After some years of a declining tourist market, the Mediterranean island of Malta is seeing a revival in her fortunes as a mainstream tourist destination.
The prospects for the island have improved dramatically over the last year. At one point in 2006 there was speculation that a major British tour operator was considering taking the holiday island out of its brochures, but this year, having stared at the possibility of slipping to a niche travel destination, Malta is enjoying an upswing in visitor numbers.
The danger of slipping to a niche travel status, and the subsequent economic consequences for the Malta tourist industry, is thought to be part of the reason why the island was galvanised into finally accepting low cost flights from her main UK and Irish markets, with Ryanair starting flights from London in November last year, and this March from Dublin.
In addition to the new Ryanair services, the island's own airline, Air Malta, has run a successful campaign of its own for cheap Malta flight deals, and from May launched a new route from Liverpool to Malta. Further visitors are expected from Spain and Germany, following agreements with airlines to provide cheap Malta flights outside of Malta's traditional market.
The extra visitor numbers are being boosted by more media coverage in Malta's traditional core market of the United Kingdom, with daily and Sunday newspapers featuring Malta more as a suggested location for a holiday.
According to UK based travel site YourMalta.com the number of enquiries from British journalists asking for information about Malta in the first three months of 2007 is up significantly from 2006.
'Malta seems to have come back on travel writers' radar', they say, 'We've been pleasantly surprised at the number of national newspapers asking us for quotes. The same has happened with journalist enquiries for property in Malta, showing perhaps that increased media interest for Malta holidays is no coincidence.'
But there could be a bigger boost for Malta in the autumn if discussions concerning a British TV soap comes to fruition.
Local media in Malta reported recently that talks were taking place with Britain's favourite TV soap, Coronation Street, about filming an episode on the island.
Coronation Street is the world's longest running soap, and first broadcast in 1960. Viewing figures in the UK regularly top ten million viewers an episode, and as recently as April this year reached twelve million.
'If it were to happen,'comment YourMalta.com, 'It could be a major boost for the winter season and for summer 2008 too. A half hour episode on Malta will reach more people over a longer period of time than a tourist authority could hope to with a series of twenty or thirty second advertisements, it would be worth millions in equivalent advertising.'
In addition to reaching Malta's prime UK market, additional benefit for the Malta holiday industry would come from Canada and Australia, where the show is aired some weeks after the UK.
In conclusion, YourMalta say that increasing and sustainable tourism for Malta has to come from repeat visitors who enjoy their first visit to the island, with good Malta hotels being a key factor.
'If Malta can achieve more frequent mentions in the UK national press, travel programmes and other media it will influence the buying public when it comes to deciding where to go on holiday. The more Malta is mentioned the more likely it is that the island will be considered. We don't expect Malta to start reaching top ten favourite destination polls, or to become as related to holidays as Majorca is for example - but to get somewhere close to what Cyprus has achieved could be an achievable aim, and should be.'
Time will tell if it can be for Malta.