The Gozo Tourism Association (or simply GTA)
is a regional based organisation responsible for the fostering of all sectors
forming the tourism industry in Gozo while addressing the island’s needs and
circumstances. The organisation’s first general meeting for Gozitan tourism
operators took place on 11th February 1999 and has been representing
its members’ interests and acting as an important vehicle in disseminating
information within the tourism sector up to this day. The organisation
functions through a Council of fourteen members elected during the Annual
General Meeting who govern the Association. The business of the Association is
conducted by the Executive Council, while Mr. Joe Muscat, the Chief Executive
Officer (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 Gozo
and to promote the island as an all year round tourist destination. Moreover,
the organisation strives to secure, foster and encourage the fullest
co-operation of the Council in dealing with questions concerning and affecting
the tourist industry and endeavours to protect and promote the interests of its
members. This essay will examine how the concepts of innovation and leadership
are relevant to the Gozo Tourism Association while observing the Chief
Executive Officer’s leadership style and behaviour towards obstacles and innovational
barriers that may arise within the organisation. Consecutively, specific
strategies and suggestions will be put forward on ways to better the
organisation in this regard. The Association adopts an innovative
organisational culture and promotes a shared vision for innovation. The Executive
council demonstrates fair, constructive judgement of ideas; rewards and
recognises innovative work and has mechanisms for encouraging and developing an
active flow of ideas. Ordinary meetings are held regularly, usually monthly and
are 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 participate
actively in discussions, give constructive criticism and suggestions for
improvement and even include an agenda of their own if needed. After
collectively agreeing on a decision or proposal, the Council passes the
information to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Joe Muscat who sets the
directive and takes action thereon. According
to Mr. Muscat, a good leader is someone who is actively seeking to remove
organisational barriers to innovation and he believes that internal political
problems, harsh criticism of new ideas, and destructive internal competition should
be minimised or eliminated. Mr. Muscat denotes that impediments to innovation often
include an avoidance of risk, a fear of failure, an overemphasis on the status
quo and existing processes that crush new ideas. The Central Government of Malta entrusts the Gozo Tourism Association
to represent Gozo abroad and the organisation needs to be in par with other
countries in terms of innovation. Mr. Muscat emphasizes that the concepts of innovation
and leadership are not to be employed within the organisation only, but also within
the country, which should always strive to be a leader in the tourism industry.
Since its inception, the Gozo Tourism Association has
taken various initiatives to promote the island and stay relevant and agile in today’s
ever-changing world. The organisation uses the internet as a critical tool in
providing visitors with a wealth of information on Gozo. A strategic initiative
was developed to provide a way to ensure tourism information available was
accurate and that small tourism operators were not disadvantaged and had access
to the World Wide Web. The Gozo Tourism Association’s website was created
through the combined effort of local historians, photographers and other
entities who were paramount in the provision of content and funding. It
operates to provide the industry with a database of tourism products and services
so that they can be published, promoted and sold through multiple websites or
other digital media, allowing tourism operators to benefit from exposure to the
World Wide Web. The website also gives users the option
to view previous publications and press releases and offers the facility to download
the latest tenders.  The dissemination of information is not only limited
to soft copies. The organisation is responsible for the publication of the guidebook:
‘Gozo (Island of Myths and Miracles)’, which presents a true and factual
statement of the spirit, character, charm and colour of Gozo over the past 5000
years. Other publications include the monthly ‘Let’s Gozo’ lifestyle magazine,
which is distributed freely in Malta to entice visitors to the island all year
round and the quarterly issue of ‘Destination Gozo’ the Association’s
Newsletter. The Gozo Tourism Association is committed to carrying
out all activities responsively and in ways that make a positive difference to
people’s lives and the environment. The organisation is actively involved to
carry out measures and entice their members to follow ethics that are
responsible and sustainable. As the regional tourism voice on the island, the organisation,
in collaboration with various stakeholders, embarked on a study to help the
Gozo Tourism Association develop a holistic strategy towards the implementation
of a long-term action plan aimed at mitigating and addressing the brain drain
that establishments within the sector are faced with. Ultimately, this project
will enhance the knowledge of the Gozo Tourism Association concerning this
important subject by building the necessary capacity to assist all the relative
stakeholders with an interest in furthering the tourism sector in Gozo through
the enhancement of its human resource base. Hence creating more employment
opportunities for the younger generation, which due to current scenario is
opting to settle and work in Mainland Malta. This situation is leading to a
chronic brain drain which unless addressed will become irreversible.Another initiative
taken on board by the Gozo Tourism Association is the participation of the project
entitled TOUROPE. The TOUROPE project aims to bring together the tourism
industry and provide them with a clear strategy and tools to find solutions to
longstanding issues. Through the online TOUROPE platform and TOUROPE Yearly
Academy that will be created, the industry will be able to use a systemic and
structural approach to reducing skills shortages in their sector, while at the
same time be alleviated through stakeholder and training support to grow, become
competitive and create innovative services and solutions.The new European
TOUROPE alliance that will be created is formed by 26 partners in 13 countries
who together will: discuss trends and new skills (identify), professional
profiles and skills shortages, VET courses and competences in need, move
towards green economy and circular economy, disseminate human investment
benefits also develop a deliverables roll out framework.On the subject of  The Gozo Tourism
Association promotes best practices with its members, to maintain a clean and
sustainable environment on our Island.  Our goal is to entice our members
to operate an energy-efficient business that strives to reduce its impact on
the environment. To achieve this, we advocate that the touristic operations are
constantly reviewed to assess their carbon footprint and other indicators of
environmental impact to understand how we can improve our eco-performance.
 To this end the Gozo
Tourism Association is participating in the Consume-Less project “Consume Less
Mediterranean Touristic Communities”.The aim of this Project
is to significantly reduce waste in terms of energy, water and waste at local
level. The project focuses in particular on the specific nature of the tourist
areas, within which it is necessary to define and implement policies for
sustainability aimed at reducing the consumption of water, energy and the production
of waste, through the deployment of different types of actions that take into
account the particularities of the tourist areas.The project is included
in the definition of an integrated and sustainable management strategy of water
and energy, the results of which will be tested and monitored  and
subsequently forwarded to the competent authorities to be capitalized and
transferred  to other territories, with the active involvement of a wide
range of local, regional and national actors.The communication
strategy 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 and
reduction some waste.Finally, the
partnership will offer training opportunities to the interested cities in order
to promote a “sustainable tourism” by using European Tourism Indicators System
(ETIS) for Sustainable Management at Destination Level, a voluntary instrument
for the assessment of the levels of sustainability performance of tourist
cities promoted by the European Community and that administrators can utilize
to monitor, manage, measure and improve performance in terms of sustainability
of branded tourist destinations “consume-less” after the end of the project. Leadership styleGozo Tourism Association CEO Joe Muscat has a
leadership style that can be broadly defined as democratic. Council members are
given the opportunity to participate, exchange ideas freely and discuss matters
openly while abiding to the organisation’s modus operandi. The affixed
democratic 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 the
other members, while retaining the ultimate say in the final resolution. Muscat
states that every member within the organisation has the interests of the
country 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 members
describes Mr. Muscat as an honest, hard-working, trust-worthy individual who
shares a vision of a bright future for Gozo and compares the Association with
the famous round table, where all of the knights plus King Arthur would sit in
equal status. They would discuss problems in the kingdom together and come to a
consensus before King Arthur would take action.  Obstacles to innovationThe Gozo Tourism Association acquires the majority of
its funds from the Central Government and EU Programmes, the latest being the
LEADER programme for 2014-2020 whose funds will be allocated to rural
development projects and will include infrastructure improvements, social and
cultural activities and a strategic project led by the Association. While the
organisation appreciates the government’s capital injections, it feels that the
country’s tourism industry and economic growth could benefit greatly if more funds
were allocated. The organisation has long been critical about the
importance of a small airstrip and believes that having fixed-wing routes to
Gozo would improve accessibility to the island and mitigate the difficulties
met by Gozo-bound tourists. Mr. Muscat believes that innovation becomes a
priority only when people are given access to appropriate resources, including
funds, materials, facilities, and information.

 It
is worth noting that only the CEO and the Association’s secretary and clerk are
on the government’s payroll, the other Council members enlisted voluntarily and
most of them work full-time jobs. This can be obstructive to the democratic practices
instilled within the organisation, as sometimes it is difficult to gather all the
members in meetings. In situations where time is of the essence, democratic
leadership can lead to communication failures and adjournments and in some
cases, the members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make
quality contributions to the decision-making process.

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