Malta, officially the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta), is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration program since the Second World War), making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta's location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.
Malta is a popular tourist destination, with 1.6 million tourists per year. Three times more tourists visit than there are residents. Tourism infrastructure has increased dramatically over the years and a number of good-quality hotels are present on the island, although over-development and the destruction of traditional housing is of growing concern. An increasing number of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday.
In recent years, Malta has advertised itself as a medical tourism destination and a number of health tourism providers are developing the industry. However, no Maltese hospital has undergone independent international health-care accreditation. Malta is popular with British medical tourists, pointing Maltese hospitals towards seeking UK-sourced accreditation, such as with the Trent Accreditation Scheme. Dual accreditation with the American-oriented Joint Commission is necessary if hospitals in Malta wish to compete with the Far East and Latin America for medical tourists from the United States.
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