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Malta Tourism Authority chief lauds VisitMalta Sela Cup success

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) was one of the protagonists over the weekend when it hosted the inaugural edition of the VisitMalta Sela Cup at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park.

The tournament, won by the hosts on Sunday, was the next step for the authority in its plan for tourism.

Sports tourism has become one of the different niches the MTA has pushed towards in recent years. While usually, the government entity’s investment has been purely based locally through sponsorship for local teams playing overseas as well as international tournaments being held on Maltese soil, this year the MTA has been the one to travel abroad and act as main sponsor for the pre-season tournament last weekend.

Speaking to a press conference at the end of the Sela Cup, Carlo Micallef, chief executive officer of the Malta Tourism Authority told the Times of Malta that this was ‘an important way to build momentum for tourism in winter’.

“This is a different way to promote a country. Football brings with it a range of emotions and is followed by millions around the world,” Micallef said.

“Here in Newcastle there is enormous support – you could say that football is a religion for them. So together with Helmut (Amhof), Hannes (Empl), and SLFC Soccer we chose this club which is growing.

“They’ve always had a good fanbase, but they are now higher up the international chain by having made it to the Champions League.”

Micallef explained that all the work has now reaped rewards with requests having been made for more regular flights to and from Malta to Newcastle.

“This was the result of preparation that has been going on for a while,” he explained, “we were hoping to create a tournament with VisitMalta branding abroad to gather exposure all across Europe.

“In fact, we had four teams from core tourism markets. We’ve had good coverage, both on social media and television.

“This is an important move towards increasing the level of our brand and now that the summer season is doing well and we promoted the 300 days of sun – yesterday we watched matches in the rain, while today everyone was telling me that we’ve brought the sun with us from Malta.

“It was well worth it – when we calculated before the tournament, there was a media value that, were we to buy it, would have cost us around seven million euros. But during the tournament and after, we’ve held talks with people involved in tourism and those who’ve asked us about the opportunity to invest in Malta. The return will of course be bigger.”

Next steps

Currently, VisitMalta’s largest collaborations overseas have all been in the United Kingdom – a shirt sponsorship with Sheffield United a number of years ago, a partnership with Manchester United starting in 2019, and last weekend’s pre-season tournament.

Asked about the possibility of different countries for future collaborations, Micallef told the Times of Malta he does not exclude other destinations.

Joining the panel was SLFC representative Amhof who said this was one of the highest steps reached throughout their collaboration in the past six years.

“We’ve had a very good cooperation throughout these past years. I think the start was six years ago and we are increasing the good feeling as a partnership and creating higher steps,” Amhof said.

“This was one of the highest steps we have reached through our work together. To have an event like we did here, with a football team like Newcastle United, for us was a big challenge but thanks to the good cooperation with the Malta Tourism Authority we could present VisitMalta as a top brand.

“I think there are still planned activities for the future especially these kinds of events and we will be looking at how they will look in terms of details.

“After this big success, where all around the stadium we could see the fans, and the return on investment as well because sponsorship is just one part, but the idea is to bring back return and I think here the result has been unbelievable.”

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