Identifying the cultural tourism product in Malta : marketing and management issues
The Maltese Islands, traditionally renowned for their mild Mediterranean climate and sea, are a mass tourist destination. Recent tourism policy has increasingly aimed at promoting the extensive historical and cultural heritage of the islands as a market diversification tool; resulting in the development of cultural tourism. Literature on cultural tourism focused on its relationships to cultural tourists and the local community, and on its marketing and management. A macroscopic study on cultural tourism was conducted using a Grounded Theory approach which looked at the understanding and interactions of a number of stakeholders (MTA, tour-operators, cultural providers and the local community) as they promoted the local cultural tourism product through marketing and management practices. The research findings showed that the Maltese cultural product on offer needed consistent renewal as there was a lack of consensus amongst stakeholders, on what should be promoted as culture a nd consequently what were cultural tourism and the cultural product. These perspectives often resulted in stereotypical Mediterranean imagery which detracted from proactive marketing campaigns. Furthermore, the study showed that the institutional organisation of culture was fragmented, with limited collaboration amongst stakeholders, which effectively hindered a comprehensive management of cultural tourism. The study called for a comprehensive definition of Maltese culture, widely endorsed by stakeholders, reflected in an extensively diversified cultural tourism product that would introduce elements such as gastronomy and crafts to complement the already established heritage and festivals. Moreover, the fact that many aspects of the cultural product were closely identifiable with localities suggested that the eventual success of its marketing and management depended to a large extent, on getting local communities more involved and/or to claim ownership. Finally, there was a need for 'cultural intermediaries', intent on promoting a cultural product via a quality service with a solid education in cultural-related matters.