Gozo’s intricate link with tourism – international and domestic – has been well documented over time. Pandemics permitting, tens of thousands of Maltese residents cross over to the sister island every month for a few days of vacation while hundreds of thousands more who holiday in Malta, frequently spend a day or two visiting Gozo.
It is estimated that over half of Gozo’s economy is dependent on tourism. This economic contributor traditionally had one particular shortfall: that of seasonality. EU funds have significantly helped the island to make important strides forward in diversifying its tourism product, offering much more than the sun and sea experience.
Strikingly different from Malta, the island is still considered to be relatively rural, greener, and less developed. Also, it has a rich historic patrimony, which has been given a revitalising new life and function intervention of EU funds. The Cittadella project is living proof of this.
The island boasts of a total of 11 picturesque valleys, most of them in rugged and unspoilt territory, popular with locals and foreigners for long peaceful walks in the countryside.
The Għarb local council, host of one of the most spectacular of such valleys, known as Wied il-Mielaħ, was one the first local authorities to take advantage of Malta’s EU membership.
Through two EU funded projects, to the tune of over €600,000, the local council implemented a programme to give its main unique destination, a new lease of life. Funds were put into use to give a general clean-up to the two-kilometre valley, which had been left abandoned for years while a problem with a sewage outflow in the area was solved.
Some four kilometres of characteristic rubble walls were re-built thus conserving the further erosion of soil from nearby agricultural fields.
The roads and pathways leading to the valley were also given a much-needed uplift while new information signage, providing details of the unique flora and fauna in the area were installed.
This investment has resulted in an increase in the number of visitors to the area, particularly the valley, which leads to a magnificent natural beauty, a window carved by the sea over millions of years.
Information kiosks manned by tourist facilitators were also put in place. Apart from offering information about the various walking paths and details about the area and its surroundings, these kiosks have also served to gather data of visitors which helps in the planning for the availability of other attractions in the vicinity.
The EU’s Cohesion policy aims to promote harmonious development across the EU by pursuing actions leading to strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion. Projects such as Wied il-Mielaħ reflect an effective translation of policy into concrete initiatives, by not only pushing economic growth, but it also address climate change, the loss of biodiversity, water pollution, urban stress, waste production and more.
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