The Gozo Tourism Association (or simply GTA)is a regional based organisation responsible for the fostering of all sectorsforming the tourism industry in Gozo while addressing the island’s needs andcircumstances. The organisation’s first general meeting for Gozitan tourismoperators took place on 11th February 1999 and has been representingits members’ interests and acting as an important vehicle in disseminatinginformation within the tourism sector up to this day. The organisationfunctions through a Council of fourteen members elected during the AnnualGeneral Meeting who govern the Association.

The business of the Association isconducted by the Executive Council, while Mr. Joe Muscat, the Chief ExecutiveOfficer (CEO) administers the running of the Gozo Tourism Association’s office.The Gozo Tourism Association’s Mission Statement is to unite all persons,companies, partnership or associates operating in the tourism industry in Gozoand to promote the island as an all year round tourist destination. Moreover,the organisation strives to secure, foster and encourage the fullestco-operation of the Council in dealing with questions concerning and affectingthe tourist industry and endeavours to protect and promote the interests of itsmembers. This essay will examine how the concepts of innovation and leadershipare relevant to the Gozo Tourism Association while observing the ChiefExecutive Officer’s leadership style and behaviour towards obstacles and innovationalbarriers that may arise within the organisation. Consecutively, specificstrategies and suggestions will be put forward on ways to better theorganisation in this regard.

The Association adopts an innovativeorganisational culture and promotes a shared vision for innovation. The Executivecouncil demonstrates fair, constructive judgement of ideas; rewards andrecognises innovative work and has mechanisms for encouraging and developing anactive flow of ideas. Ordinary meetings are held regularly, usually monthly andare put in motion by the Chairman who sets the date and the agenda. During the meetings,the Council members discuss the selected agenda and are encouraged to participateactively in discussions, give constructive criticism and suggestions forimprovement and even include an agenda of their own if needed. Aftercollectively agreeing on a decision or proposal, the Council passes theinformation to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Joe Muscat who sets thedirective and takes action thereon.

Accordingto Mr. Muscat, a good leader is someone who is actively seeking to removeorganisational barriers to innovation and he believes that internal politicalproblems, harsh criticism of new ideas, and destructive internal competition shouldbe minimised or eliminated. Mr. Muscat denotes that impediments to innovation ofteninclude an avoidance of risk, a fear of failure, an overemphasis on the statusquo and existing processes that crush new ideas. The Central Government of Malta entrusts the Gozo Tourism Associationto represent Gozo abroad and the organisation needs to be in par with othercountries in terms of innovation. Mr.

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Muscat emphasizes that the concepts of innovationand leadership are not to be employed within the organisation only, but also withinthe country, which should always strive to be a leader in the tourism industry.Since its inception, the Gozo Tourism Association hastaken various initiatives to promote the island and stay relevant and agile in today’sever-changing world. The organisation uses the internet as a critical tool inproviding visitors with a wealth of information on Gozo. A strategic initiativewas developed to provide a way to ensure tourism information available wasaccurate and that small tourism operators were not disadvantaged and had accessto the World Wide Web.

The Gozo Tourism Association’s website was createdthrough the combined effort of local historians, photographers and otherentities who were paramount in the provision of content and funding. Itoperates to provide the industry with a database of tourism products and servicesso that they can be published, promoted and sold through multiple websites orother digital media, allowing tourism operators to benefit from exposure to theWorld Wide Web. The website also gives users the optionto view previous publications and press releases and offers the facility to downloadthe latest tenders.  The dissemination of information is not only limitedto soft copies. The organisation is responsible for the publication of the guidebook:’Gozo (Island of Myths and Miracles)’, which presents a true and factualstatement of the spirit, character, charm and colour of Gozo over the past 5000years. Other publications include the monthly ‘Let’s Gozo’ lifestyle magazine,which is distributed freely in Malta to entice visitors to the island all yearround and the quarterly issue of ‘Destination Gozo’ the Association’sNewsletter.

The Gozo Tourism Association is committed to carryingout all activities responsively and in ways that make a positive difference topeople’s lives and the environment. The organisation is actively involved tocarry out measures and entice their members to follow ethics that areresponsible and sustainable. As the regional tourism voice on the island, the organisation,in collaboration with various stakeholders, embarked on a study to help theGozo Tourism Association develop a holistic strategy towards the implementationof a long-term action plan aimed at mitigating and addressing the brain drainthat establishments within the sector are faced with.

Ultimately, this projectwill enhance the knowledge of the Gozo Tourism Association concerning thisimportant subject by building the necessary capacity to assist all the relativestakeholders with an interest in furthering the tourism sector in Gozo throughthe enhancement of its human resource base. Hence creating more employmentopportunities for the younger generation, which due to current scenario isopting to settle and work in Mainland Malta. This situation is leading to achronic brain drain which unless addressed will become irreversible.Another initiativetaken on board by the Gozo Tourism Association is the participation of the projectentitled TOUROPE. The TOUROPE project aims to bring together the tourismindustry and provide them with a clear strategy and tools to find solutions tolongstanding issues. Through the online TOUROPE platform and TOUROPE YearlyAcademy that will be created, the industry will be able to use a systemic andstructural approach to reducing skills shortages in their sector, while at thesame time be alleviated through stakeholder and training support to grow, becomecompetitive and create innovative services and solutions.The new EuropeanTOUROPE alliance that will be created is formed by 26 partners in 13 countrieswho together will: discuss trends and new skills (identify), professionalprofiles and skills shortages, VET courses and competences in need, movetowards green economy and circular economy, disseminate human investmentbenefits also develop a deliverables roll out framework.On the subject of  The Gozo TourismAssociation promotes best practices with its members, to maintain a clean andsustainable environment on our Island.

  Our goal is to entice our membersto operate an energy-efficient business that strives to reduce its impact onthe environment. To achieve this, we advocate that the touristic operations areconstantly reviewed to assess their carbon footprint and other indicators ofenvironmental impact to understand how we can improve our eco-performance. To this end the GozoTourism Association is participating in the Consume-Less project “Consume LessMediterranean Touristic Communities”.The aim of this Projectis to significantly reduce waste in terms of energy, water and waste at locallevel.

The project focuses in particular on the specific nature of the touristareas, within which it is necessary to define and implement policies forsustainability aimed at reducing the consumption of water, energy and the productionof waste, through the deployment of different types of actions that take intoaccount the particularities of the tourist areas.The project is includedin the definition of an integrated and sustainable management strategy of waterand energy, the results of which will be tested and monitored  andsubsequently forwarded to the competent authorities to be capitalized andtransferred  to other territories, with the active involvement of a widerange of local, regional and national actors.The communicationstrategy is focused in the introduction of a territorial brand “consume-less”,assigned to private and / or public entities participating in the initiative,pledging to achieve sustainable management actions of energy, water andreduction some waste.Finally, thepartnership will offer training opportunities to the interested cities in orderto promote a “sustainable tourism” by using European Tourism Indicators System(ETIS) for Sustainable Management at Destination Level, a voluntary instrumentfor the assessment of the levels of sustainability performance of touristcities promoted by the European Community and that administrators can utilizeto monitor, manage, measure and improve performance in terms of sustainabilityof branded tourist destinations “consume-less” after the end of the project.

 Leadership styleGozo Tourism Association CEO Joe Muscat has aleadership style that can be broadly defined as democratic. Council members aregiven the opportunity to participate, exchange ideas freely and discuss mattersopenly while abiding to the organisation’s modus operandi. The affixeddemocratic process tends to focus on group equality and the free flow of ideas;however, the CEO is still there to offer guidance and control. In meetings, Mr.Muscat shares the decision-making and problem-solving responsibilities with theother members, while retaining the ultimate say in the final resolution. Muscatstates that every member within the organisation has the interests of thecountry at heart, which facilitates the democratic process and in turn,produces an atmosphere of cooperation and team spirit.

Konrad Scicluna, one of the fourteen Council membersdescribes Mr. Muscat as an honest, hard-working, trust-worthy individual whoshares a vision of a bright future for Gozo and compares the Association withthe famous round table, where all of the knights plus King Arthur would sit inequal status. They would discuss problems in the kingdom together and come to aconsensus before King Arthur would take action.  Obstacles to innovationThe Gozo Tourism Association acquires the majority ofits funds from the Central Government and EU Programmes, the latest being theLEADER programme for 2014-2020 whose funds will be allocated to ruraldevelopment projects and will include infrastructure improvements, social andcultural activities and a strategic project led by the Association.

While theorganisation appreciates the government’s capital injections, it feels that thecountry’s tourism industry and economic growth could benefit greatly if more fundswere allocated. The organisation has long been critical about theimportance of a small airstrip and believes that having fixed-wing routes toGozo would improve accessibility to the island and mitigate the difficultiesmet by Gozo-bound tourists. Mr. Muscat believes that innovation becomes apriority only when people are given access to appropriate resources, includingfunds, materials, facilities, and information. Itis worth noting that only the CEO and the Association’s secretary and clerk areon the government’s payroll, the other Council members enlisted voluntarily andmost of them work full-time jobs. This can be obstructive to the democratic practicesinstilled within the organisation, as sometimes it is difficult to gather all themembers in meetings. In situations where time is of the essence, democraticleadership can lead to communication failures and adjournments and in somecases, the members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to makequality contributions to the decision-making process.