The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is set to award the Corinthia Group another multi-million euro contract that will see the Marina Hotel in St Julian’s retained as a Covid-19 quarantine hotel for the next six months, according to MTA sources.
The sources told The Shift that the MTA is about to sign the new contract with Corinthia chairman Alfred Pisani to rent out the entire 200-room Marina Hotel, although the government has announced that all Covid-19 restrictions, including the need for quarantine, will soon be lifted.
“While the decision to have quarantine hotels was required in the past, even though doubts over the procurement process used by the MTA remain questionable, there is surely no need to have another six-month contract, now that the government is reducing restrictions,” the sources said.
“For sure, there is no need to have a leading hotel sealed-off during the peak of the next summer season if there aren’t any other ‘reasons’ among senior MTA officials we might not know about,” they added.
In addition to the Corinthia Marina in St Julian’s, the MTA is also hiring The George Hotel in Paceville. Both were selected after an ‘expression of interest’ call, although details of the payments being made by taxpayers were never divulged.
MTA sources told The Shift that since the ‘soft lifting’ of restrictions, very few visitors required to be quarantined at the government-leased hotels.
The source added that while the contract with The George Hotel is now coming to an end, the Corinthia Marina has had its contract renewed to the end of April and MTA officials are mulling the possibility of extending it further.
MTA CEO Johann Buttigieg did not reply to The Shift’s questions about the new contract. A Corinthia spokesperson said “the current contract ends at the end of April. We are not aware if it will be extended or otherwise”.
Last year, during the peak of the pandemic, The Shift reported that the MTA was profiteering from Covid-19, using the pandemic to make a profit off visitors forced into quarantined upon arrival.
While quarantined guests were charged €100 a day for lodging in the quarantine hotels for a fortnight, the MTA was only paying €70 per visitor per day to the owners of the establishments. The rest of the proceeds were being funnelled back to the MTA, which meant the government agency was making some €500 from every person forced to spend two weeks in a quarantine hotel.
The MTA has refused two Freedom of Information requests to publish the lease contracts it had signed with the hotels.