In the face of an overwhelming outcry against the proposed Hondoq project to develop a large hotel and hundreds of real estate units around a yacht marina, the developers of Qala Creek have decided to drop the idea of the marina at Hondoq Bay, limiting themselves to a ‘swimming lagoon’.
Friends of the Earth Malta together with the NGOs Moviment Harsien Hondoq, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Ramblers Association, Nature Trust, GUG, Din l-art Helwa and Wirt Ghawdex have studied the 2009 EIS Co-ordinated Report where the developers themselves state “the project would struggle if it had to be developed as a stand-alone hotel”. They say that the project is expected to double the 5-star room capacity in Gozo, despite the current demand for five-star hotel properties in Gozo being weak.
They make a point that increased room capacity (oversupply) is of major concern to the market, and to be successful the hotel needs to be part of an integrated project with features that differentiate it from other hotels, i.e. the marina, thus “the hotel will depend on demand generated by other parts of the project”.
Interestingly, when discussing revenue projections, the 2007 version of the report stated: “The hotel on its own is not commercially viable. It can only succeed and be sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”
In the 2009 version this was modified to: “The hotel will be successful and sustainable if it forms part of a much larger complex which will attract interest by potential patrons to reside at the hotel. The marina development could act as such an attraction.”
The wording has changed, but the meaning has not. In 2009 the developers themselves did not consider the hotel was viable without the marina, therefore the NGOs fail to understand how the developers can now eliminate the marina and claim that the complex would remain financially viable, as required by the Environment Impact Assessment. This eleventh-hour submission of new plans shows that the developers are intent on pushing through a commercial venture in complete disregard of the social impacts of the project, ignoring the fact that the local community and also general public opinion has expressed itself against the project.
The environmental NGOs therefore urge MEPA to refuse such a project and to revert the land to its original designation as a nature park. The Qala Local Council has already looked into the various aspects of creating an environment and heritage park, a project that would draw much-needed tourists to Gozo, and support existing hotels and catering establishments.