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Community-based marine tourism in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, Malta

190930-marsaxlokk Marsaxlokk, photo by Remi Yuan on Unsplash

Traditional fishing villages are popular places for tourists and visitors looking for authentic portraits of which fishermen, fresh fish and seascapes are involved. This is seen by the tourism sector as an opportunity to promote marine and coastal destinations, offering a range of experiences that are linked to the fishing traditions of marine heritage. Tourism has the potential to “strengthen identities and regenerate local heritage”, in which local products, festivals, culinary and job-related skills find in tourism an opportunity for their preservation, stimulating sustainable development. Alternative opportunities are possible to gain additional income through innovation and diversification, e.g. by creating synergies between traditional sectors and tourism. Other economic returns of tourism are possible. For example, governments see it as a tool in rural development which can help to stimulate economies in danger of decline. 

After 2000s, Marsaxlokk (south-east of Malta) experienced an important influx of tourists by international tourists from cruises and mass tourism because of the promotion campaign from the tourism authority to brand Marsaxlokk as the only fishing village left in Malta. As tourism in Malta was expanding, the village has been in a constant transformation. Since the development in the north has reached its limit in recent years, the less developed areas in the south show great potentials and opportunities and thus attract more people to move in. In addition, some people who seek less crowded places to live also want to move from the urban areas in the north to the south. Commercial businesses in the waterfront such as restaurants and hawkers have appeared and more tourists have come to enjoy the picturesque view of harbour with colourful luzzu and have a fresh-caught lunch at the waterfront. Moreover, some of the fishermen turned from the full-time fishermen to part-time fishermen and started to take tourists on to the traditional luzzu boats for a boat trip. Tourism has created many new employments in Marsaxlokk and stimulates the development of the local community.

With the idea of diversifying the economy and developing new initiatives, fishermen and their relatives started the new experience of boating with traditional luzzu five years ago. The new local boat tour operators have clear what are the reasons for doing it: boating is less labour intense, less complicated, economically more stable than fishing and the revenue is good (only fuel and yearly insurance as main expenses). In Malta, the uses and categories of the vessels differ. Recreational fishing for tourism purposes in professional fishermen vessels is not allowed in Malta and activities for authentic experiences for tourists are very limited. For this particular activity, part-time professional fishing vessels or recreational fishing vessels are allowed to offer services as water taxis or take tourists around the bay. Even if this a good positive example of how sustainable initiatives around tourism and fisheries can be positive, the development is on its early stage. More conversations are needed to bring together fisheries and tourism and establish long-term strategies to make possible the sustainability of this new activity.

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