The island of Gozo, part of the Maltese archipelago, stands for culture, history, identity, tranquility and beauty. This is a 67-square kilometre island in the Mediterranean with 7000 years of history, boasting the oldest free-standing megalithic temples, that are a UNESCO World Heritage site – the Ggantija Temples in Xaghra. Anyone who sets foot here, is captured by the raw beauty and the authenticity that places elsewhere have lost. The island is connected to mainland Malta by a scenic 25-minute ferry ride that runs every hour. The Malta International Airport is itself connected to 96 European ariports.
When government first launched its Eco-Gozo action plan a few years back, few would have thought about the huge strides this island would make in a relatively short period. This vision is not based merely on thinking green but on achieving a stable and healthy environment for a better quality of life. Projects have focused on water conservation, education, culture, the promotion of renewable forms of energy and sustainable agricultural practises. Educational campaigns have been at the core of all these activities, and the eco-Gozo vision has served to launch or to put a label to sustainable activities. These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Eco-Gozo was named as a national champion in this year’s European business awards, for its environmental and corporate sustainability.
Sustainability has also been at the core of the island’s efforts in tourism, a sector that contributes extensively to economic life in Gozo. Policy addresses the demand and the supply sides of the tourism equation to ensure sustainable development throughout. The two five star hotels in Gozo are already eco-certified. There are also seven refurbished farmhouses in the self-catering sector which are eco-certified.
Gozo is focusing its efforts on promoting small and sustainable niches for a better visitor spread throughout the year, hence moving away from excessive dependency on the peak season when thousands of tourists visit the island, putting considerable pressure on the infrastructure. Such niches include adventure sports comprising diving, kayaking and climbing, walking and cultural tourism. Culture is an area with great potential for Gozo and history attests to an island that has gained a reputation of its own in this field. Despite its minute size, the island offers an active all-year round cultural calendar, which matches international standards. Indeed, the islanders’ passion for cultural activities is insatiable and spurred by an active and budding voluntary sector.
This island’s calendar is rich with cultural festivals of international acclaim such as the Mediterranea, the Victoria International Arts Festival and the Gaulitana Music Festival. The latter, spurred by the success achieved in 2014 after staging the opera Tosca, is this year again holding another opera, the Rigoletto on the 22nd May. Indeed opera and classic music lovers are always in for a treat in Gozo as the two main opera theatres in Victoria, Astra and Aurora, hold two operas every October. This year La Traviata and La Boheme will be staged.
Government strongly believes in the island’s potential to attract the right investment opportunities, providing a future for young generations. Recent announcements on investment projects, such as the agreement signed with Barts, a faculty within Queen Mary University of London, to open a medical school in Gozo, shows that the island offers the right setting for appropriate investment opportunities which are sustainable and in line with what Gozo wants to achieve.