Punching above its weight – Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018 a success so far

Valletta, Malta: Cultural capital of Europe for 2018

More than 3,17,000 people attended the cultural events organized in Malta’s Valletta between January and June 2018. The city in the small island country of Malta was chosen as Europe’s Capital of Culture 2018, an achievement which Prime Minister Joseph Muscat aptly described when he said “Malta is once again prepared to punch above its weight”.

The results from the first six months that were announced during a press conference on July 2, 2018, show that the years of preparation is bringing impressive results for Valetta and the entire country. “These results are a clear indication that Valletta 2018 events, which are taking place all across the islands, are accessible to a wide range of audiences and that artists, as well as community members, are co-creators in the Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme,” Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef said during the press conference.

As per the official data, over 200 events were organized in the first six months of Valletta 2018 and 1,665 artists, including 166 international artists, participated in these events. One of the biggest champions and also the beneficiaries of this achievement is the tourism industry of Malta. The data presented by the Malta Tourism Authority showed a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting the country to witness its culture. The tourists can expect more from Valletta 2018 as a range of exciting events are planned for the coming six months.

Being designated as the European Culture of Capital is a major success for Valletta and Malta because this is the first time since 1985 that a Maltese city made it to the list. The impact of this achievement is also expected to last for years to come as more and more people will learn about the cultural heritage of Malta. Apart from Valletts, Netherlands’ Leeuwarden is also chosen as European Capital of Culture 2018.

According to some sources, nearly 1,10,000 people visited Valletta during the opening events. This number is significant because Malta’s total population is only 4,50,000. For one of the smallest cities in Europe with a tiny population, hosting a large number of tourists without any major problems is a proof of the hard work that has been put into organizing the Valletta events by Maltese authorities and its government.

Streets of Malta

On the internet and social media, the cultural events organized during Valletta 2018 has had the tourists talking about it. Juliet Rix, an award-winning travel writer even went ahead and compared Valletta with one of the most popular traveling destinations in the world – Paris. Describing her experience during the visit to Valletta for the inaugural event, she wrote on adventure.com: “In fact, Valletta is one of those cities you can walk around all day and not get bored. Designed in a grid, every cross-street ends in a patch of Mediterranean blue, opening into panoramic bastion-top harbor views. The narrow streets, many pedestrianized and some no more than a flight of stone steps, are overhung by gallarji (painted wooden balconies) with little shrines and Baroque carvings. It’s easy to imagine this is still the city of the Knights.”

The Maltese government and Ministry of Tourism have emphasized the importance of diversifying the country’s tourism industry. The Labour Party government has increased its investment in the sector since 2015 and it was the result of these efforts that the number of tourists visiting Malta reached its highest mark in the year 2017. The successful completion of planned events during Valletta 2018 will only help in giving momentum to government’s initiatives in the tourism sector. With six more months and close to 200 events in the pipeline, the European Capital of Culture 2018 is certainly ready to create history.