EU project to boost Gozo dive tourism

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The Gozo Ministry has embarked on a project entitled Niche Tourism For The Island Of Gozo, which focuses on diving as the main attraction.

The project which is largely funded through the EU’s Structural Funds Programme for Malta 2004/6, will provide a decompression chamber at the Gozo General Hospital as well as two scuttled vessels.

The scuttling of the Karwela and the Cominoland will take place off Ix-Xatt l-Ahmar, in the limits of Ghajnsielem on July 29.

The site chosen for the scuttling is close to where the former Gozo channel ferry Xlendi had been scuttled some years ago. However, that vessel had landed on the seabed upside down.

The niche tourism project is being funded under the European Union’s Regional Development Fund which is providing 75 per cent of the cost while the remaining 25 per cent is being shouldered by the government.

Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono said during a news conference that a master plan for diving should be ready by the end of summer while the decompression chamber should be functional by the end of the year.

The two vessels to be scuttled are at a shipyard in Marsa undergoing thorough cleaning and Mepa was on the verge of issuing the necessary permits.

The Minister said that prior to Malta’s accession to the EU, the European Commission had commissioned a study which highlighted Gozo’s characteristics especially its handicaps and it also identified ways how these could be mitigated. The report highlighted the need to exploit more niche tourism areas, including diving.

The Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Tourism Association were active stakeholders and they were consulted throughout this study, she added.

The four components of the Niche Tourism project are:

* Studies and a Master Plan to provide a clear picture of the diving industry in Gozo and to identify measures to improve it;

* The setting up of a decompression chamber in Gozo;

* The creation of more artificial dive sites on the island; and

* Marketing Gozo in the international markets as a diving destination.

Mr Debono said that Gozo boasted several natural underwater attractions with the Blue Hole in Dwejra classified among the top 10 diving sites in Europe.

Yet, she added, several factors, including the fact that the present dive sites were not always available because of rough seas, implied the need for additional underwater attractions including artificial one

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