On Sunday Tuesday 15th March 2009, Arnold Cassola, the Malta Green Party leader and candidate for the European Parliament elections of the 6th June accompanied one of the farmers member of the Ager Foundation and a group of German tourists on one of his farms.
Prof Arnold Cassola and myself emphasised the importance of a government strategy for the development of rural and alternative tourism niches that would also create innovative employment in this region and for which the European Union allots considerable funds. On the way down the citrus garden, the German delegation could notice the destruction going on the pristine land the construction of the new Nadur cemetery and they wondered how such a project copuld take place on thjis pristine land!
We said that Government continues to brand Gozo as an eco-island, and, unbelievably, this has not yet been substantiated by an eco-tourism plan that would highly benefit Gozo and the stakeholders within such sectors.
Rightly so, Arnold Cassola declared that Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) maintains that a sustainable ecological tourist strategy for Gozo demands clear consolidated planning rather than random ministerial declarations with no end in sight. MEPA has a legal responsibility to safeguard Gozo’s environment. Public opinion believes that this environmental watchdog is increasingly becoming complacent with monied applicants and then toughens its stand with the weaker ones.
Alternattiva Demokratika strongly believes that Gozo has an inherent basis for such innovative tourism niches. It observes the futility of government and local authorities attempts to promote Gozo as a distinct tourist destination when professional training leading to entrepreneurial initiatives in eco- and agri-tourism is nonexistent in our University and Institute of Tourism Studies. Consequently these sectors lack qualified personnel and any such investment is disabled from its inception stage.
Prof Cassola added that the Government needs to recognise the financial potential of this tourism sector for our islands’ domestic product, and its special significance to Gozo where tourism suffers seasonal downturns. Such niche tourism projects fit Gozo’s low tourist season when paradoxically it is during such winter months that nature blesses its valleys and hills in an abundance of green scenery.
Alternattiva Demokratika has for years been reiterating that Gozo could be the model for the development of niche tourism and its innovative employment opportunities.
AD's proposal three years ago for Gozo to become an eco-island was meaningful and realistic and certainly not a promotional exercise. The Party believed then and now that Gozo and its residents deserve a clean environment, rich in its traditions and offerings for the benefit of the islanders and its guests. Gozitans and environmentally-conscious individuals want decisive implementation of such tourism projects instead of repeated monotonous declarations and promises.