Heritage tourism focuses on information and how the management contributes to the promotion of that particular tourism site. To this end, it assesses the strategic locations of the site and the importance of achieving the intended goal, which aims towards the revenue generation and culture preservation.
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The employed methodology included personal interviews of the site administrators. Mr. Ivan Mercieca, the maintenance manager of three heritage sites in Rabat was the first one to be interviewed. The second interview was directed to Mr. David Cardona, the curator of three heritage sites. Moreover, the study employed different reports and journals to ascertain issues on the management of various heritage sites.
St. Paul’s Catacombs (SPC)
About Heritage Malta
Heritage Malta was established in 2002 under the Cultural Heritage Act. This agency is concerned with the sites preservation and direct management to preserve the Malta people’s culture. The management of this site is focused on four broad categories. These categories are conservation, management, marketing and interpretation.
In 2005, after the amendment of the law creating a heritage agency, all the activities related to culture and heritage preservation were given to this organisation (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p. 76). As a result, 64, 000 and 100, 000 tourists were realized in 2008 and 2009 respectively (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.6).
About St. Paul’s Catacombs
St. Paul Catacombs are found in Rabat, Malta. They a significant part of a large cemetery field that is located in Malta. The cemeteries have graves of different religious backgrounds such as the Pagans, the Jews and even Christians. It was estimated that more than 25 of these people were dug in this site (Goh 2010, p.1).
According to archaeological evidence, St. Paul has diverse religious background, because people from different faiths buried there. Some of the unique features include the circular tables, which are set in a specific manner that seems to show a couch. These are believed to have been used for meals during the old times.
The core resources include catacombs, collection, information panels in the reception area, human/financial resources to offer transport facility/services, media, and small displays. Heritage visitor attraction (HVA) was developed into a museum by constituting information panels in 2004, especially after clearing the debris from the site. The historical value of SPC is evident from the St Paul’s shipwreck. In addition, there are glass paintings of St John.
Under the ERDF 032 framework, two sites were to be upgraded and conserved at a cost of 9,151,333 pounds (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.7). These included SPC Malta-catacombs (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.7).
The project incorporated the construction of the Tarxien temples, Ggantija Heritage Park and St. Paul’s Catacombs (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.8). The work involved topographical survey, archaeological investigations, mapping, hydrological survey, environmental assessment, and structural survey (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.9).
St Paul’s Catacombs are a big complex with different attractions. There is only one guided tour scheduled for 1 p.m. The guided tour involves several groups. In addition, there are audio guided tours. These are usually six in number. In this regard, Kotler’s diagram/theory can be used in analysing SPC situation, as shown below (Kotler 1997, p.112).
Fig1.0: Kotler’s Diagram
Through improved information technology, SPC has provided a means of delivering new and unique products, which are intended to match many other available products.
SPC can create a new interaction place for their tourists/clients so that the communication between them could be cordial, easy and with maximum efficiency (Kotler 1997, p.114).
Pricing of products that SPC intends to supply is very significant in determining the overall sales volume.
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Carrying out promotion is one of the means through which SPC can create consumer awareness (Kotler 1997, p.113).
Group visits are arranged to tour St Paul Catacombs, and they are accompanied by a licensed tour guide. There are gift shops selling some products. Moreover, the transport systems at St Paul’s Catacombs have walkways for both the normal people and the physically handicapped. A Heritage trail evening tour involves visits, which are organised under different themes. Under the same concept, the following can also be studied.
In this scenario, tourists are the most important aspect of the marketing mix, an issue that the SPC needs to recognise. For instance, the use of online tourism is capable of changing the dynamics on product/service delivery of the site.
The issues relating to the process involve the channel through which SPC follows in delivering its products to customers. It also outlines the various ways through which the customer should follow to receive the products (Kotler 1997, p.114).
Heritage Malta (HM)
Heritage Malta plays important roles such as management, conservation, interpretation and marketing (Garrold, Fyall, Leask & Reid 2012, p. 1162). Besides, it maintains the cultural heritage of the sites.
Malta Tourism Authority (MTA)
The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is a coordinator between itself and the population. It is responsible for conducting meetings regarding the sites’ promotion and to implement the culture preservation activities. They also have informative journals, which add crucial knowledge/ value to the sites (Visit Britain 2010, p.1). To this end, MICE scheme is held after the ERDF is finalised, and then the former is made available in SPC.
Tour Operators, MICE Section, Language
Proper coordination between tourist operators and the Tourism Authority is also important, because it increases the number of visitors expected (Timothy & Nyaupane 2009, p. 39).The tourist operators also act as advertisers for the attraction (Visit Scotland 2010, p.1).
St. Paul’s Catacombs are visited by tourists that belong to different countries and cultures. These normally range from local to international visitors. Tourists who visited St Paul’s Catacombs were 71,380 and 71,461 in 2009 and 2008 respectively (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.86). For instance, sometimes school students visit the sites for educational purposes. The number of visitors stood at 1,043,643 and 1,068,420 in 2009 and 2008, respectively (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.86).
Local Council and Neighbours
The local council and neighbours were consulted to voice their opinions on services such as electricity and drainage. As a result, an annual event took place, Rabat Arts Festival. Focusing on the ERDF programme, the local council was meant to issue permits for holding events and work. The ERDF programme would analyse the effects on the community concerned. As part of the ERDF programme’s goal of increasing accessibility systems, St. Agatha School’s environmental censor/football ground would be used to access the catacombs.
As part of the marketing and advertising programme, Heritage Malta uses its website for sales and promotional campaigns. Social media such as facebook, you tube and twitters are used as links for attracting tourists. These links also facilitate online shopping (Leask & Yeomann 1999, p. 63). The website incorporates various information kiosks, panels in the museum, information guides, audio guides, and interactive CD, which are important media for online sales/marketing.
Outsourcing is used to make sure that the services are delivered in a prompt and timely manner (Koetler 1997, p. 34). One of the areas where Heritage Malta has engaged outsourcing is cleaning. There is an outsource contract whereby cleaning is done for two and a half hours every day (Garrold et al. 2012, p. 1162).
Heritage Malta has also engaged Keeron contractor to deal with security issues. The other advisory bodies are the Maltese Commission for UNESCO and the Scientific Committee for the Megalithic Temples (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.10). Indeed, it is important to increase enough surveillance for the sites (Hall & McArthur 1996, p. 103). This implies that the EU funds can be sought under the ERDF programme to finance such project management costs.
Key Management issues at SPC
Lack of revenue
Inadequate revenue is a challenge to the Heritage Malta attraction. Revenue is generated from admission fees, hiring, donations, and interactive CD. The collected revenue is apportioned among the marketing, media, experts, maintenance. Part of this amount is used for financing employee benefit expenses. For instance, 5,271,789 and 6,621,654 pounds for employee benefit expenses were incurred in 2009 and 2008, respectively (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.24).
Other expenses include bank interests amounting to €1,715 for 2009 and €6,819 for 2008 (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.25). Moreover, the director’s fees amounted €13,974 for 2009 and €37,645 for 2008 (Heritage Malta Annual Report 2009, p.25). Therefore, it is evident that more revenues are allocated to expenses, thus putting the Heritage Malta in a financial distress.
Conservation of Site
Even though there are different modes of preservation used by the Malta Heritage, more needs to be done. The site receives a lot of visitors annually. This means that the large number of visitors increases the pressure on the soil and consequently it is deteriorated.
Another issue that arises when it comes to conservation is the colliding values of the people who are involved. The best illustration of this is the fact that people of different religious backgrounds have been buried on that site; this includes the Christians, the Pagans as well as the Jews.
Security still remains a challenge, and partly the reason for this is the huge number of tourists that usually visit the place. The first security threat is posed due to the fact that some people normally go downstairs and even beyond the barriers. The next threat is derived from the fact that the wall that seeks to separate the school premises from being accessed by the tourists is not that effective.
The security threat is further heightened by the fact that there aren’t any security or surveillance cameras within the attraction (Che & Chen 2010, p. 33). This has opened doors to vandalism and other security issues. The number of security personnel mandated to do physical check does not match the perimeters and this makes some areas remain uncovered by these security personnel.
Health and Safety
The safety of the visitors at St. Paul Catacombs is not fully assured. This challenge is further heightened by the fact that the number of visitors has always been high (Falk & Dierking 1992, p. 102). Since the number of visitors is high, it means that tour guides are not enough.
Consequently, people have to guide themselves throughout the Catacombs. For first time visitors there is always a challenge of having proper mobility and balance while passing through the St. Paul Catacombs. This has the effect of putting people at risk (Fyall et al. 2008, p. 112).
Another challenge is posed by the poor drainage systems that are not properly installed and they pass from surfaces, from the roofs without any proper installation. The delay in fixing the drainage system is caused by more bureaucracies in the government (Leask 2010, p. 54).
The narrow roads cannot accommodate the large number of visitors. As a result, there is a huge traffic on these roads. There are also some business premises which contribute to the narrowing of the road. A good example of such premises includes the grocery shops that are located just besides the road. These are normally supplied by vans. When these supply vans are transacting, they block the roads and cause traffic jams.
Effective Management Tools
Effective management as a process can be split up into three stages: the determining factors, measuring the effectiveness and finally establishing the effective management tools (Leask & Rhiova 2010, p. 123). In Heritage Malta some of the determining factors include the ownership category.
The type of ownership is inclined towards communal. The people of Malta tend to believe that through the site their culture is preserved. This leads to another determining factor which is the individual nature of the resource. In this case, the community members take an individual approach of ownership and equal levels are put in place to ensure that the culture is actually preserved (Leiper 1990, p. 380). In order to ensure proper and efficient management the following tools may be added:
The use of Multimedia Technology in communicating with the visitors as well as monitoring the same is one of the core surveillance methods that should be employed (Pearce 2005, p. 76). Employing the use of an interactive Multimedia Technology will be very helpful to the visitors.
This is because it will make it easier for them to gain access to some important features such as directions. This is important as it will also reduce the cost of hiring staff (MacCannell 1999, p. 45). Touch screens with info on them are also very attractive and will make many people use it.
Guided tours are also important to facilitate the management process (Moore 1994). This is because the tour guides know well the terrain of the site. With their help the safety of the visitors increases. Another element that is helpful when it comes to the use of guided tours is the fact that the visitors will have a chance to learn much more about the place.
This is because the tour guides are fully aware of the history and the heritage of the site. Guided tours are also interactive and can be a very efficient method of collecting feedback from the visitors. Through this method the management can easily learn how to improve on their management as well as their service delivery.
Groups with licensed guides from the MTA are also important when it comes to management in St. Paul’s Catacombs. Groups help in coordination while with the licensed tour guide; such groups make it easier to maneuver through the site. Printed word & storyboards as well as information boards are also an important way to convey messages to the visitors (Smith 2003, p. 88).
The importance of this mode of conveying the message is that they are normally placed at very open places and many visitors get the chance to read them (Shackley 1998, p. 134). Apart from that, such printings can be done in a different language in order to be read by people from different backgrounds. Pictures and illustrations can be read by different people from different languages.
Brochures are only kept on-site. Before brochures were presented on tourist information stands and other HM sites and museums, it was found that they were useless and this resulted in waste of money. Alternatively, such brochures can be availed to the interested customers at a fee. This fee shall be used to cover the cost of production.
Gastronomy is important in developing the cultural aspect of the Malta. Websites such as ilovefood.com is dedicated to developing the cuisine of the Maltese people. Other interpretation tools can also be employed to enhance management. These could take the form of video and audio guidance machine. They help in conveying the message easily and efficiently to the visitors. Audio recordings can be used to show historical information.
Recommendations for Management Tools
Increasing the Number of Visitors
There is a need to increase the number of people that visit the St. Paul’s Catacombs. The average number of visitors in years 2008 and 2009 was 71420. This comes to an average of two hundred people per day. The capacity of the St. Paul’s Catacombs is big enough to handle more people. In order to increase the number of visitors, a joint promotion should be undertaken.
The most convenient and productive means to use is a joint promotion between different sectors and stakeholders who are involved. The joint promotion is specifically targeting the Malta Tourism Authority and the attraction train (TRAM) that passes through the streets of Rabat. Such promotion will enlighten the potential visitors and thereby the increase the number of visitors is expected.
Use of Leaflets and Brochures to Promote Awareness
Another important element in promotion is the use of leaflets to increase awareness of the heritage. This is particularly important as it will offer an informative description of the attractions that St. Paul’s Catacombs have to offer. In the leaflets, pictures can be added to give the potential visitor a vivid image of what to expect. Proper coordination shall also serve as a very important tip on how to reach to St. Paul’s Catacombs.
Transport and mobility within St. Paul’s Catacombs is easy and convenient even to people with disabilities. This derives from the fact that the walkways are made in such a way that allows easy and free mobility for people with disabilities as well as normal people. Transport to the place is also not hard to get as there is a train that passes through.
Improvement of Security Measures
Improvement of security measures is also significant in order to enhance security within the Catacombs. Installation of surveillance cameras as well as hiring more security personnel is a proper way of improving the security status at St. Paul’s Catacombs. The modern technology should also be embraced in enhancing security.
Increased Involvement of the Local People
Another recommendation is the increased involvement of the local people. Since Heritage Malta is concerned with the preservation of culture and heritage, support from the local people is important. This calls for educating the locals about the importance of preserving culture. Once the locals feel that their culture is appreciated and is being preserved, they might become interested in volunteering and investing more efforts in preserving own history and culture. This will result in reducing costs to hire people.
Offering Ancillary Services
Creating other institutions and premises that will offer ancillary services to the clientele at St. Paul’s Catacombs is also recommended. For instance, hotels can be set up to offer accommodation for the visitors who have come from very distant locations. Such services as insurance are also important for the heritage attraction. This increases security and confidence in the stability of the heritage attraction.
The Heritage Malta plays a very important role in the preservation of the culture of the people of Malta. The St. Paul’s Catacombs are also important attractions, because they have the historical and religious attachments. The challenges include security matters and the increased number of visitors. Therefore, it is necessary to implement the stated recommendations to enhance the achievement of the site’s intended goals.
Effective tools of management are likely to yield fruits if the challenges mentioned in this report are solved. Effective management also includes creating harmonized goals between different stakeholders. This harmonization can be achieved if all the stakeholders communicate with each other and discuss the matters involved. The organization of these meetings and discussion on how to harmonize these goals is normally done by the Malta Tourism Authority.
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