30/03/2011

Malta's NI Tourists Polled Over Libya

As the Libyan crisis worsens, NI people holidaying on Malta have been asked about concerns they might have about their visit to the picturesque island.

There are fears that visitor numbers to what is Europe's nearest neighbour to Libya may be hit by the turbulence just over 200 miles away.

The straw poll came as Malta's Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi admitted in the capital, Valetta, (pictured by Brian McCalden) that an 'official' Libyan plane was refused landing permission at the weekend.

He said that the passengers included pilots who intended to 'repossess' two multi-million Euro Mirage fighter aircraft flown there earlier by defecting Libyan pilots.

As the tensions were racked-up by the latest development, Northern Ireland visitors to the holiday island were among those being polled by the authoritive Malta Times newspaper about any fears they might have had before travelling.
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Along with other UK visitors, the NI people were being asked if they had any worries about Malta, after cancellations by small groups from the UK, France and Germany and a reported slowdown in bookings.

This was especially so at a time when foreign media were in Malta reporting about the incidents in Libya and people's evacuation from the beleaguered country.

While some of the UK holidaymakers said they were unconcerned, others would have been willing to cancel had they been able to claim refunds - but all agreed that since arrival, all was peaceful.

However, as the request by Libya for the two war planes to be returned has been denied - and the request by their pilots for political asylum remained under consideration in Malta - some will reflect on the mere 221 mile proximity to Tripoli, Libya's capital.

The problems in Libya and the region have increased uncertainty over visitor numbers after Air Malta - the country's official carrier - entered a crucial stage of restructuring as it wallows in debt.

See: Malta Tourists 'Not Worried' Over Libya

(BMcC/GK)

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