The Malta Tourism Authority hopes ABTA’s decision to hold this year’s Travel Convention in the country will help reverse a fall in visitor numbers.

British arrivals fell by 8% last year to about 420,000, said Alex Incorvaja, the tourist board’s director for the UK and Ireland.

While the credit crunch and the pound’s fall against the euro both played a part in the downswing, he said hosting the convention would help boost the UK trade’s awareness of the Mediterranean destination.

Incorvaja added: “Just over 35% of all visitors are from the UK, and tour operators and travel agents represent a big chunk of that.”

About half of British arrivals book packages, but official GfK Ascent-MI statistics suggest Malta is not taking advantage of an increased demand for all-inclusive holidays and more flexible eight to 13-night durations, possibly due to a lack of airlift.

The convention will be held at the Hilton Malta Hotel at Portomaso St Julian’s near the island’s capital Valletta.

ABTA chairman John McEwan said: “The Malta Tourism Authority was extremely keen to host the ABTA convention; not only is it a lovely island but they have given us an extremely competitive package.”

The choice of Malta ends a four-year run of the convention being hosted by Spain.   It will be held on October 18-20 and is expected to attract 1,000 delegates, about a third of whom will be travel agents.