MALTA: 'It is marketing, isn't it'
Malta's ambassador to the United States, John Lowell, is clear about his mission. "I am trying to put Malta onto the American map," he says.
For the representative of any small nation, getting your country 'on the map' in Washington and beyond is indeed a prime element of your work, especially if there are no contentious issues that get your news into the headlines.
This is the case with Malta. Newly accepted into the fold of the European Union, Malta is a peaceful, prosperous and stable member of the global community.
Ambassador Lowell sees his job in the terms of his earlier career as a businessman. "It is marketing, isn't it," he says of his mission. The product is Malta, for tourism, investment and trade.
With limited financial resources and a small staff, the ambassador makes the most of what he has to get Malta better known.
He accepts almost all invitations, working the social scene with his wife, Marie-Therese. He has made a point of meeting other envoys, and has met some 50 since arriving in Washington in February this year, and has joined some of the main clubs in town: Cosmos, University and Georgetown.
He has joined the ambassadors of six other smaller countries to pool their marketing efforts in joint events, the first of which was a reading of national poetry by each of the seven at Meridian International Center, in Washington.
Other activities include a speech by a Knight of Malta at the Smithsonian in November 2003, and a tour of art from Malta to top galleries in half a dozen states in 2004.
A Maltese based in New York plans next year to be the first national to climb Mt. Everest, and Ambassador Lowell says this will provide yet another opportunity to get Malta on the map.
He says many people he meets are not even aware that Malta is a country. Some know the name through the Humphrey Bogart film, "The Maltese Falcon", while others think it just the famed order of knights.
This confusion is related to a couple of things. One is the absence of Malta in major world developments of recent years; the other is the small Maltese community in the United States, some 70-80,000, the ambassador estimates.
And while Malta has long been a favorite destination for British tourists, few Americans have visited the island.
Ambassador Lowell hopes to change this. A terminal for cruise ships is being built in Valetta, the capital, and the plan is to organize Mediterranean cruises that will originate in Malta and visit European and North African ports.
Malta is small, about twice the size of Washington and with a population of some 400,000, but it is steeped in a wonderful history and pre-history reaching back to Neolithic times. It is home to the oldest free-standing structures in the world. It is also blessed with a fine climate, good food and sandy beaches.
It is most notable for the massive structures erected by the knights who made the island their base after leaving Rhodes and here defended themselves against the navies of Suleyman the Magnificent in the 16th Century. The capital, Valetta, is one of the world's great fortified cities.
The ambassador says that with 1.2 million visitors a year, Malta's tourism facilities are almost fully used, but the island nation would like to see more American tourists because their interest in Malta typically extends beyond the sun and sand that attract many Europeans.
His Excellency John Lowell
Ambassador of Malta
Born February 24, 1936 in Sliema, Malta
Married to Marie-Therese nee Zarb with three children
Feb. 2003 Ambassador of Malta to the United States
May 2000 - Feb 01, 2003 Non-Resident Ambassador to Croatia
Apr. 1999 - Feb 01, 2003 Non-Resident Ambassador to Bulgaria
Apr. 1999 - Feb 01, 2003 Non-Resident Ambassador to Romania
Nov. 1999 - Feb 01, 2003 Non-Resident Ambassador to Bosnia
1993 - 2003 Chairman of the Manoel Theater Committee
1967 - 1997 Main shareholder and Managing Director of the Ells Ltd. Malta
(owned and managed various subsidiary companies in the fields of Property
Development, Travel, Catering, Import/Export and Duty Free Management)
1952 - 1966 Employed by Barclays Bank DCO
Titles : Commendatore of the Republic of Italy
Order of Merit - Republic of Bulgaria
Past Presidencies : SKAL Club - Malta
Institute of Directors , Malta (Vice Pres)
Chamber of Commerce,Malta (Travel Section)
Floriana Football Club, Malta
Memberships : Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti
(Past and Present) SKAL Club, Malta
Rotary Club, Malta
Chamber of Commerce, Malta
Institute of Directors, Malta
Lions Club, Malta
United Federation of Travel Agents (Int'l)
Association of Tennis Professionals (Int'l)
Clubs : Oriental Club, London, UK
(Past and Present) Casino Maltese, Malta
Royal Marsa Sports Club, Malta
Malta Union Club
Royal Malta Yacht Club
Education : St. Aloysius College, Malta
Hobbies : Classical Music and Opera, Theatre,
Sports : Golf, Walking