Which town and hotel to stay when you haven't visited somewhere before can be a difficult decision at times. For the island of Malta that choice is made easier as some of her regularly win independently judged accommodation awards - and it's helping boost the island's reputation as a holiday centre of excellence to those who haven't been before and are considering it.
And for tourists who already take holidays in Malta it's boosting the return rate of visitors - important to any destination that has tourism form a large part of its economy.
Malta has been a popular tourist destination for years - especially among the British - but her reputation has been transformed recently. In the past the island was seen often as a Mediterranean holiday for the retired. Low cost flights however now means that the island is affordable for a long weekend or mid-week break for those tourists who want just a few days away because of their jobs - bringing down the average age of those taking Malta holidays in the last couple of years, and the hotels are to standards high enough to see many of the tourists visiting again and again - a good boost for the island's economy.
And it's not just traditional three and four star Malta hotels that are enticing people - the island is becoming well known for spa breaks and some of the hotels are regularly featured and praised in European and UK magazine and newspaper articles as being among the best in the Mediterranean. Which all means the island is more than capable of competing with areas that traditionally people head for on a three day break - the Costa del Sol and Marbella for example, as well as other Mediterranean islands like Cyprus for those who take 7 day trips.
Holidaymakers from the UK have been drawn to Malta in the past because it enjoys the weather of the Mediterranean, but also because it's comfortingly British in many ways, despite independence having been gained in the sixties. Over the years the island has established her own identity, but some remnants of the former rulers remain - driving on the left for example, and English is universally spoken. Put that together with the low crime rate and it has an edge for UK tourists that other holiday destinations cannot offer.
It remains attractive to the British - helped in recent years with cheap Malta flights - but the vacations are increasingly appealing to other nationalities too - notably the Italians and increasingly Scandanavians, and the holiday market is no longer geared exclusively to the UK travel market. The hotels that have won awards recently include the Corinthia Palace - well known for its spa facilities - when they won a World Travel Award while another of the hotels in Malta won two awards from Expedia - Le Meridien in St Julian's. Both of these Malta hotels could benefit from extra bookings in 2010 from holidaymakers looking for good accommodation.
As the island diversifies it's tourist base from almost exclusively British just a few years ago to being more cosmopolitan now, so the holidays and hotel industry has raised its standards to win and ultimately retain visitors to the extent that they are able to win awards in competition with the rest of Europe. Which all bodes well for the future of Malta and her economy which derives a lot of income from the tourist trade and from business people.