Making Malta and Gozo a world excellence destination for diving

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Making Malta and Gozo a world excellence destination for divingMaking Malta and Gozo a world excellence destination for diving – Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) & Divers Alert Network (DAN) Europe sign Memorandum of Understanding at ceremony in Gozo.

The Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) and the Divers Alert Network (DAN) Europe have signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at the creation of a premiere institution that will make the Maltese Islands a hub for diving excellence worldwide.

The memorandum was signed during an event held at the Institute's Campus in Qala, Gozo, in the presence of both the Minister for Tourism Dr Edward Zammit Lewis and the Minister for Gozo Dr Anton Refalo.

Dr. Zammit Lewis noted that the Memorandum of Understanding between the ITS and DAN Europe will see the two organisations and the Ministries involved collaborating towards the creation of International Institute of Diving Medicine and Safety to establish the Maltese Islands as a premiere destination for drivers.

"This collaboration will serve to attract divers and the global diving industry to Malta & Gozo and their waters, not only to explore our submerged attractions and treasures, but also for the opportunity to find the best training location for the safe and effective implementation of diving activities for recreation and tourism, science, technology and industrial scopes," stated the Minister for Tourism.

"The collaboration seeks to make Malta and Gozo a destination for those who wish to maximise their education and skills for the best, more efficient, safer, customer friendly Recreational Diving Centre Management. This will be achieved by educating and training the Maltese diving centres to not only be the best in the business but also to become tutors and mentors for the future students of the International Institute of Diving Medicine and Safety," emphasised Dr Zammit Lewis.

The Minister continued by mentioning that the programmes offered will also include education to basic "Citizen Science" principles in order to increase data-based knowledge about Diving Physiology and Medicine by collecting diver-exposure data during real dives and feeding the DAN Europe International Recreational Diving Data Base with meaningful data.

Whilst thanking the board of ITS for their utmost commitment and hard work towards the continued development in the hospitality sector, in his concluding remarks the Minister for Tourism, said that "all stakeholders involved will work towards forming a Maltese Corp of 'Diving Site Rangers' to assure diving safety, respect of laws and regulations, and preservation of the marine environment, while planning possible further action in the Field of Marine Biology and Scientific Diving, in agreement and cooperation with European Universities and existing EU H2020 Projects."

Furthermore, the Minister for Gozo Dr Anton Refalo stated that Diving is among the main attractions of Gozo and the collaboration between ITS and DAN Europe aims at consolidating further the Maltese Islands' position as a top-diving destination also for the best organised, best managed, safer and environmental friendly Recreational Scuba and Free Diving.

Minister Refalo noted that In 2014 the share of diving tourists spending nights in Gozo only was 18% ( c. 18,186). The overall number of divers who stayed either in Gozo only or both in Malta and in Gozo was 28,346, generating 214,656 nights in the destination with divers staying an average of 7.6 nights in Gozo. 77% of diving tourists who based their stay in Malta, visited Gozo too as part of their trip.

Through this collaboration ITS and Dan Europe will be starting a national and international academic education program at all levels of academia and competence, from basic to advanced based on already recognised international standards, with specific course curricula aimed at Diving Safety, Medicine and Research.

The programme of studies will cover areas such as diving-related first aid; diving medicine for divers; diving safety officer courses; diving-specific hazard identification, risk assessment and prevention; as well as post-graduate courses in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine (with European Accreditation) and eventually an academic Master in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine.

The courses offered by ITS and DAN Europe will focus on the Safety of Diving as seen under different perspectives: medical, operational, preventative, applied to the underwater environment and all related activities, both wet and dry, that is to include proper staff, office and public spaces management and safety.

"The Institute of Tourism Studies has started a process of consolidating itself as the leading tourism educational and vocational institution. The collaboration we officialise today is another step in that direction and as an Institute we are aware of the need for qualified professionals within all spheres of our tourism industry. ITS continues to work towards supplying our industry with the highest level of professionals that can meet the demands of this pillar of our country's economy and, simultaneously, provide all opportunities to our young generation of students to achieve the career they want within the tourism industry," said ITS Executive Director Pierre Fenech.

Dr Alessandro Marroni, Founder and President of the DAN Europe Foundation said, "we are proud to be starting this collaboration with the Institute of Tourism Studies. Diving has been my passion since childhood and when I became a Medical Doctor I made it my job and mission to care for the safety of divers and to foster diving safety and medical research. With this in mind I founded DAN Europe 33 years ago and developed it into a world recognised Diving Medicine and Safety Organisation. In 1996, together with my friend and colleague Dr. Ramiro Cali Corleo, we decided to make Malta the official home of DAN Europe. Malta is not only one of the greatest diving areas in the world, it also had, already 20 years ago a very efficient organisation and safety system for recreational diving."

"Now, the challenging but entirely feasible project of creating together the International Institute of Diving Medicine and Safety is a logical consequence and will help further in making Malta an excellence hub for recreational, professional and scientific diving and a prime destination for those who look the best diving management, safety, diving medicine, and research," he added.

Photograph: MGOZ/George Scerri

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