The prestigious Blue Flag for beach quality was raised at Ramla Bay in Gozo during a ceremony held yesterday.

Vincent Attard, Executive President/CEO of Nature Trust - FEE Malta presented the flag and award certificate to the Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Julia Farrugia Portelli and Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri, who proceeded to hoist the flag signifying the start of the official Blue Flag season for Summer 2020.

Minister Farrugia Portelli stated that beaches in Malta are an integral part of our tourism product and varying from stretches of sand ideal for sunbathing, to pristine shallow waters primed for snorkelling, Malta's sea and beaches are quite popular worldwide with locals and tourists. She added that some of them were even just recently recognised internationally amongst the safest beaches around the world. The Minister, whilst explaining the works carried out on a daily basis by the Cleansing Department, the MTA beach supervisors and first-aiders, encouraged the general public to enjoy summer responsibly by respecting social distancing and hygiene.

Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri stated that: “In Gozo we are proud that over a couple of few years we obtained 3 Blue Flags – Ramla, Ħondoq ir-Rummien and Marsalforn. Blue Flags promote sustainability and challenge local authorities, beach managers and beach operators to achieve high standards in the four categories of water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety." The Minister explained that this year more wooden walkways were done to improve accessibility. Minister Camilleri said that though COVID-19 brought quite a few challenges, the Ministry for Gozo together with MTA are making sure that our beaches are safe and all regulations are being followed. Beach supervisors engaged will be observing and monitoring popular and also non-popular beaches this year, in fact around 80 applicants are being engaged for this summer. He said that Mġarr ix-Xini, Xlendi, Santa Marija and Blue Lagoon in Comino are also being taken care of to continue improve such beach spaces. ."

Also present at the flag-raising ceremony were MTA Chairman Dr Gavin Gulia and officials from both ministries and MTA. MTA Chairman Dr Gavin Gulia stated: “The authority is keen to ensure that the beach product on our islands is as good as it can possibly be. To this effect, MTA is pleased to support the Ministry for Gozo in the provision of lifeguards, beach supervisors and other expenses for beaches and bathing locations in Gozo and Comino. This year, a budget of more than €500.000 has been allocated for this support."

In addition to Ramla Bay, another 10 beaches were awarded this accreditation for the current year, having successfully fulfilled 29 criteria which include standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information, the provision of services and general environmental management criteria.

The other Blue Flag beaches for this year are Buġibba Perched Beach, Fond Għadir (Sliema), Golden Sands Beach, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, Mellieħa Beach, Qawra Point Beach, St George's Bay (St Julian's) and Westin Dragonara Beach Club St Julian's (managed by Westin Dragonara Resort) in Malta, and Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay and Marsalforn Bay in Gozo.

A Green Key Eco label award was also given to Westin Dragonara Resort. Green Key International is an international eco-label awarded to accommodations and other hospitality facilities that commit to sustainable business practices. Awarded establishments comply with strict criteria, independently verified through regular on-site audits.

Blue Flag beaches offer a safe and clean environment in which to enjoy the seaside. Regular water quality testing, lifeguard services, first aid stations, and services for the disabled ensure that beach users are offered an excellent service in any circumstance. An adequate number of waste-separation bins, clean toilets and showers, and regular beach cleaning and sand sifting are all part of the high standard offered by Blue Flag beaches.

Through the Blue Flag Programme, the MTA and Nature Trust are promoting sustainable development and prompting beach operators to achieve high standards, bringing together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels.​