Why Malta?

The tiny island of Malta is an amazing place. We hope that the few words on this page will help to convince you of that too.

Firstly, the weather is fantastic. Just by looking on a map it ought to be clear that the weather should be nice. Well, it is! With around 300 sunny days each year, it has one of the friendliest climates in the world. At the height of summer it can be really hot (over 40 degrees C) but in the winter it isn’t too cold. A typical winter day might be around 16 to 18C. There are no records of a temperature of zero or below. With the small size of the island and constant humidity, it is unlikely that it will ever snow here – it hasn’t so far…

There can be little doubt that sunshine and blue skies are very good for the temperament. So many of us attach our daily wellbeing to the state of the weather, that when it is great, we feel great. There isn’t much SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) here.

History

Malta’s history is quite fascinating. The oldest man-made structure in the world is located on Gozo (the second island in the chain) – though you’d never know as there is hardly any publicity or promotion (click here for information). There are also other very historic sights that rival – and beat – Stonehenge for size, age and beauty.

In more modern times, the capital city Valletta and the old capital Mdina, are amazingly well preserved fortress cities with incredible religious and strategic histories. Even so, these cities are many hundreds of years old and most of Valletta dates back to around the time of the Great Siege in 1565. For lovers of architecture, churches, the Catholic religion or history more generally, this is an astounding country to visit.

Of course, the country and it’s people have a strong connection with the sea. From the fishing ports that dot the coastline, to the British naval base that was stationed here and the deepest natural port in the Mediterranean (the Grand Harbour).

It goes without saying that an historic fortress that is several hundred years old makes for a fabulous view. From both the Three Cities and Sliema, the view is superb (though perhaps the best view is from Tigne Point.

It is hopefully obvious that the history of a small island nation in a strategically important location involves lots of travel. While the local population is believed to be around 420,000, there are believed to be another 1 million or so Maltese worldwide. In other words, the Maltese travel.

Business

These days, much of the country’s income comes from visitors to the island. There are over 1 million tourists that visit each year. Many return often – Malta has it’s charms – and there are lots of foreign property owners too.

In other realms, the country has deliberately opened itself up to international trade and it has worked. Within financial services, for example, there are now hedge funds, trustee companies and all sorts of banking services on offer. The corporate and personal taxation regimes are quite friendly to non-domiciled individuals and organisations relative to other larger nations. This has lead to many corporate services firms establishing themselves in the country.

In the business realm, the country is home to one of the world’s leading shipping registry’s. Companies from around the world can register their vessels and save on costs and taxes in the process.

The scheme has been so successful that there are now rules in place to build an aviation version. This new registry is small, but growing, and enables aircraft to be domiciled in Malta – for a fee of course. By enabling access to the EU and charging no VAT, Malta is a competitive location in terms of costs. There are now a wide range of legal practices that are able to assist with this registration. Even though the cost to register is typically upwards of 20,000 euros, it still represents value for money.

As might be imagined, a small country like Malta faces some very real constraints when it comes to production of goods. Most big companies would not consider opening a production plant in Malta that only serves the island. Therefore, importation of goods is a big and well established sector. There are a lot of companies that export as well, but importation is where the real opportunities lie.

There are some very well established businesses that operate close to either (or both of) the airport or the freeport. Both are in the south west of the island and Malta is so small that they are relatively close to each other and everywhere else. Tubeline is a good example of this kind of firm. They are based in Luqa (near the airport) and have been in business for decades bringing in the goods that any developed economy would need and consumers would expect.

The tech sector has a very firm root in Malta. There are many sports and gambling related firms. In total, they are believed to be worth around 15% of annual GDP. One very innovative firm that we like is soon to be the world’s leading fantasy football website – in terms of technology, it already does lead the field.

For those business people just arriving in Malta, it can be a tricky place to get around at first despite the limited size. The tourist hotels mostly provide some sort of collection service to and from Malta’s airport. These services are mostly run in minibus form so that lots of people and lots of luggage can be moved at the same time. However, for the businessman heading to the Phonecian Hotel or somewhere in Valletta, this is not going to work so well. The white taxis that operate from the airport will certainly get you around, but their reputation isn’t exactly good. In fact, they are quite closely regulated now because of the sheer scale of problems that they created and their passengers suffered. There are, however, a number of nice, high quality firms in the airport transfers Malta business. These firms operate with very clean and reliable cars, the journey is not a race and instead they just get you there in comfort and it usually only takes an extra three minutes and they are competitively priced.

It won’t come as much of a surprise to read that the residential property market is important in Malta. Just as with Spain, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus, there are many expatriates that are moving south from Norther Europe to the sunshine. An amazing climate, regular flights north, a lower cost of living, tax benefits and the English language all combine to make Malta a popular destination.

As such, the residential real estate market is somewhat split between the areas and properties that the locals can afford and the much higher prices that many of the foreigners can pay for. This creates something of a difficult balancing act for the local real estate agents. On the one hand, they need to attract the foreign clients – since that is where the larger commissions are. On the other hand, they need to continue to work with the local market because that is where the majority of transactions take place. While geographically the two markets are almost identical, the difference between them from an operational standpoint is quite large.

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