, to most visitors arriving from larger countries with bigger cities, it constitutes a ‘historic centre’ within a wider urban context: the contiguous urban conurbation spanning the City’s two deep water ports of Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour.

This north and south harbour conurbation represents Malta’s City Tourism offer which possesses the perfect credentials for the extension of the current Valletta Brand. It represents a wider cosmopolitan offer in an area housing around one quarter of a million residents; a mix of historic and modern, traditional and contemporary, communal and residential, inland and coastal. The conurbation has the potential to be branded as the wider Malta urban offer in line with and the further evolution of the already established dual principle of Malta as the “Island with a City” and “City on an Island”.

Complementing the valued and successful Valletta brand with this additional City Brand dimension will only serve to position Malta in a stronger manner within attractive segments of inbound travellers seeking lifestyle, short breaks, city breaks, shopping, cultural experiences, nightlife, conference and business, religious, medical, wellness and luxury travel.

These are all segments with stronger growth potential, bringing higher spending visitors aligned to Malta’s urban tourism offer.

It will generate additional, year-round demand as opposed to the more seasonal coastal offer and has the potential to spearhead the strategic objective of delivering an improved quality experience to visitors. It can also integrate rather seamlessly within the existing urban fabric as part of a wider, overall process of urban regeneration and innovation including diverse aspects such as transport, pedestrianisation, maximisation of open spaces and giving a new lease of life to neglected and undervalued areas rather than simply demolishing them for replacement by non-traditional, high density developments.


To further build on the positives arising from the successful development, promotion and establishment
of the Valletta Brand through the additional development of a distinct Malta City Tourism Brand
encompassing the contiguous North and South Harbours Conurbation as a distinct element of Malta’s
Cosmopolitan character. To offer visitors a Maltese cosmopolitan lifestyle experience radiating outwards
from Valletta and incorporating elements such as history, culture, sea, architecture, cuisine, way of life
and climate as reasons for tourists to visit and return.

Goals and Actions



To identify, compile and present the Brand components of the proposed Malta City Tourism Brand by emulating best practice from established, successful CITY BRANDS.



Action 1.  Commission a comparative study to identify which established City Brands Malta should benchmark itself with.

Action 2.  Select the brand elements on the basis of Malta’s comparative advantage and present them to stakeholders.

Action 3.  Prepare and distribute a Brand handbook covering the Malta City Tourism Brand.



To develop the Malta City Tourism Brand in parallel with and in a complementary manner to the existing Valletta Brand



Action 1.  Explore the relationship between the existing Valletta Brand and the proposed, wider Malta City Tourism Brand so as to establish an inter-relationship based on complementarity.

Action 2.  Identify similar cases in established city destinations where specific districts of a city co-exist as a distinctly
integrated component of a brand.

Action 3.  Co-ordinate the process by involving all relevant public & private stakeholders and engaging Branding Experts to steer this process.


To promote, position and popularise the Malta City Tourism Brand with the relevant stakeholders and target audiences by integrating it in all supply & demand side actions.



Action 1.  Organise a Malta City Tourism Brand Conference to present the Brand elements to interested stakeholders.

Action 2.  Set up a Malta City Tourism Brand Forum to execute, monitor, refine and evolve the new Brand.

Action 3.  Work to extend the dissemination and values associated with the Brand to a wider audience of stakeholders by
obtaining their commitment and participation.


To amend research tools to start measuring the growth and development of the Malta City Tourism Brand in the different markets and provide feedback to marketing agencies and product development initiatives.



Action 1.  To evaluate the outputs emerging from GOALS 1 and 2 for research purposes.

Action 2.  To create new specific research tools or update existing ones to monitor Brand Development.

Action 3.  To publish an annual datasheet on the measurement of selected brand parameters.

Action 4.  To promote regular feedback to the Malta City Tourism Brand Forum to assist it in its efforts and work.

Strategy 9. To increase the Destination’s brand footprint by subdividing the national territory comprising the major Islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino by identifying zones within the national territory, each possessing distinct competitive advantage and differentiation from the other zones. This cluster approach shall recognise a combination of product and emotional attributes pertaining to each respective zone which will be the guiding principles for product development and market positioning. Unravelling Destination Malta in this way widens its appeal to the different segments it shall be
seeking to attract and grow.


As a tourism destination, Malta may consider itself privileged to display the dual nature of a Mediterranean island destination which also possesses a rich and vibrant urban dimension.
This positive attribute can neither be taken lightly nor for granted given that a substantial number of Malta’s direct competitors in the tourism field generally possess strengths in one area or the other but very rarely in both.

The modern Maltese tourism industry was born in the late 1950s, at a time when developments bore all the hallmarks of a country and destination struggling to come to terms with its own identity. Malta’s initial ventures into tourism were based on the assumption that the United Kingdom was the island’s obvious and natural source market and that what British tourists were seeking was merely a warmer, sunnier, Mediterranean version of their homeland.

This narrow initial appreciation of the country’s tourism potential was to have a profound effect on two aspects of Malta’s tourism performance, which continue to constitute challenges even today.
The first negative effect related to geographical diversification whereby a traditionally strong dependence on the British market precluded Malta from attracting tourists from other countries with the obvious risk of endangering the entire industry when tourism from the United Kingdom declined.
The second negative effect, with direct links to the first related to the issue of seasonality. The positioning of Malta as a sun and sea destination between the late 1950s and the mid-1980s resulted in a huge concentration of tourism inflows around the peak summer months with very little off-peak activity during the rest of the year.

The way for Malta to achieve the required change was to capitalise on the fact that it could offer the charms and attractions of a Mediterranean archipelago with emphasis on good weather and a wide range of coastal activities, underscored by a vibrant local community with its diverse culture and rich millenary history. For many years however, the major emphasis remained on the coastal dimension with the cultural aspect taking a backseat role.

For a destination like Malta, blessed as it is with a 7,000-year unbroken line of human development and activity, urban cultural tourism needed to rise to become a very important cornerstone of tourism strategy.

The Mediterranean has an oversupply of islands and coastal destinations whose major offer relies very heavily on their sun and beach assets. Were Malta to compete on this basis alone, as it tried to do before efforts at diversifying its product offer were introduced in the mid to late 1980s, its performance would be much lower than what it was experiencing apart in the pre-COVID-19 peak. This, apart from the fact that it would be engaging in continuous price wars with competitors.

Malta’s unique, rich, diverse, and excellently presented urban cultural tourism offer has not only helped differentiate it from such competitors but has also helped it reduce the negative effects of seasonality by enabling it to attract tourists during all months of the year.

The Island City concept is one where initially emphasis was being placed on the already known name of Valletta, which, however, from the marketing perspective refers not only to the territory occupied by the Capital but extends to the entire urban fabric of the destination, as has already been encapsulated within the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture concept.

As tourism shifts from detached sightseeing into a hands-on lifestyle and indulgence experience, destinations need to gear themselves up for increased demand for personalised quality experiences available to affordable budgets. This extends also to the concept of experience hotels where accommodation opportunities are also being offered in all sorts of establishments ranging from converted lighthouses to disused warehouses. Travellers will invariably be seeking more cultural immersion into the destination in the coming years.

The creative economy and modern, consumer-inspired destination branding go hand in hand. Today’s successful destination realizes that it is all about experiential tourism which directly satisfies the senses: tourists do not want to be distant, passive observers but want to touch, smell, taste, see and hear all that it is possible to sense. This creates a strong brand/client bond which the satisfied tourist feels obliged to share in real time.

Through creative tourism, suppliers differentiate themselves from their competitors to achieve a competitive advantage. In this way they offer a learning and authentic experience to tourists. Creative tourism is all about the active participation of tourists in experiencing the destination.
This new approach to tourism is having a profound impact on the way tourists seek service and hospitality and the way destinations, businesses and attractions provide it.

World tourism continues to feature a strong resilience to economic adversity, natural and man-made catastrophes, the threat of war and terrorism and the occasional risk of pandemics. Despite facing more than its fair share of these negative factors over the past few years, tourism’s growth trend has continued relatively unabated, and all forecasts for the next fifteen years optimistically point towards further growth.

The growth of international tourism is attributable to a host of reasons, foremost amongst which one can list the general removal, relaxation or simplification of frontier formalities between most countries of origin and destinations, the advent of lower cost modes of transport, especially by airlines, the digital revolution brought about by the online retail possibilities of the world wide web and the shift in consumer behaviour in a world of increased middle class demographics for whom frequent travel has become a firmly incorporated and inseparable component of the need for multiple breaks during a year of intensive and stressful workload.

Malta’s tourist profile has changed from one which was mainly focused on ‘sun and sea’ to a much more varied motivational portfolio. Malta offers a diverse product offer which results in various interests being captured to tap the outbound travel market from source countries. As a result, tourism to the islands is spread all year round with the main reason for the seasonal spread of tourism being Malta’s capability to attract different motivational segments during the different times of the year.

These are attributes which have not only assisted Malta in growing its tourism offer but have also contributed to the accelerated diversification of the Maltese economy as one befitting a modern European state: an economy based on a solid base of high value added manufacturing comprising electronics and precision engineering, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, ICT and digital media and energy buttressed by a range of service sectors such as tourism, financial services, aviation registration and support services, gaming, transhipment and ship registration and repair. A model based on the development of a dynamic, high value-added economy founded on competence, skills and excellence and capable of sustaining a high quality standard of living for the island’s entire people.

Malta’s current brand image is strong. It is no longer a peripheral, marginal player benefitting from the overflow of its neighbours’ success. Malta has started to generate growth under its own steam and exists as proof that small size and limited resources should not act as barriers to success. The time is ripe to further explore the possibilities emerging from carefully and gradually extending Malta’s brand footprint by subdividing its territory into several smaller, inter-related distinct sub-brands with the ultimate objective of communicating a much more diverse and locality specific offer to different cohorts of desired visitors.

To analyse the destination’s territory on the basis of its diversity and local characteristics with a view
to eventually subdividing the country into a number of sub-brands each differentiated by its specific
attributes. Such an undertaking will serve the “grow” the destination in the eyes of a wider range of
potential visitor interests whilst also providing direction to investors and planners in better equating
product development with specific sub-brand characteristics and comparative advantages.

Goals and Actions


Analyse, research, differentiate and identify different zones on the basis of what distinguishes them from each other in terms of competitive advantage.



Action 1.  Carry out desk research and location-specific research to identify distinguishing characteristics.

Action 2.  Compile a detailed Report for each zone.

Action 3.  Use the above findings to propose eventual zoning and zoning USPs as per Strategy


Research the life cycle of the different coastal localities in view of their predominance in terms of receptive capacity.



Action 1.  Undertake life-cycle model analysis per locality.

Action 2.  Compile a detailed Report for each Zone.

Action 3.  Create Action Plans for each locality in response to findings.


Establish a link with local food and food production traditions (both from land and from sea) to strongly incentivise the preservation and quality production of local produce and the resulting gastronomic offer.



Action 1.  Desk and location-based research to produce an exhaustive list per zone and locality.

Action 2.  Identify each Zone’s specific unique characteristics and use brand development techniques to integrate it within
Zone’s brand persona with particular reference to products of quality, traditional agro-food products, organicproduction, olive oil and viticulture/oenology. 

Action 3.  Use result of Actions 1, 2 and 3 to explore the feasibility of increased use of Made in Malta culinary products withinthe industry. 

Action 4.  Explore potential of introducing tourism to sustainable artisanal fishing and farming activities aimed at providingnovel experiences while boosting Malta’s image.


Apply the findings of Goals 1 to 3 to produce a Revamped Product Offering Strategy for each
zone in consultation with stakeholders such as Local Councils.



Action 1.  Consequentially develop individual zone brand strategies based on the findings emerging from Goals 1 and 2.


Explore the creation of soft novel experiences such as low volume, single night stays in alternative land and sea settings such as disused countryside structures, obsolete military inventory, fishing vessels etc.



Action 1.  Create an inventory of potential single-night stay propositions.

Action 2.  Investigate competitor products and experiences in this field.

Action 3.  Subject each proposal to feasibility and sustainability criteria.

Action 4.  Present a list of proposed experiences.



Actively promote the concept of oneness with nature in the case of zones where the natural/ rural experience emerges as the main brand value through the development of sensitive, low density, non-intrusive experiences.



Action 1.  Conduct joint studies with the competent Ministries and Authorities to identify locations and possibilities.

Action 2.  Produce a short-list of potential ideas.

Action 3.  Discuss with stakeholders and NGOs in terms of sensitive take-up and commercialisation.


Investigate opportunities to create sustainable luxury tourism ecosystems in low tourism activity zones to increase tourism activity primarily in terms of value rather than volume.



Action 1.  Harness the expertise of international specialists in the field to identify similar concept overseas and apply them to Malta.

Action 2.  Identify area/s that can suffice the needs and sensitivities of proposed projects.

Action 3.  Undertake feasibility studies taking due consideration of the very special conditions and characteristics which such proposals entail.

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