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Vol. III No. 08 March/April 2014

Flavours of the year


March / April 2014 Vol III Issue 08 Cover: Tarragon - page10 Photographer: Sean Mallia


Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association Nr. 2, Gallina Street, Kappara San Gwann, SGN 4111, Malta Tel: (00356) 21318133/4 Fax: (00356) 21336477 Email: Web:





iMNG Ltd Ajiree Court, 04, Testaferrata Street, Ta’ Xbiex XBX1403, Malta Tel: (00356) 2010 7775 Email:


a member of

07 From the MHRA President 11 From the MHRA CEO 16 Q4 Report 19 Tarragon is a Herb, Not Just a Restaurant 23 And the Award goes to... 24 A Council Member in Depth 29 Funding Rules 33 Rewarding Excellence 35 Definitely not Pie in the Sky 39 Does Corporate Social Responsibility

42 Farsons Foundation & University of Malta

launch Industrial Heritage Publication

45 European Quality Labelling for the Tourism Industry 48 Failing in Catering 51 Leadership Challenges for Hospitality Managers 54 Let’s give Sports Tourism more impetus 57 Raising the Bar to become World-Class 63 Stand and Deliver: Spotlight on

European Elections

Editor Victor Calleja Sales Manager Marian Poucher Graphic Designer Mike Caffrey

come in Sizes?




Publisher Jason Attard

The President and Council of the Malta Hotels & Restaurants Association, on behalf of the members, would like to thank the Sponsors for their support and commitment towards the MHRA. The long-term agreement reached with the sponsors has enabled the MHRA to take a more long-term perspective to its operations.


March / April 2014


EDITOR’S LETTER: The meaning of an award

Anyone today claiming the world is flat would instantly be driven to a shrink or given a stiff drink. But it isn’t that long ago since an ancestor of mine - or of yours - believed that going to the edge of the world would mean falling and that the world was nicely balanced on some elephants. Things change, life moves on but we humans keep doing many things which all our ancestors did. We do them in more style or differently but in essence very little changes. About 60 years ago people had to go through France to travel to Britain from Malta. Travel was for the privileged and mass tourism was not even heard about. Today, we eat out more often and we eat differently - and supposedly more health-consciously - at home. But we still use eggs, meat, poultry and greens to feed ourselves. We might cook them with more panache, with more knowledge of what gives our senses more pleasure but at the end of any day the innkeeper used heat, fire and condiments much as any glorified chef does today.


The question of EU funding is tackled inside this issue. See what Dr Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for EU funds has to say. What matters most is that we move forward and ensure that all stakeholders and all operators work together not just to acquire the maximum funds possible but also to make the most of them. By being more innovative, more ecofriendly and more efficient, operators allow us, the Maltese consumers, and the visitors to our islands, to enjoy a better, leaner, more interesting product. The hope is that all funds keep being tapped and utilised well. Food and its glorious guises is what we find out about in this issue's cover story. We find out about the flavour of the year Tarragon and the food it serves. The secret behind winning not one award but a whole array of them is explained. The food won the awards, the food, the passion and the team effort. The man behind Tarragon features on our cover because he has already gone places most of us will never go in a lifetime and a half.

Controversy - and fear of Air Malta not flying any more - has not been lacking when we discuss the national carrier. But whatever its past, present and future, the Air Malta story is an enchanting one. The airline has endured and done us proud many times over. From these pages we salute Air Malta which has played such an important part in our nation’s growth and history.

Victor Calleja

March / April 2014


ASSOCIATE MEMBERS LIST Platinum Associate Members

Bank of Valletta p.l.c. E-mail: Service/Product: Banking & Financial Services

GO E-mail: Service/Product: Communications & Entertainment

Corporate Associate Members Smart Technologies E-mail: Contact: Christopher Demicoli Service: IT Solutions Packages

Ernst & Young E-mail: Service/Products: Assurance, tax, transactions & advisory services City Sightseeing Malta E-mail: Contact: Mr Chris Fenech Service: Operators of Hop on Hop off tours on open-top buses, both scheduled and chartered. Malta International Airport plc E-mail: Service/Product: Airport Operators

Captain Morgan Cruises E-mail: Contact: Mr Kevin Zammit Briffa Service/Product: Specializes in cruises around the Maltese Islands, Jeeps Safaris on Malta & Gozo and also Underwater Safaris and exclusive charters.

Intertek Laboratories E-mail: Service: IT Consultants, support and network specialists KPMG E-mail: Service/Product: Audit, Tax & Advisory Services Laferla Insurance Agency Ltd Service: Insurance E-mail: HSBC Merchant Services E-mail: E-mail: Services: Payment institution, debit/credit cards, acceptance-EPOS, telephone/internet


March / April 2014

Grant Thornton Malta E-mail: Contact: Mr Mark Bugeja Service: Audit and Assurance, Business Advisory, Tax, Corporate Services

Simonds Farsons Cisk plc E-mail: Service/Product: Beer Bottlers & Catering Operations

MSV E-mail: Service/Product: Provider of life insurance protection, long term savings and retirement planning

Studio 7 Co. Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Audio Visual Services, Sales, Installations, Media Productions

PKF E-mail: Contact: Mr George M Mangion Service: Accounts & Business Advisers

Air Malta e-mail: contact: Melinda Kecskes Service; National Carrier

Gold Associate Members Cleaning & Security Services Ltd E-mail: Contact: Alan Bonnici

Deloitte E-mail: Service/Product: Audit, Tax Advisors, Financial Advisory Services, Management Consultants

HSBC E-mail: E-mail: Service/Product: Banking Services

John’s Garage E-mail: Service/Product: Taxi, car rentals, transport services, leasing

Attard Brothers E-mail: Service/Products: Shop fitting, contract furniture, machine services MISCO E-mail: Service/Products: Outsourcing & Management Consultancy, Recruitment, Training, Marketing & Opinion Research

Easy School of Languages E-mail: Service/Product: Educational Institution

Braveagle E-mail: Services: Hospitality Consultants and management focused on teams to make it happen


Silver Associate Members C. & H. Bartoli Ltd E-mail: Service/Product: Hotel & Catering Equipment & Supplies, Carpets & Floor Coverings

Continental Purchasing Ltd E-mail: Service/Product: Catering equipment and supplies

P. Cutajar & Co. Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Importers and suppliers of Horeca food & beverage brands Dewar’s, Martini, Lavazza, Ferrero, Foodworks

Bronze Associate Members

Contact Advisory Serv. E-mail: Service: Business Consultants

Falcom Group Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Supply and Installation of TV Networks & TV Sets, Satellite, Head-end, Electronic Card Locks, Pay TV Systems, Safes, CCTV & Mini Bars & EMS Jmp&C E-mail: Service/Product: Kitchen Hygiene, Housekeeping Detergents, Disposables, Trolleys, Safety signs & Colour coded Products

Hospitality Web Systems (HWS) E-mail: Service/Product: Hospitality E-Commerce Solutions including websites, e-marketing, on-line booking facilities, search engine optimization and more Mac Pherson Med Ltd E-mail: Service: Paint suppliers Sigma Coatings (Malta) Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Paint Suppliers

The General Soft Drinks Co Ltd E-mail: Service/Product: Bottlers & Distrubutors of Soft Drinks, Water, Beer & Energy Drinks

Impressions Printing & Signs E-mail: Website: Service: Effective printing and sign services – Menus, brochures, business cards and more possibilities Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Transport Services


quality CALMIC – The name for hygiene dispensers and consumables for your washroom.

Dream washroom for users

GDL Trading & Services Ltd. 70, Cross Road Marsa. • WellEmail: looked-after 5658

When Tel: asked2123 about the DreamFax: Washroom, 5415 2124 Katrin Washroom Survey revealed some interesting points. Firstly, the expectations of people were rarely met. Secondly, respondents often dreamt of an oasis,

• Frequent, regular inspections • Soap, toilet tissue and soft hand towels in lockable dispensers • Photocell sensors on taps

• Waste basket with lid • Personal design with something extra, e.g. magazines and candles • Vending machines for wet wipes, tampons, condoms, sanitary towels etc.

Danish Bakery Limited - B22, Bulebel Industrial Estate, Zejtun ZTN 3000

Contact us on 2248 3600 or

View our complete range at

From the MHRA


Paul Bugeja

Our Future Since its foundation in 1958, MHRA has been a key player in the sociopolitical and economic development of Malta not only as an independent state but also as part of a globalised reality. Accordingly, I would like to emphasise the future; our future, because ultimately to have a future one needs to be competitive, and in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dynamic markets being competitive means being able to carve out oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own future. Malta is an incredible country. It is the smallest in the EU, with no natural resources, and yet the results we are experiencing in the tourism industry


attract the attention and admiration of all our neighbouring countries. Indeed it is good to celebrate such historic results, which do not just happen but reflect the good work done by all stakeholders including the Minister of Tourism and MTA, MIA, Airmalta but let us all be wise and look to the future. Our success to-date in terms of volume of arrivals is leading us to face various new challenges such as stop sales for the summer months ahead. Stop sales are the result of market developments mainly due to an increase in demand in the core season

and subsequently not finding the required supply within the destination. One possible solution proposed by MHRA to the Government in the past is to develop the shoulder months to ensure an equal spread. Another possible solution may result from the height limitations policy, which, although positive, should not be viewed in isolation. This may have an adverse and negative affect if not managed correctly as our business model cannot survive on give-away prices. To be sustainable, our industry needs better room rates within a sustainable number of rooms. A balance must therefore be achieved

March / April 2014



Hospitality catering The day to day turnover of fresh faces and new clients in the hospitality and catering industry, means you have scores of finest impressions you have to live up to. In demand for contract work, both locally in Malta and overseas, Fino has built its reputation as a timely installer of quality custom made furniture that exceeds its clientsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; expectations. Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s talk business.

C. Fino + SonS Ltd Fino Buildings, notabile Road, Mriehel BKR 3000, Malta t: +356 2549 3000 E:

between increasing supply of quality bed-stock and extending the core season. We believe that more could have been achieved to date on both issues and, if mistakes are now made in attempting to quickly manage market forces, then we could be heading towards the self-destruct button. Our advice to the industry is not to panic and reduce rates at any point throughout the year. We should target increasing our REVPAR to sustainable levels, as in the last 5 years our rates have not even reached 2008 levels, once adjusted for inflation. In the meantime, we should focus on providing the right quality of service at the right price point. We should always keep in mind that the customer should be our only focus, and provide and consistently offer a genuine sense of hospitality throughout the entire customer experience. No owner has ever gone bankrupt by showing genuine hospitality to his guests. Let us compete in giving and not in taking. Indeed, genuine Mediterranean hospitality remains a key unique selling point that differentiates us from our competitors. According to the Travel and Tourism competitiveness report issued by the World Economic forum for 2013, Malta’s competitive standing has improved from 26 up to 24, out of 140 countries under review. Our Prime Minister rightly affirms that he wants to see Malta thriving as the best, and this is important because, for us to have a future, we have no other choice but to be the best. Beyond rhetoric however we want to hear about specific targets to be attained within the industry with the main aim of improving our competitiveness. Yes, in the same manner that we are seeing the restructuring programme of


our energy sector unfolding, where targets have been set and to date have been achieved. Here I would like to commend Minister Konrad Mizzi and his team’s efforts and success achieved to-date on a matter which MHRA was instrumental in bringing to the forefront. Competent people are the key to competitiveness, so let us always ensure that key appointments are filled by competent people. We’ve said it before and will keep on saying it: we need the best brains, irrespective of which political ‘tribe’ one comes from. We just cannot have political appointments across all the public sector structures, even if only perceived to be so, as this is intrinsically wrong and will impact negatively on our future.

Let us compete in giving and not in taking. We are also a couple of weeks away from European Parliament elections. The European Union today is a reality for us all and here too, when one considers that we have only 6 out of the 766 delegates, we need the best brains to influence the decision-making process that ultimately impacts us all directly. Towards this end we are working closely with Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg to ensure we attract EU funds to our sector, to see our industry grow and prosper in the future. The tourism industry in Malta is key, representing 30% of GDP and 35% of government’s cumulative revenues, substantially more than most other

EU countries. It is one of the few industries that keeps creating jobs in spite of any downturn in the economy. Those who will be chosen to represent us in the European Parliament need to take up our cause, Malta’s cause, with the utmost commitment. We want to see more added to what has been achieved to date on this front. MHRA will support the Maltese MEPs through our offices and network in Brussels to push for the tourism agenda, in particular to promote the Mediterranean dimension in tourism and hospitality. This is in line with our vision of setting up the Mediterranean Tourism Forum in Malta. All this is not simply for our own sake, but for the ultimate benefit of our islands. The manifesto which we compiled with MHRA members and through our HOTREC counterparts across the EU now needs the MEPs’ intervention in the European parliament to help us implement it. Indeed we pledge to organise an MHRA seminar in a year’s time and our MEPs will be asked to share with us what has been achieved for our industry - the key motor of the Maltese economy. On behalf of MHRA I sincerely wish all MEP candidates the best in the forthcoming elections and look forward to next year’s event. In the meantime, none of the challenges I mentioned can be viewed in a vacuum and distinct from each other, but through a concerted effort I am positive that the future for our country, from today’s point of departure, can be bright. All we need is genuine will, determination, hard work and action. As has been said before, it is indeed up to us to make sure we do not mess it up.

March / April 2014


Editorial from the


16 MHRA priorities for our new MEPs The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association is the voice of the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants and bar/ café businesses) in Malta, and through HOTREC at EU level. The hospitality sector in Malta, together with the other tourism industries, represents 30% of GDP of the Maltese economy and 35% of Government’s accumulated revenue. It is the 3rd largest socio-economic activity in Europe therefore its competitiveness and economic wellbeing is critical. It is also one of the few industries that keeps creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, especially among young people, despite the economic crisis affecting the continent. Indeed the hospitality sector generated 2.5 million new jobs between 2000 and 2010 across the EU and employs more than 10 million people (4.5% of employment in Europe). 20% of the employees are under 25 years of age (9% in overall economy), hence this is an industry fit to fight youth unemployment. Furthermore it is a sector providing job opportunities for all types of workers (33% of workers are relatively unskilled compared to 20% in the overall economy). The hospitality


Andrew Aqius Muscat

sector also consists of 1.8 million enterprises, mainly micro-enterprises. 91% of these enterprises employ fewer than 10 people and 99% employ fewer than 50 people In this light it is of the utmost importance that the tourism sector is taken seriously into account by the European Institutions when shaping EU policies and legislation. Consequently, on the occasion of the 2014 European Parliament elections campaign, MHRA presented its manifesto to candidates for the European Parliament during the 2013 Q4 Review Seminar. Alexis Vaclava, Deputy CEO at HOTREC, and Ing Alberto Fecchio, President and Facilities Management Expert at eFM Italy, participated as special guest speakers in a panel discussion which also included George Micallef, MHRA Council Delegate for EU Affairs, and Dr Peter Agius, Head of the EP Representative Office in Malta, about the relevance of the EU

to the Tourism Industry. The debate was facilitated by Vanessa Macdonald from The Times. The discussion revolved around the principle that a flourishing hospitality industry is vital to Europe’s growth and employment. MHRA President Paul Bugeja in his speech called on all candidates and Maltese political parties to support its pledges, in order to ensure that hospitality businesses keep growing and employing more people. It was asserted that, as a pillar of both the Maltese and the European economy, tourism should be at the centre of European economic policy. In this light an Intergroup on Tourism in the EP should be established to include all relevant stakeholders. This intergroup should monitor all political developments likely to impact on the tourism sector and ensure its interests are taken into account. Furthermore Paul Buegja stressed that MHRA will be lobbying MEPs to push forward the Mediterranean dimension in EU

March / April 2014


affairs as this is key for further growth of our industry. In general, through its manifesto, MHRA calls on the EP candidates to adhere to the following general principles:

• Subsidiarity must prevail

The EU should refrain from legislating on aspects with no justified single market dimension.

• Smarter regulation

Self-regulation should be promoted, and burdensome overregulation avoided.

• Cut red tape

The reduction of administrative burden is key to facilitating the competitiveness of enterprises.

• Easier access to funds for SMEs The tourism industry should have more access to EU financial instruments.

Furthermore the MHRA calls upon the potential MEPs to make sure that the following matters are addressed in the process of amending current or enacting new EU policies:

• Social Affairs - Do not undermine job creation It is necessary to avoid new EU employment legislation which would damage the industry’s excellent record in increasing jobs, especially for young people. Flexibility of working time arrangements is crucial for the maintaining of service within the hospitality industry.

• Distribution channels - Ensure

fair competition in online distribution Enforced best price guarantees due to the dominant position of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) make entrepreneurs lose control over their prices and businesses. The dominant position of OTAs needs to be reversed.


• Visa Policy - Facilitate the

entrance of tourists to Europe The use of intelligent technical solutions to facilitate visa procurement, in particular for all BRICS, is crucial. The contribution of tourism to the EU economy needs to be taken into account, as well as security issues.

• Official controls in restaurants -

No mandatory inspection fee An EU proposal intends to make restaurants pay a fee covering the cost of inspections. This fee will be a tax. As there is no single market impact in the case of restaurants, this should be an option for Member States, not an obligation.

• Accessibility - Consider the

burdens on SMEs In order to be efficient, any future legislation should remain as much as possible at national level. Flexibility and reasonable requirements are the key drivers for success.

• Data Protection - No extra

burdens for SMEs Future Regulation should not impose new obligations on the industry, especially the requirement to appoint a Data Protection Officer.

• Copyright – Users also need

clear regulation of the audiovisual sector After the adoption of the new Directive on collective management of copyright, similar EU legislation shall also regulate the audiovisual sector: more transparency and one-stop-shops are needed to protect right-users.

• Package Travel - Do not impair

hotel bookings The legal regime applicable to hotel bookings covered by a new package travel Directive should not be less favourable than the

existing legal framework. More jobs will be created, without decreasing consumer protection, if the new Directive applies only when there is a travel/transport element.

• Payment cards: Interchange

Fees (IFs) must come down IFs violate competition law, increase prices and are well above the real cost of processing cards. IFs should be banned for debit cards and capped for credit cards.

• Food in restaurants: Ensure the

use of fresh food is still possible The recently-adopted Food Information Regulation will make it harder for restaurants to use fresh food. Any future EU legislation should not result in an effective ban on the use of fresh food.

• VAT rates - Maintain reduced

rates for tourism Reduced VAT allows for a competitive Europe as a tourism destination, resulting in the creation of new jobs. Member States should continue to have the option to apply reduced VAT rates for hospitality services.

• Private accommodation: Level

playing field for all participants in tourism businesses The ever-increasing number of owners renting private apartments and holiday homes as tourist accommodation, especially through online distribution channels, and without always having to abide by the regulations applying to the hospitality sector, constitutes a threat to consumer protection and to jobs in the hotel industry.

In a year’s time MHRA will invite the elected Maltese MEPs to discuss the progress and status in relation to the matters presented in the manifesto.

March / April 2014


Triq L-Intornjatur, Mriehel By-Pass, Bâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Kara, BKR 3000 Tel: 2148 0200, 2148 0201 Fax: 2148 0205 e-mail: -

The Perfect Combination



Raphael Aloisio (DELOITTE) presenting the Q-4 Report

The number of tourist arrivals increased significantly in 2013, with a relatively even spread between collective and private accommodation; and a minor reduction in the average length of stay, resulting in an overall increase in guest nights. These factors contributed to an increase in reported occupancy levels across all sectors of the hotel industry throughout 2013. The Hotel industry recorded the highest occupancy levels over the last five year period. Average Achieved room rates were also up and each sector recorded notable increases in Gross Operating Profit per available room (GOPAR).

• In the 5-star sector annual GOPAR for 2013 increased by 12% as a result of improved rates (+6.1%) and occupancy (+2.0%).

• In the 4-star sector, annual GOPAR for 2013 increased by 6%. Whilst the rate (+1.7%) and occupancy (+1.5%)

increases were not as significant as those in the 5-star sector, the 4-star sector reported a relativley flat cost base in 2013.

• In the 3-star sector, annual GOPAR increased by 20% driven by significant improvement in occupancy (+6.9%) and increased average rates (+6.1%).


% Movement

Axis Title  

25.0% 20.0%   15.0%   10.0%   5.0%   0.0%  

2013 vs.   2013  vs.   2013  vs.   2013  vs.   2012                                  2011                                                                                         2012                                    2011                                                                                       Q4   Q4   YTD   YTD   movement     movement     movement     movement   Tourist  Arrivals   13.2%   18.0%   9.6%   11.8%  


March / April 2014

Guest Nights  





Tourist Spend    








comparison of  Q4  performance  -­‐   2013    |    2012    |    2011  

comparison of  Q4  %age  movements  -­‐   2013  vs  2012    |    2013  vs  2011    |    2012  vs  2011  

70.0% Axis  Title  


% Movement

% Occupancy Axis Title  

60.0% 40.0%   30.0%   20.0%   10.0%   0.0%  

16.0% 14.0%   12.0%   10.0%   8.0%   6.0%   4.0%   2.0%   0.0%   -­‐2.0%   -­‐4.0%  

2013 Q4    

2012 Q4  




2011                                           Q4   56.3%  




















2013 vs.  2012                                                             2013  vs.  2011                                                             2012  vs.  2011                                                                       Q4  movement     Q4  movement     Q4  movement    



comparison age   ovements   comparison  oof  f  QQ4  4  %% age   mm ovements   -­‐   -­‐   2013   013  vvs  s   2011      2012   s  2011   2013  vvs  s  22012   012      ||        22013   2011    |      | 2012   vs  2v011  

comparison of  Q4  performance  -­‐   2013    |    2012    |    2011  

6.0% 8.0%   4.0%   6.0%  

Axis Title  

Axis Title   % Movement

% Occupancy Axis Title  


76.0% 74.0%   72.0%   70.0%   68.0%   66.0%   64.0%   62.0%   60.0%   58.0%  

2.0% 4.0%  

2.0% 0.0%   0.0%   -­‐2.0%  

-­‐2.0% -­‐4.0%   -­‐4.0%  


2013 YTD     69.6%  

2012 YTD     68.2%  

2011 YTD     66.7%  






4-­‐star Series1  




3-­‐star Series2  



The Audience


2013 vs.  2012                                                             2013  vs.  2011                                                                 2012  vs.  2011                                                                      

YTD mvovement   movement                                                  YTD   ovement   2013   s.  2012                                                            YTD     2013   vs.  2011                m   2012   vs.    2011                                                   2.0%   2.4%  movement     YTD  movement     YTD  4.4%   movement     YTD   1.5%   2.0%  

0.4% 4.4%  

-­‐1.0% 2.4%  

6.9% 1.5%  






-­‐1.0% -­‐3.0%  

AAR Q4:  

AARR Q4:  

comparison of  Q4  %age  movements  -­‐   2013  vs  2012    |    2013  vs  2011    |    2012  vs  2011  

€100.0      €90.0      €80.0      €70.0      €60.0      €50.0      €40.0      €30.0      €20.0      €10.0      €-­‐        

% Movement Axis Title  

AARR% Axis Title  

comparison of  Q4  performance  -­‐   2013    |    2012    |    2011  

2013 vs.  2012                                  2013                      v    s.       2011                                  2012                      v    s.          2    011                                                                             Q4  movement     Q4  movement     Q4  movement    


2013 Q4   €99.6    

2012 Q4   €94.0    

2011 Q4   €90.6    























comparison of  Q4  %age  movements  -­‐   2013  vs  2012    |    2013  vs  2011    |    2012  vs  2011  

€120.0      €100.0      €80.0      €60.0      €40.0      €20.0      €-­‐        

% Movement Axis Title  

comparison of  Q4  %age  movements  -­‐   2013  vs  2012    |    2013  vs  2011    |    2012  vs  2011  

AARR% Axis Title  

12.0% 10.0%   8.0%   6.0%   4.0%   2.0%   0.0%   -­‐2.0%   -­‐4.0%  

14.0% 12.0%   10.0%   8.0%   6.0%   4.0%   2.0%   0.0%  

2013 vs.  2012                                                         2013  vs.  2011                                                                  2012                      v    s.          2   011                                                           YTD  movement     YTD  movement     YTD  movement    


2013 YTD   €111.8    

2012 YTD     €105.3    

2011 YTD     €101.6    





















Paul Bugeja (MHRA President)


March / April 2014

The members of the Discussion Panel: Peter Agius ((EU Parliament Office – Malta), Alberto Fecchio (e-FM , Italy) George Micallef (MHRA), Alexis Waravka (HOTREC), Vanessa Macdonald (moderator)


Tarragon is a herb not just a restaurant Words: Victor Calleja: Photography: Sean Mallia

Life is made of strange but beautiful things. Take food and places connected to it. Impossible to imagine our world without it, without its glory, impossible to imagine celebrating without food. Life would be dull and boredom would rule. There are names which make us think of glorious dishes, of past food dished out to us by mothers or fathers, wives or master chefs. Tarragon is one of the words which have a resonance which makes us want - at least makes me want - to go out and have a good meal with friends. Magically, the name does not retain the essence of the herb but becomes a byword for food, and excellent food at that. Tarragon to most Maltese and many foreigners living or visiting our island signifies a restaurant. Think Tarragon and the mental rush is all about food and the delicacy of food not because of the herb that gives flavour to dishes. In its seven years of life, the restaurant has won accolade after accolade, award after award. Its walls bear testimony to all this - plastered as they are with plated awards from the Definitively Good Guide, another of Maltaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good things which has given consumers a guide and restaurants a benchmark and a desire to excel. The plates on those walls signify excellence. But Tarragon and Marvin Gauci, the man behind it, do not intend sitting on their laurels, even if in 2013 his


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work and that of all his dedicated, loyal and good staff, won 11 awards at the Def. Good Guide Award night - including the coveted best overall restaurant award. What is the secret to this man’s success? I made my way there, together with my vegetarian wife, on a Thursday night, when the weather was unkind, the wind howling, the rain pelting, the visibility by our local ohwe-are-so-spoilt-standards nearly nil. By our insular standards, St Paul’s Bay seemed rather far, but parking was unbelievably easy as the area is hardly a thriving mecca in February. Warmth enveloped and welcomed us as soon as we stepped inside, the wood panelling making for a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. The coldness of modern minimalism remained with the cold weather that howled outside the four walls. And speaking of walls - two of them are basically huge glass panels which offer a magnificent view of the underlying bay. The staff greeted us cordially, making it obvious that they were genuinely happy to see us - we knew we could trust these people not just with our coat but with our soul. Given the inclement weather I expected to find just a few St Paul’s Bay residents who would brave the cold and rush in to grab a meal. On the contrary, the place was teeming with people, some of whom I know and who live far from the area. So this place must be doing something more than right to attract that kind of custom mid-week on a cold, wet night. Locals and foreigners were being seen to expertly by Marvin and his team. They have been criticised by some for being over-friendly, too quick with their recommendations. But isn’t that the ideal innkeeper? The one who guesses what you want almost before


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you ask for it? If that is the wrong approach then I, for one, love all that is wrong in hospitality.

to detail is a winner. Bread is just a detail but when it is Maltese it is a detail worth noting.

When I reserved our table a few weeks earlier I had advised that my wife is vegetarian. In some local restaurants the vegetarian offer is rather limited. We remain strictly carnivore on the island and vegetarians are seen as aliens, though things are improving overall.

The wine list is extensive - so extensive that unless you are a true aficionado you need some expert help. Joshua, who is also restaurant manager, is the restaurant’s wine expert. He compiled the wine list and he smilingly gave us good, down-to-earth advice which most earthlings can understand.

At Tarragon, although I had phoned way before our dinner date, my wife was immediately presented with a vegetarian menu. How’s that for service? No need to be reminded, no need for fussing and a menu choice to satisfy any alien, or suffering, wife. The menu is not the most extensive - thank heavens for that as, when it is, I always wonder how it can all be fresh and good - but I would happily choose every single dish on it any day, cold, hot or thundery. I was naughty and went on a carbbinge - a plate of gob smacking pasta served with a lobster bisque and oozing with chunks of lobster. For this dish alone I would vote the place a plate on its own - a true award - winner.

In between courses we were presented with the modern touch. Molecular gastronomy at its best- a reconstituted Campari orange served in half a lemon and chilled with liquid nitrogen. A true feast for any eyes. For mains I took a local fish baked in salt. Laura, a Spanish girl who actually worked at the legendary El Bulli, filleted it at table for me. It was a treat to see her waft around and weave her magic, setting the salt alight to allow her to remove the flesh more easily. The result? A huge portion of tender, light and mouth-watering fish, sending sensations of purity coming straight from the sea. Neptune would have loved this place - his creatures might be sacrificed

I proceeded to devour a few - quite a few - slices of bread, not with my pasta dish, although it was good enough to tempt me to forgo and forget all that my mother tried teaching me and my alien wife has managed to, and wipe the plate clean with it. Instead I let etiquette and rules take over and I just dipped it in oil. I consider local bread, dipped in good oil, another touch of heaven. It pains me when the bread on the table of some restaurants is just a stodgy, often stale, affair. Tarragon has perfected this too, ably assisted by a bakery nearby. The attention


and eaten for our enjoyment but they are treated so delicately that I suspect even they would pay their respects. The accompanying vegetables and potatoes added to the feasting. Being a shocking chocaholic, I could not leave without a chocolate touch and the menu spoils you for choice. The chocolate sphere was a definite winner. The texture is just right, the chocolate not over-powering, the ice-cream a true lesson in contrast. My wifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cauliflower and broccoli soup with a hint of blue cheese was delicious, served piping hot, and just right for the weather. She also announced that her risotto was way

superior to anything she had tasted for quite a while. Cooked with red wine, it looks totally different from your usual and droll white risottos. The flavours of onion and porcini chunks were irresistible, even to a carnivore like me. My nosy side got the better of me for a few minutes and I wandered off to peek into the kitchen. Instead of the mayhem you would expect on a busy night, all I saw was organised fussing. The kitchen staff smiled at me but worked on. Passion at work - please proceed with no interruptions.We left oblivious of the wind and rain, fatted and feted and sure in the knowledge of one thing. Tarragon deserves not only all the plates on offer, it also deserves a few Oscars. Breaking news: Marvin Gauci has just taken over a new restaurant in St Julians at the Corinthia San Gorg. Called Caviar & Bull it promises to be another top culinary attraction.

And the award goes to... Malta might not boast the glitz of the Oscar night and as a nation we might not win too many Golden Globes in the near future but when it comes to eating out we definitely can compete with many countries. And the Gala Night that awards the topbilling restaurants in Malta has an electrifying feel to it that is quite something.

Tarragon made a near clean sweep of all the awards but vying for top awards were some other really appetising places. The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants Awards Ceremony held at the Xara Lodge in December celebrated the outstanding achievement of Malta & Gozo’s top-rated restaurants as voted by diners who participated in the Malta & Gozo Restaurant Survey online at Restaurants which won award plates, in order from most highly-rated, included: Tarragon Medina Restaurant Quadro, Westin Dragonara The Villa Brasserie Oceana, Hilton Malta The Terrace Restaurant, Westin Dragonara Grill 3301 Corinthia, St. George's Bay Patrick's L'Ortolan, Kempinski San Lawrenz Beppe's Blue Elephant, Hilton Malta


Palazzo Preca Sa Re Ga Ma Indian Restaurant, La Capanna De Mondion Restaurant, Xara Palace Le Bistro, Radisson Blu Palio's - Westin Dragonara Rebekah's Restaurant Ta' Frenć Restaurant Temptasian, The Palace Zest, Hotel Juliani Pintonino, Waterfront Ġużè Bistro La Mère The Arches Restaurant & Wine Bar Rickshaw, Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa The Boat House, Gozo Giuseppi's Wine Bar Waterbiscuit, InterContinental Villa Corinthia, Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa Capistrano Zeri's Tartarun Ta' Karolina Restaurant Il-Ħorża Rubino The Lord Nelson iPlace

Admiral's Landing, Excelsior Luna at Palazzo Parisio and Gardens In memory of Colin Best, co-founder of the Restaurant Guide, who sadly passed away in 2013 The Colin Best Award for the Most Consistently Outstanding Restaurant in Malta & Gozo for 2013/2014 was claimed by de Mondion. The full - and definite - results of the Restaurant Survey can be found in the 2014 edition of The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants in Malta and Gozo. This is available to purchase online for 8 Euros at which will entitle you to the Guide online and a free hard copy in the post. It is also available at leading stationers and bookshops in Malta & Gozo. Go out and dine in style and use the guide to get you to the best in Malta and Gozo. And if you want to make a difference to who wins what this year make sure you make use of your vote. This year you can vote all year round.

March / April 2014


In this series of articles we find out about the people who matter in the association that truly matters, the MHRA.

The council member

IN DEPTH Kyle Borg


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Position at MHRA: Council Member Establishment represented: Luna Holiday Complex Years in council: Elected November 2013 Past positions held in MHRA council: N/A Reason you are in hospitality: I was literally born into the industry, as my father founded Luna Holiday Complex in the 1980s, starting with just a few apartments. Over the years, it grew into the establishment it is now. I was always around helping as a child; I loved learning new things, meeting people from different backgrounds and all walks of life. I worked for a number of years in our hotel and in another local hotel while completing my Bachelor of Commerce here in Malta. I then went to Switzerland to Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, where I obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Business Administration specialising in the hospitality industry, in which I graduated with Distinction. The main selling point of the school was not only its ranking in the top 3 hotel schools in the world, or its teaching methods, but the fact that at the time its students were of over 90 nationalities. I was immersed into a world of different cultures and languages, which was a steep but healthy learning curve. In turn, this allowed me to work abroad for a few years. I do enjoy the industry as it revolves around people, both people staying with you and people working with


you. This creates emotions and experiences which in turn create lasting memories. So in one way or another you are touching peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives and leaving an impact. List previous places you worked in, owned or managed: Radisson Bay Point, (my first job as a waiter.) I worked for a number of years in different industries, trying out different positions and types of jobs, among them swimming instructor with one of the prominent aquatic clubs on the island. Through my studies on a project basis I worked with Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne and the Ski Resort of Thyon, both in Switzerland. After my studies I was immediately recruited by Six Senses Resorts in Spas based in Bangkok, Thailand. I was tasked with taking care of three resorts: Six Senses Yao Noi (Phuket) Six Senses Con Dao (Vietnam) Six Senses Lamu (Maldives) Remotely I was a standards auditor as well as trainer and was the point of connection between the Head Office and the resorts. The flexibility of the position, which based me in different resorts for a period of normally 4-6 months, allowed me to absorb several skills. The GMs I worked with allowed me not only to do my job but to gain good handson experience in the management of the resorts. Six Senses Con Dao was a particularly healthy experience as it was in its final opening phases when I joined, thus I experienced working with a brand new resort, which employed mainly locals. This was a challenge in itself.

Dirty hands because of hands-on policy or better suited for delegating? I prefer to get my hands dirty but the job keeps me in the office for a number of hours. On a daily basis, I try my best to leave my desk and mingle with people. Unfortunately this is not always possible; however, I try to dedicate a minimum of 2 hours a day on the floor with guests and the team. We work hand-inhand, allowing me to know what is happening around the hotel and helping me to keep an open relationship with both the team and the guests. What are your aims for MHRA? Actually joining MHRA was one of my aims when I wrote my entry essay for Les Roches, because I believed that we have a very good local product with lots of potential, and I wanted to be part of it, part of the body that lobbies on behalf of the industry, and in many ways shapes and guides the industry forward. Now my aims are to be a part of this force of change and evolution. I see MHRA growing not only as an association that lobbies on behalf of the industry, but as an association which, together with industry, is working to better the industry. Working in tandem with members and government will allow us to move forward. I am also looking forward to seeing MHRAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s goal to form a Mediterranean Forum, for all Mediterranean countries to work together and discuss matters of mutual concern, come to fruition. MHRA has already started to work on this project and I will be assisting. Reaching this aim will be a huge milestone for the association and for Malta. This is a starting point to work together with other Mediterranean countries rather than just compete.

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WHAT IS JOSPER? JOSPER is an elegant



combination of a grill and an oven in a single machine.


It is aimed at a very demanding profession: the HoReCa sector. It is also highly rated by Steak Houses, Brasseries, Tapas Bars, Bistro-cafes, Traditional restaurants, Haute cuisine...




• It works 100% with charcoal. • A unique closed barbecue design. • Different levels of GRILLING. • Flexible and robust, easy to use, ARE OUR with a front opening door system. Mob: 99465474 • Vent system for temperature Experience them at the new GUARANTEE control. SCIACCA GRILL in South Street Valletta


Favourite pastime: Fencing, travelling, reading.

allows us to work faster, react quicker, and lessen the impact of crises, or other potential threats to the industry.

Favourite food: Very difficult to say, but probably Fresh Fish/ Seafood, Italian and Thai cuisines What are Malta’s shortcomings in tourism? Labour force: our labour market is not very inclined to work in the industry, although there are of course those who are passionate about the industry but not as many as are needed. Our industry is labour-intensive and our teams have to enjoy it as their emotions are being transmitted to the guest and they shape the guest experience. As an industry we need to work on this. High costs: especially energy costs, are being tackled. However, there are miscellaneous costs which may seem small on their own account but add up to a large amount. Connectivity: being an island we are mainly dependent on air travel, which means the number of seats available dictates the potential beds and conference rooms we can fill. This has been improved in the past years but we need to ensure that there is a steady supply of various airlines flying to and from Malta. Sea travel is also available but very limited. Type of guest: we attract various types of travellers and guests, however, espcially in the summer months, we attract many with low budgets, which affects the industry negatively as their purchasing power is limited. Working together to attract a variety of guests will allow us to be more efficient in filling our restaurants (not only in hotels) and filling our tourist attractions. Winter: the winter season is a particularly challenging period for


Our climate is ideal for travellers, and with hot summers and mild winters we have the potential to be an allyear- round tourist destination. Obviously we are steeped in history and that is a positive that other destinations may not have. We are extremely lucky that the country is very safe, unlike some other destinations, which is something we can boast about. Malta, in previous years we had simply resigned ourselves to the fact that winter equals low season. Although there is some truth in this, the association has pointed out on many occasions that the industry needs to work together with partner industries and government to improve the winter season. This will help ensure the sustainability of the industry as a whole. Crowding: we have to be careful that we do not over-saturate the busy months. Beaches are becoming crowded and this is good for business. However, it may have a negative impact on environment and the infrastructure, as well as on tourists’ inclination to return to the island.

We are lucky that the majority of the population can at least understand, if not speak, a third and/or a fourth language. This is a huge positive when it comes to attracting guests who may not speak English. Being in the Mediterranean basin is a huge positive, as this is known by many who may not have heard of Malta. Banking on this “brand”name as we have done for many years works in our favour. Working with our neighbours may attract custom from further markets such as the East or the Americas, with the Med being used as a point of attraction and travellers visiting more than one country on a Mediterranean tour.

And what about the positives? Malta has a huge potential for growth, not by increasing bedstock, but by improving quality and in turn improving the quality of guests and, at the end of the day, the return yielded. Our size is a benefit for us all. We have the ability to hold open and frank discussions with different players including goverment and other bodies. In a larger country this would be deemed difficult or improbable. It

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Funding Rules After we joined the EU, the two major political parties reached agreement on the way forward: it was historic to see both parties, who together regularly get more than 95% of votes in all general elections, vying as to who has the better EU credentials. So it was rather maddening when recently, for a few days, there seemed to be a controversy about funding or lost funding. Thankfully all was resolved, misunderstandings filed away and we went back to business as normal. No funds have been lost and the very good track record of our country, which has been utilising all funds available for these last 10 years, has been kept intact. For a change, we have a record that most outsiders envy and most locals agree upon. The funds were available, were utilised and were not lost. Controversy is absent in the way we interpret those figures. To find out all about funds, the allocation of the funds and the way forward, Insider meets the Hon Dr Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency and EU Funds, at his office in the Auberge D’Aragon.

This is the new legislature’s youngest MP who immediately strikes you as a sharp, straight-talking, no-frills man. He also tries to avoid any political us-and-them talk and says what all of us who enjoy the benefits of living in Malta want: we all have to work hard to get the maximum possible funds and make them work for us all. If it benefits the country it benefits the tourism aspect, and if hospitality operators can get more funds their way so much the better as their product will be improved not just for visitors but also for locals. And as everyone also agrees tourism is one of the pillars not just of Malta’s economy but also as a main contributor to jobs on the islands.


Insider asked Dr Borg if today, a year after taking up the post of PS for EU funds, he regrets making a statement about the funds being in jeopardy. Isn’t that, we asked, stoking controversy? Dr Borg answered that he had to make it clear that because of certain political decisions—or lack of decisions—funds risked being lost. During the previous administration there wasn’t a specific ministry for EU funds and the work now being done by Dr Borg and his team was handled by a unit within the Prime Minister’s secretariat. The only problem was that this unit was not getting the right leads and answers by the men in government as too many internal problems were hindering

The Hon Dr Ian Borg

them from making decisions. This was the only problem. Here Dr Borg emphasises the fact that the policy unit were, and are, very efficient and, in fact,

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it has practically been kept intact by the new PS. Just as, for a long time, they did sterling work in the procurement and management of the funds, so they seem to be doing the same now. And the change in government did not mean a change in personnel in the EU funds policy unit. After accession into the EU the first cycle of funds was utilised between 2004-2006 and the second cycle from 2007 to 2013. However, the funds from the latter cycle can be utilised up to 2015. The present government has made sure it implemented what the EU funds policy unit was demanding. And now all is in place so that no funds will be lost. Part of the controversy about funding could have been a result of the way the EU is looking at the usage of funds for the coming years. Most funds are now tied to specific areas and members are expected to invest in ICT, SMEs, research and development and low-carbon emission. At first glance hospitality operators seemed to be left out of the funding as the areas earmarked for funding did not specifically mention tourism. But, as Dr Borg pointed out, his team immediately worked on the existing remit and he accompanied Mr Louis Grech, the Minister responsible for the EU, to speak to the relevant EU authorities and ascertain that hotels and restaurants can still utilise EU funding. The reasoning is simple: the four sectors that are earmarked for funding can all be connected to the hospitality field. ICT is directly linked to bookings and any other uses of IT; low-carbon emissions are definitely connected, as are SMEs (nearly all Maltese companies are SMEs) and research and development is of course relevant in every field. The EU wants to have a cleaner energy bill and a more resourceful workforce, which ties in exactly with all the funds for hospitality,


and it wants to tackle first and foremost the worrying unemployment issue. When the funds controversy hit the news, the MHRA immediately issued a press release explaining that further funds post-2013 have not been lost and that Dr Ian Borg and his team have been most accommodating and helpful in this regard. When we tell Dr Borg about this he smiles his obvious gratitude to MHRA. But he adds bluntly: “The strong statement issued by the President and council of the MHRA was happy news. But what I am sure of is that they did not issue it because I’m a sweet guy. They issued it because they know how hard my team is working to get the best deal for the operators, and for Malta. I’m more than sure that if they thought I wasn’t doing my job, or if I am at all risking the funds available, they would have come down on me and my team like a ton of bricks. And I would have deserved it if I had played around with the funds and their utilisation.” Dr Borg adds that now it will be up to the operators to come up with good, sustainable projects. He pledged that all stakeholders will be encouraged to play a bigger role and get more funds funneled to their areas. Dr Borg believes that the consolidation of MBB with more resources to be able to assist operators more is one of the first things to tackle. The idea is for MBB to be able to offer even more services and more assistance

to the many operators who can benefit from funding but do not have a clue where to start. MBB is a great reference point for the hospitality operators, just as, in other sectors the rest of the NGOs and constituted bodies can be a superb entry point for all the other operators. Innovative thinking to find proper projects, especially in any niche markets that would help increase the tourist offering during the winter and shoulder months, will be great news to Malta and the EU. Funds are there for various uses—they are available for the right operator of whatever size and nature. The final thing Dr Borg comments about is bureaucracy. The proper paper trails and audits needed for any funding project are sometimes seen as too daunting and frightening by the smaller operator—in fact by any operator applying and getting funds. This hated bureaucracy would not be at all bad for us and the EU if it guarantees transparency and the proper checking of what is utilised. It is true that the EU is a giant of bureaucracy but, according to Dr Borg, if the trails needed provide a good shield to tampering and bad utilisation of funds, then he is not averse to seeing them remain in place. Better a mountain of paper and procedures that work than wastage. After all, as he says, the funds we and the rest of Europe use come out of each and every EU citizen’s pockets.

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Rewarding excellence through the

Malta Tourism Authority STAR Awards

At the recent Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Awards Ceremony, employees working in the tourism industry were recognised by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) for their excellent service and hospitality during 2013. The categories varied from dive instructors to tourist guides, to people working in food and beverage service. During the ceremony the Hotel Worker of the Year award and a special award were also given to very deserving persons working in tourism. In his address, former Minister for Tourism Hon Karmenu Vella emphasised the importance of providing an excellent service to tourists visiting our islands. Furthermore he pointed out that success in tourism does not depend only on what competitors are doing to attract tourists or how the economy is performing, but essentially success depends also on the level of service being offered to tourists. Josef Formosa Gauci, MTAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s CEO, pointed out that the STAR Awards have been organised for the past 9 years and during 2013 the Authority received around 6000 nominations for different people in various categories. The Authority sees each nomination as a certificate of excellence in the service being offered to tourists apart from being of personal satisfaction for each finalist being recognised during the ceremony. The six winners in their respective STAR service categories were Joseph Vella, Barman, Seashells at Suncrest,


Anna Azzopardi, Receptionist, Maria Giovanna Hostel, Chandru Mohnani, owner, Novelty Shop, Joan Gaffiero, tourist guide, Mick Burbeary and Mark Furnival both dive instructors at H20 Diving and Paradise Diving respectively. All these persons were nominated by tourists and the winners were selected on the amount of valid tourist nominations received. During the ceremony Mr. Francis Busuttil, Director Revenue Management at the Westin Dragonara Resort, was named as the Hotel Worker of the Year for 2013. Furthermore Ms. Annie Galea, an 81-year-old guesthouse owner, was given a special award in recognition that, despite her age, she is still managing the guesthouse with professionalism and enthusiasm. These two were selected by the STAR Committee made up of representatives from the MHRA, FATTA, ITS and IoH together with the MTA. The STAR Awards are now in their 10th year and as part of the improvements to the scheme the MTA has redesigned all the print material related to the scheme as well as introduced new ways and means to facilitate both tourists` and nominees` participation. In addition to the nomination form (available in 4 languages) the new material includes

A4 and A3 posters, two types of flyers, laminated tent cards and personalised nomination cards. To facilitate touristsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; participation there is now the possibility to nominate online in various languages as well as through a QR code for smartphone users. The STAR Awards provide an excellent opportunity for employees in the tourism industry to be recognised for their hard work and dedication in providing an excellent service to tourists, therefore more companies and employees are encouraged to participate in this scheme. For more information on the scheme please contact Andre Arciola on or 22915122 or visit

Mr. Francis Busuttil receiving the Hotel Worker of the Year Award from the former Minister for Tourism Hon. Karmenu Vella and MTA Chairman Dr. Gavin Gulia.

March / April 2014


Definitely not pie in the sky

That Malta is a tiny speck in the Mediterranean is indisputable. That it has managed against many odds to succeed and be an innovator is a known and heralded fact. In the financial services and i-gaming areas Malta has led the way in many initiatives it took. It is now an established and envied jurisdiction. In the maritime world for a short time we were seen as a flag of convenience. The authorities worked hard to change this perception and managed to turn the Malta flag into a leading one not just in numbers but, more importantly, in quality in what has become known as the Blue Economy. The next area of growth is aviation with all its allied branches.

Insider Magazine meets Alfred Quintano to see what opportunities there are, what the pitfalls could be and also whether we as a nation can be a hub for aviation and aerospace in general. Quintano is upbeat about it all and is sure that with the right mind-frame Malta can reap many benefits just as it has done in many other areas.

discussed the need for a national airline and people thought I was mad. A year later - and 40 glorious years later - Malta has a national airline. It might have had its downs and hardships but it would be impossible today to think of Malta and its success as a country without its airline.â&#x20AC;?

Quintano is a man who always seems on a mission. He is ebullient, positive and slightly didactic in tone. Having spent 30 years in aviation, he says he left Air Malta smelling of kerosene, but that experience, together with his years in hospitality, teaching and consultancy, have made of him the ideal man to make aviation more significant in all its spheres and put it on the right platform.

Dreamers should be allowed to take over our world - but Quintano is hardly just a dreamer or a man who spends his time at University coming up with cranky ways to move the aviation agenda. One of the subjects he teaches at University is Transport Management and, in a country where one of the main economic pillars depends almost completely on air links, it is obvious that aviation should rank high on any University, college or country agenda.

Quintano tells Insider that â&#x20AC;&#x153;I must have been born smelling of aviation fuel. In 1973, my University thesis

And this agenda is becoming more and more of a reality. Quintano beams while saying that, for the first time


March / April 2014



40/41, Marina Street, Pieta Tel: (+356) 2122 6642 - (+356) 2123 3331 - Fax: (+356) 2124 1793 - Service Department: (+356) 2124 5704 Email: - Web:

in Malta’s history, we have a minister responsible for aviation. In fact he is referring to the Minister for Tourism whose remit includes aviation, culture and local councils. To Quintano this is a real step forward and in the right direction. “You cannot have the momentum without the minister and his team understanding that there is a lot to be done and that it can be achieved. It is not just monetary gain but also recognition and employment opportunities.” Insider asks if this is all a dream. Quintano is forthright and backs it all up with figures, projections and a good, doable plan. “Just as we did it and did it well in the maritime field and the financial services world we can move ahead steadily in this sector. We can be successful not just in aircraft registration but also in turning Malta into a hub in the aviation and aerospace world. We have good infrastructures and capable people who can run the businesses.

We really can reach for the skies in our little island

“Now we need to make use of the little land we have in the best way possible and put aviation on our national curriculum. We have got off to a good start - both MCAST and University offer courses - but more has to be done. We need to have the trained human resources to be able to cope with the growth which will happen once the whole thing


continues kicking in. We already have world-class companies offering services in this sector so more will surely follow.” Interestingly a coffee break at University turned a chance meeting into something which could become a worldwide success. While imbibing caffeine, Quintano was introduced to another lecturer finalising his Ph.D. in avionics at the local University. As part of a team the findings of the avionics research programme is now being looked at by both Airbus and avionics producer Thales for aircraft which will fly way beyond 2020. This is a small team from little Malta with a programme that impacts the leading airlines in the world. “So,” Quintano tells me, “we really can reach for the skies in our little island.” Quintano tells me that next year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first aeroplane to fly in Malta. We talk of many anniversaries but this momentous one, which happened just 12 years after the Wright brothers flew their first machine ever, is hardly mentioned. And one other aspect that makes us special in aviation circles is that Malta, or rather Gozo, is in the flight path of nearly all airlines that fly from Europe down to Africa and from the west to the east of the Mediterranean and vice-versa. This happens without any of us taking notice or with any discernible effect on the quality of our air. We are still strategically placed and blessed even if we are no longer used for military purposes. Each flying machine that passes overhead is a good source of income for our coffers. So in a way the discernible part is in the nation’s finances. We ask Quintano if more can be done. “That goes without saying.

But a lot is happening already. In fact when I mentioned the university avionics-related research to the then Minister of tourism he immediately called a meeting to launch a National Aerospace Research Centre. We are also actively doing our best to assist all those connected in this field. The Minister appointed me to chair an Aviation Advisory Committee and our first task was the launch in December 2013 of Malta’s first ever Civil Aviation Policy. The team members are all experts in aviation matters. “Soon a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will be set up and this will be responsible for anything connected with aviation, from looking at ways to increase consumer protection to regulating and overseeing such entities as flying schools. Apart from the setting up of the CAA, the aviation policy also proposed that some land surrounding the airport be designated as land that can only be used in connection with aviation. This will encourage and help set up a hive of industries connected to this field. The draft CAA legislation is ready and now it has to be passed through parliament. Besides these there are quite a number of other initiatives which we set in motion in a short time and I hope all this will set a flurry of activity.” One word which the policy proposed by Quintano and his team highlights is excellence. This is what we need to look at and not numbers, according to Quintano, in order to ensure a ripple effect in the long-term and not only short-term gain. His last words, said with a smile, are: “We will get there and get there in the right way. The opportunities that await us in this field are immense. We are now walking but soon we will be flying.”

March / April 2014


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So much has been written about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) over the past few years. So much is expected from it. But what is CSR? Is it just a ‘nice’ optional for large companies to plug into their corporate profile or is there more to it?

Perceptions about CSR and its value for organisations differ considerably. Too often, top executives shy away from CSR, perceiving it to be yet another source of pressure, another yardstick to match up to, another drain on their capital. Others insist on looking upon CSR as a fad that will wear out over time, therefore not worth considering further.

social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.” This definition already gives CSR a new dimension – pitching it as an approach rather than an off-the-shelf solution.

But CSR is as yet immune to signs of wear and tear. The European Commission defines CSR as “a concept whereby companies integrate

Bank of Valletta and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry have joined forces to come up with the first ever CSR


The First CSR toolkit for SMEs in Malta

toolkit for SMEs in Malta. The idea was to call upon local players who had already taken CSR practices on board, thereby tapping local best practice that had been tried and tested. This led to a number of workshops involving representatives from key local organisations. The project, which was three years in the making, aimed at mapping out the conduct and development of CSR initiatives by Maltese organisations, giving additional promotion to the concept of responsible entrepreneurship within the business community whilst

March / April 2014


maximising the benefit of CSR for both the business community and society at large. The end result was a toolkit with ten practical steps that any SME could take on board in order to adopt a CSR framework within the operation of his/her business. What did the Project show? One of the first phases of the project was a profiling exercise of the business community. It was intended to shed light on the type of CSR initiatives that were most prevalent amongst local businesses. It would also help determine the extent to which social responsibility features in business strategies of participating companies. The results were not quite what had been expected. They showed that in reality 88% of companies surveyed actually engaged in CSR related activities. However, only 55% of companies of them communicated their CSR activities to their stakeholders. In itself this was quite surprising on two fronts: a) The percentage of companies that actually engage in CSR activities is higher than expected. Charles Borg, Bank of Valletta CEO, shares his experience which resonates similar experiences of other companies, “Way back in 2006, when the Bank’s executive management started discussing whether or not the Bank should take CSR on board, I remember distinctly that one of the things

that took us by surprise was the extent to which the organisation was already compliant with CSR thinking. Even if the term ‘CSR’ was new and unknown to us, we had ethical policies, policies to encourage work-life balance for our people, measures to safeguard our customer, as well as a holistic Community Programme through which we ploughed back a percentage of our profits into the community.”

the outset for a fully-fledged CSR programme, but may get acquainted with CSR principles in phases, sufficiently small to be managed. Moreover, as research around Europe has shown, embracing CSR has benefits for companies – it tends to improve their operations and brand image, therefore it impacts positively on their bottom line.

b) Many aspects of CSR nowadays sound like ‘common sense’ and many organisations, including SMEs and microenterprises take them on board without realising that they form part of CSR. From this, it follows that, since they are unaware of abiding to CSR principles, they are hardly likely to communicate their efforts, either to their people, or to their customers or the market in general.

Research around the globe has repeatedly shown that a CSR strategy does spell benefit to the organisation. It can help achieve and retain focus on procedure and practices that would otherwise be ignored. Articulating policies and visions means that employees are more likely to notice and adhere to them. Furthermore, it will increase trust and predictability if these policies are known to customers and other stakeholders.

Why should an SME bother with CSR?

Is there a future for CSR among the smaller entities?

Well, why not? CSR is a framework, a practical one in many respects, that helps an organisation, irrespective of size and nature of business, to operate responsibly. Ultimately no business operates in a vacuum, and any enterprise, irrespective of its size, is bound to leave an impact on its immediate community.

What this project has shown to all involved is that large entities do not have exclusivity over CSR. If one looks upon CSR as a framework through which one manages the company’s relationships with the different stakeholders, many scary myths are dispelled, and CSR remains in its pure essential form – an approach of relating to and managing relationships with the different stakeholders.

Furthermore, as the EU itself emphasises, one need not opt from

The Benefits of spelling out a CSR strategy

The CSR toolkit for SMEs can be downloaded from: or INSIDER

March / April 2014


Farsons Foundation & University of Malta launch

A collection of researched contributions relating to aspects of Malta’s industrial past has been published as a book entitled Approaches to Industrial Heritage: What works? The papers were presented and discussed during a conference held in February last year at Simonds Farsons Cisk Brewery. Considered the first initiative in Malta to tackle this complex subject in an open forum, Approaches to Industrial Heritage: What works? was jointly launched by the Farsons Foundation Chairman Mr Bryan A. Gera and the Pro-Rector of the University of Malta Prof Joe Friggieri, in the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government and Culture Dr José A.


March / April 2014

Herrera and Simonds Farsons Cisk Chairman Mr Louis A. Farrugia. On 1st February 2013, The Farsons Foundation in collaboration with the University’s Department of the Built Heritage within the Faculty for the Built Environment, hosted a one-day conference focusing on the diverse approaches which could guide the preservation and presentation of

industrial heritage in Malta, and more particularly that held by Simonds Farsons Cisk plc. The Foundation Chairman Bryan A. Gera said: “One of The Farsons Foundation’s objectives is to contribute, preserve, maintain and make Malta’s heritage better known. Last year’s conference on Industrial Heritage and this new publication


fall right within the Foundation’s mission. We augur that they serve to stimulate further appreciation, research and developments on Malta’s industrial heritage.” Co-edited by Professor JoAnn Cassar and Dr Reuben Grima from the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta, the publication features 15 contributions. These have been penned by Mr Timothy Ambrose, Dr Ing. John C. Betts, Professor JoAnn Cassar, The Hon. Dr Mario de Marco, Mr Louis A Farrugia, Mr Michael Farrugia, Mr Bryan A Gera, Professor Robert Ghirlando, Dr Reuben Grima, The Hon. Dr José A Herrera, Mr James Licari, Mr Joseph Magro Conti, Mr Ray Polidano, Professor Alex Torpiano, and Mr Godwin Vella.

University of Malta Pro-Rector Prof Joe Friggieri said: “This publication focuses on an important aspect of our culture. It shows why the industrial heritage matters to us and why we should invest in its preservation.” Mr Louis A Farrugia stated that the professional contribution of the panel members and participants helped to make last year’s conference a success. “Following the positive feedback received, we pursued the idea of drawing on the workings of the conference and recording them in a publication. From a uniquely novel conference that we organised last February, we are today marking another milestone in the history of Simonds Farsons Cisk plc with this new publication. As a company we

want to preserve and treasure our heritage and most importantly share it with the community.” The Hon. Dr José A Herrera said: “The Government cannot be the sole operator of the vast quantities of cultural heritage material that exists in Malta. The conference and publication about industrial heritage are a step in the right direction. Through its agencies and legislative powers, the Government has to be one of the main instigators to set the framework, however government needs the help of the private sector, working hand in hand to create best practices and to give direction.” The publication is available on request by email to against a donation of €7.

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European Quality Labelling for the Tourism Industry Omar Cutajar

In February, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Recommendation on a set of European Tourism Quality Principles which are being recommended for adoption across the European Union in order to regulate and consequently improve the quality of the services provided by tourism operators across the entire chain of the hospitality industry.

This is the latest initiative undertaken by the European Commission in the field of tourism and it follows the original idea announced in 2010, in a policy paper on a new political framework for tourism in Europe, whereby the development of a European Tourism Quality Label was announced. At the time, the European Commission explained that the eventual development of a European Tourism Quality Label would be “based on existing national experience, to increase consumer security and confidence in tourism products and reward rigorous efforts by tourism professionals whose aim is quality of tourism service for customer satisfaction.” New European Tourism Quality Principles These Quality Principles are being proposed because currently there is no specific legislation at EU level


regulating the quality, type and extent of information provided to consumers regarding the quality of tourism services. In this regard, the European Commission’s proposal is limited to a “recommendation” implying that there shall be no mandatory obligation for operators and tourism organisations to subscribe to the European Tourism Quality principles. In short, the Commission’s initiative is limited in its scope to a voluntary approach, whereby member-states have the option to adopt the recommendations or simply keep any other quality scheme they have been abiding by. During the presentation of the principles, the European Commission argued that, despite the voluntary nature of the initiative, the new European Tourism Quality Principles are of cross-border value added, since the principles are meant to ensure that tourists travelling to other Member

States or visiting European countries from third countries get value for their money. What are the Quality Principles about? The proposed voluntary set of European Quality principles are relatively wideranging insofar as they cover four main areas: 1. Staff training under the supervision of a quality coordinator 2. Consumer satisfaction to ensure that tourists can rely on an efficient complaint-handling system. 3. Cleanliness and maintenance planning requirements 4. Provision of correct and reliable information, which should be delivered in at least the most relevant foreign language.

March / April 2014


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Translating the Quality Principles into practice In practice these quality principles translate into a substantial number of commitments which of course entail costs for the operators. Tourism service providers adhering to the principles would have to ensure the training of all employees involved in the provision of services directly to consumers in order to ensure the satisfactory delivery of the tasks assigned to them. This means recording the training attended by the employees in a training register, the appointment of a quality coordinator with the task of ensuring a coherent approach towards the quality management of the services provided and the direct involvement of the employees in the quality process.


The participating establishments would have to keep a documented cleaning and maintenance plan for the facilities. Tourism service providers would have to apply a consumer satisfaction policy, including consumersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; complaints handling system at the place of delivery of their commercial service or via the internet, so as to ensure that any complaints by customers are handled without delay. Moreover, tourism providers should carry out consumer satisfaction surveys intended to take into account the results thereof to improve the quality of the service provided. Operators would also be expected to make information available to patrons on local customs, heritage, traditions, services, products and sustainability aspects. Finally, the principles envisage that this information should be correct, reliable, clear and accessible in at

least the most relevant foreign language to the location and the type of hospitality business. The proposal for the Council Recommendation will be discussed by the Council of Ministers during the current Greek Presidency and then subsequently by the Italian Presidency. It is the aim of the Commission to have the European Tourism Quality Principles approved by the beginning of 2015. Given the short timeframes, it would be ideal for a discussion to start as soon as possible between the MHRA and the relevant authorities, on the Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intentions as to whether the European Tourism Quality Principles will be implemented or otherwise in Malta. Despite the voluntary nature of the initiative, which will therefore create no new administrative burden on the MTA, the Commissionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proposal still invites the Member States to coordinate, monitor and promote the application of the principles within their countries. Predictability is therefore key for the success of the tourism sector and clarity on policy decisions, preferably taken at the earliest possible, is an important factor for ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the industry.

March / April 2014


Failing in

Catering Massimo Azzopardi

In todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s day and age, catering could mean a trend, a brand or the end. I find it amazing how differently we all think about catering. Some think catering is a big thing, others think catering is nothing, while others pursue the belief that catering makes for very high profits. Whatever we all think of this ndustry, the fact is that catering business has no limits and therefore can lead to experimentations of trial and error that can eventually result in either success or failure in a much shorter time than any other trade.

Throughout my career in the catering and hospitality business, I personally have come across several occasions that inevitably lead to failure. But the saddest experience I recall is when I once worked in a high-class restaurant whose owner aimed to have a very low average bill and a high client turnover. The end result was a very disappointing one since the business did not last very long due to high running costs, too finefood on the menu and very limited seating space. Every client expects quality though not all have the same expectations. Therefore, not all restaurants can cater for all types of clients. Some prefer a casual meal while others opt for fine food, so it is wiser to focus on the target client rather than having something for everyone. This requires a great deal of assertiveness in selecting a concept, the design, the service style, what will go on the menu and, most importantly, recruiting the appropriate personnel


March / April 2014

in line with the concept. Catering trends need to be followed as this is also what usually influences the client to explore innovative offers. However, one must ensure that this does not in any way jeopardise the quality and service the catering establishment is renowned for. A scheduled advertising plan not only enhances and maintains the regular identity, product and brand of the catering establishment but can also cut on the establishmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s advertising budget and time due to the best groupage rates on advertising Equipment plays a major role in delivering a quality product and service, therefore not putting the required specs and design in place and in line with the service offerings can be detrimental to any catering operation, especially if the kitchen brigade is coming from a hotel environment and is conversant with hi-tech equipment. Opting for unprofessional equipment will ultimately give negative results in

efficiency, productivity, health and safety. Poor management and lack of cost control are crucial in the everyday running of a catering business activity. Management skills are imperative from every aspect while discipline is an indispensable tool to achieve the targeted results. Failing on payroll, timings, measures, policies, procedures, cost, alertness, grooming, punctuality, assertiveness, politeness and willingness can all have a negative impact on the end result and profitability. If food and beverage costs are not being controlled at the various stages of purchasing, storage, preparation, production and finishing, this is most likely to be demotivating at the end of a financial month and might inspire the attempt to cut on costs the following month, and subsequently on quality and service. Neglect in the general set-up and ambiance, dĂŠcor, table linen, cutlery, crockery and glassware, printing,


uniform and furnishings say a lot about the catering establishment. These need not necessarily be new but good care should be taken to dispose of damaged products immediately. Even the newest, latest designer plate, or the finest of wine glasses, if chipped, should never reach the clientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s table. It is also common practice for clients to normally evaluate how clean a catering establishment is from the upkeep of the bathrooms and today this is easy, with the innovative wide range of electronically-operated accessories, deodorisers and good cleaning agents designed and manufactured for the catering industry. Regardless of which crisis is hitting

our trade, in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s day and age and with the number of new catering business openings and others changing hands and names, one has to consider some vulnerable steps before getting involved. This particular type of business entails a great deal of dedication, understanding and patience. Although at times very crucial, high numbers can be irrelevant when one aims to deliver a quality service. In catering, it is not the number of covers served that counts, but how many satisfied clients can be counted at the end of each service, which ultimately can determine the growth and profitability of any catering business operation, big or small.

Massimo Azzopardi is a catering consultant and runs FandB Catering Consultancy Services. He can be reached on 99450612 or e-mail

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Leadership Challenges for Hospitality Managers David J. Dingli

It is not easy to be a manager and a leader in the hospitality industry. International competitive conditions have changed and what worked in the past is most certainly not going to be appropriate to manage the current, let alone future, challenges within the industry. Hospitality managers cannot afford to take the attitude that if they wait long enough things will settle down and business will return to what it should be without needing to do anything drastic in the process. Experienced hospitality leaders know better than to rely on upward economic trends to bring in business. The recent economic challenges faced by Malta, a part of the global economy, have instilled high expectations in the spending population, as middle- and workingclass tourists appreciate the value of their hard-earned money more than ever. Hospitality managers must be fully prepared to apply strong leadership skills to the various challenges the industry faces in order to help keep their staff and their guests happy. The current complex and dynamic turbulent environment is most likely here to stay and this therefore means that, only if managers and leaders adapt their business models to


capture the new opportunities being presented, will they stand a fair chance of survival. Proactive change is the only way forward.

Europe. Also, ageing Europeans will be characterised by the changes in movement patterns of an ageing population.

The challenges being faced in the industry were adequately highlighted in a 2010 Deloitte report covering the scenario until 2015 which we are currently still experiencing. The major points were that countries like India and China would keep growing as the new hospitality markets. The positive side of the rapid growth in these two countries is that the evergrowing middle class population is creating a new sector for travel into

Social media has created new challenges for operators and an excellent new service for consumers with feedback being made public instantaneously. Nothing seems possible yet to curb the high employee turnover in the industry. A large percentage of revenue is being spent on labour. Investment in technology is not an option but the only way forward. Making online reservation systems available on all devices

March / April 2014


is imperative as this is the way consumers want to be served. The Corporate Social Responsibility ethic which is highly linked to a sustainability strategy is today more than just a marketing and feel-good campaign. The hospitality industry needs to transform the business environment from a resource usage perspective. The ECO certification label given out by the MTA to hotels in Malta is a sign of the importance of embarking on this strategy. A hotel must have a number of criteria to improve its environmental performance and increase environmental awareness amongst employees to gain Ecocertification, encompassing environmental management, waste management, procurement, energy, water, air quality, noise, building and green areas.


March / April 2014

The industry must be prepared to deal with shock waves, through the development and deployment of appropriate response programs, procedures and risk management structures. The hotel sector in the future will be dominated by trends in two directions, the first being the need for more budget hotels capable of offering an attractive product at an affordable price to cater for the new wave of budget travellers. The second will need to cater for the upmarket segment, where establishments need to offer a unique experience, at a price. This segment will need to cater for customers that have more disposable income, are faced with increasing variety and a choice of suppliers, and have therefore become more experienced, more discerning and have developed ever-greater expectations of the products and services they

purchase, adding the need for innovation and the capability to deliver excellence by operators. Malta SWOT A brief SWOT of the Maltese hospitality industry produces the following points for leaders to consider when developing their strategies. Strengths Hospitality in Malta, tourism in particular, receives extensive support from the government and this investment is reflected in growth in tourist arrivals and tourism revenue. Malta benefits from its status as a Mediterranean island in the sun with better weather conditions for Northern Europeans


The tourism sector benefits from political stability and relatively good transport infrastructure Maltaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s accessibility has increased due to the advent of low-cost airlines in 2006. Weaknesses Maltaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relatively small size limits opportunities for expansion, making it difficult for the country to compete with other regional countries such as Spain, France, and Greece (amongst others). There is limited space for real estate development and prices for land can be high compared to other neighbouring countries. Opportunities The proliferation of low-cost carriers should boost the number of regional travellers. New products and services are to be developed to satisfy this growing segment Malta is promoting its cultural (for example, religious activities in Easter), historical (fortifications) and lifestyle assets (Isle of MTV, Jazz festival), aiming to increase the number of tourists and expand its appeal to the youth and family travel markets. The development of the cruiseliner terminal has presented an opportunity to seize more of the regional cruise-market share. More can be done to develop the yachting, diving, water-parks, education (not only English language schools) and health tourism sectors. More can be done to promote Malta as a City break destination & Health & Spa break destination


An effort should be made to attract new customers such as middleto upper-class Russians, Middle Easterners and Arabs Threats Competition from growing regional and international markets could limit growth. As a relatively expensive destination, the global credit crunch could have a higher effect on tourism from outside Europe and limit the long-haul travellers visiting Malta. Seasonality â&#x20AC;&#x201C; low winter shoulder season and how to increase occupancy in hotels Ever-Increasing costs In Malta, the hospitality industry is a major pillar of the economy with approximately 10,000 people working full-time and another 10,000 working part-time in the accommodation and food service activities. Hospitality has large multiplier effects in an economy and therefore any downturn in this sector will not be contained as it will spread in all other sectors of the economy. Overall, the hospitality and tourism

sector is faring well but the economic downturn had its impact as it changed customer spending patterns and businesses that did not develop a clear vision, strong leadership, good management skills or access to the right information suffered the most. The Leadership Challenge The challenge for leaders in the hospitality industry is to constantly ensure that employees are delivering authentic hospitality. Customers will value this more than the addition of more amenities. This will not just happen because a memo is issued saying it should. The challenge requires the development of processes and systems apart from empowering employees to solve problems on the spot and encourage continuous improvement through structured feedback where all employees can speak as equals and where leaders confront even the best members of staff about their performance. Leaders must get used to telling the truth and sharing all the information that employees need to know. T he rest of the article will be carried in future editions of Insider. References are available upon request.

David J. Dingli M.Phil(Maastricht);MBA(Brunel);B.Elec. Eng.(Hons.). is the managing consultant of Resource Productivity Consulting Services, a management consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, operational efficiency improvements and management development & training. ( He is also an Assistant Professor with Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands and has lectured at MBA level in 27 countries throughout Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.

March / April 2014


Let’s give sports tourism more impetus Everyone talks of new avenues in tourism, and old niches which need re-energising. One of the most important aspects which needs better care is sports. Malta and Gozo are blessed with many attributes and the weather is surely one of our best-selling points to attract sportsmen and sporting competitions. Even small, well-coordinated, events could add on traffic to these islands during the tougher-to-sell winter months. Insider asked the then Parliamentary Secretary for sports, Dr Stefan Buontempo, for his views on the way forward for sports tourism in Malta. programme, under Erasmus+, local associations can tap EU funds to hold such events in conjunction with other countries. In addition, through entities falling under my ministerial remit, I am holding information sessions for organisations to make them aware of these avenues of financing. The opportunities are there, it is now up to the clubs and associations to make the best of these schemes. What has been achieved so far? SB: Sports organisations have already been tapping into such funds but I believe that more can be done.

Markus Kirchgessner ©

The results achieved in tourism have been very satisfactory but all stakeholders agree that more must be done to make the low season more attractive. Sports Tourism is one of the obvious niches that needs cultivating. What are the sports ministry’s plans in this regard? Dr S Buontempo: A month or so ago, I launched two schemes targeting Sports Tourism. The idea behind them is to attract international sports events and


March / April 2014

foreign athletes to come over to Malta for training camps and participate in competitive matches with local clubs/ associations. The incentives have been worked out to attract sports tourism during the low season. I must also mention that, in parallel to the Government’s initiatives, thanks to the recently launched EU-funded

Offering tourism schemes is only one side of the coin. To make further inroads, we need to have qualified and well-trained sports administrators. We cannot achieve success in sports tourism by having disjoined initiatives. To this end, I am working on two other initiatives which complement the above-mentioned schemes. Recently, for the first time, the Kunsill Malti ghall-Isport has


launched a Euro 800,000 training project aimed at producing the first 100 trained personnel in sports administration. This is a six-month course leading to a diploma. By end of the current year, once these qualified sports administrators are engaged, they will be in a position to run our local sports associations and clubs in a more businesslike manner. We need such personnel, not only to attract more athletes to Malta to practise the various sports disciplines, but also to start moving our sports organisations in the direction of sustainability. Another initiative which we will be launching in the near future is a scheme whereby we will be financially assisting our sports organisations to upgrade their websites. In today’s world, not it is essential to have an informative but, at the same time, a well-designed website, the cuttingedge tool to entice customers. In addition, this scheme will also train members of these same organisations to be in a position to regularly update their website. Eventually, all sports organisations’ websites will be accessed through a dedicated icon within the Malta Tourism Authority’s official website. This will ensure maximum exposure.


Our mild weather should be a good incentive to attract both locals and visitors to take part in outdoor sports. Are we reaching our targets? Canoeing, rock climbing, beach volleyball and football and all water sports could be further encouraged. What is being done in this regard?


Markus Kirchgessner ©

SB: Government is working to provide all the necessary tools for our sports organisations to become more professional in all aspects. It is then up to the individual entities to make the best use of the resources at their disposal. They have dedicated individuals who, I am sure, will take advantage of all these opportunities to the benefit of their organisation. Sports need facilities, sports need local involvement. What is being done to incentivise locals—and in our case visitors—to take part in sports? SB: First of all I would like to highlight an interesting fact. In Malta we have a sports facility for every 1,500 inhabitants. This ratio is at least ten times higher, pro rata, than all other countries worldwide. Thus the necessary sports infrastructure is in place. Certainly we need to upgrade a number of these sports facilities and we are doing this with our limited finances. With the other changes we will be effecting, we believe that our sports organisations will attract more investment and sponsors from the private sector. When it comes to citizens’ involvement in physical activity, we are working on a plan not only to attract schoolchildren to participate

in sports activities, but, through the scheme that we have launched to have open-air gyms in all our localities, we are pushing for a change in culture which will lead to an active ageing society. Cultural changes take time, and we will not see an overnight transformation, but from the response that is forthcoming, I believe that we are moving in the right direction.

Dr Stefan Buontempo

March / April 2014


Raising The Bar to Become


I love the Maltese Islands and really enjoy living and having our workbase here. Therefore, I hope I will be excused from commenting on the Tourism strategy for the Maltese Islands as a Briton, resident here for the last eight years.

At the same time I would like to make it clear that my comments are not in any way a form of criticism and there are many strong points within the existing strategy. This is particularly so with the present approach of the Minister for Tourism, the Hon Karmenu Vella, who himself recently stated that Tourism needs a different set of metrics for successâ&#x20AC;?, during his address at the Mediterranean Tourism Conference. Not so long ago whilst enjoying dinner at St Georgeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bay, I commented that the view across the bay looking out towards Dragonara Point was perhaps the best sea view in Malta. My guest responded that it was probably one of the best sea views in Europe not only Malta. Thinking about that brought me to the simple and fundamental point that the strategy for Malta tourism should be to move the bar upwards and focus on becoming world-class in every respect. It is always easier to decide on the destination rather than to plan the journey. If the Islands are to become world-class the journey needs to commence with the realisation that it will take some time and the efforts need to be relentless. What the roadmap may look like may well vary, as will opinion, but here are seven platforms that may provide some fuel for debate.


Firstly, there is the issue of consistency. This opens up much discussion but my fundamental point is that everyone connected to tourism must accept a degree of responsibility and realise that they have an important role to play. Recently, in my continuous efforts to drive membership of the Institute of Hospitality in Malta, as Chairman, I included a section of the retail sector in the invitations to an event. I was told by some of the guests that perhaps I had made a mistake as the individuals did not consider themselves part of the Hospitality/ Tourism business. How wrong can one be. Remember the story of the person sweeping the floor at the Cape Kennedy Space Centre, who, when asked what his job was, responded by saying he worked on a team that put men on the moon. Retail, like much of the Maltese economy, is a people business and the facilities and services received create an impression of brand Malta. Dubai, for example, is renowned for world-class shopping and their shopping festival is now a cornerstone in attracting guests to the Emirates. That product took 20 years to build but brings in an annual multi-million income. Personally I think that the My Malta campaign a few years ago empowered people well and should perhaps be revisited with vigour and practicality.

Secondly there is the importance of a holistic approach. Too often I hear criticism of some elements of the local attractions, for example Paceville. We should cease criticism of individual elements and embrace the wide and varied palate that is available across the Islands. Marketing Malta should underline its universal appeal for all ages and generations and should include all there is on offer. We should be precise in promoting Maltaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s virtues and Paceville, in comparison to similar areas in Europe and further afield, is one of the cleanest and safest nightspot areas I have come across. It is easy to find fault in this kind of approach and different individuals may have varied experiences. The issue is to define and promote the positive aspects of the Maltese products. New York is particularly strong in

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through to departure and the very last touchpoint. We need to move away from prioritising the technical issues and concentrate on the emotional drivers of attitude, behaviour, speed, culture and meeting real customer needs. This is of course not to the complete exclusion of everything else. We do need, however, to tip the balance. this respect, just look at how they now manage and market areas such as Time Square, Soho and the Meat Packing District. There is then the issue of pricing strategy. The fact that Malta is seen as a -low-cost destination is a fact. Having low prices is not a weakness providing there is balance and a value proposition. In my view we see too many cheap deals, sometimes being supported by the flag and my opinion is that this can drive a perception of low quality. Balance is the key word and we should find new ways of creating a more upmarket impression, as much of the product will reflect this and is capable of driving price. For me Heritage is perhaps the strongest marketing gem and one which is both underestimated and understated. I have lived here permanently for eight years and am still exploring Malta’s heritage and history. Recent surveys showed it is not considered by the student population as one of the foremost issues and that concerns me. Most world markets are not sufficiently aware of the rich Maltese heritage and this is probably the fastest and easiest method of increasing reputation and high-paying tourism. Heritage is one of the largest drivers of tourism in global gateways such as London, Rome and Paris. The global marketing of Stonehenge in the UK makes it appear to be superior to the ancient Maltese attractions and yet in


comparison it is a modern monument and not even directly accessible. We do need to package, present and market heritage and history as they deserve. This fact leads naturally to the key point of education and ensuring its relevance in a fast and changing world. Are we producing the hospitality stars of the future or do our education agendas reflect all our yesterdays? Marketing of course is crucial and no doubt we will hit the issue of affordability. The news on this point is positive but to deliver it we need to address a cohesive and appropriate social media strategy and that is perfectly affordable through the right expertise. That means being bold and brave and getting on the platforms that cover volume and quality. Naturally I have left the most important and also the most effective driver of business and loyalty till the last. I am of course talking about service. One of the most important points for us all to grasp in this respect is the rapidly changing definitions and levels of service. Customer satisfaction is ordinary and achieved by the majority of our competition, most of the time. What we need to do, and we have the opportunity to do so, is to deliver World-Class service to all visitors and residents on the Island. This should start at the point of enquiry and runs

Just think, if the world described us in terms of being awesome and legendary, what it would mean for the Islands’ reputation, economy, growth and our own motivation and commitment. A full customer focus is essential. Customers may well not always be right but they are the most important element of a successful business strategy and must be treated as King. The Minister is right, we do need new metrics and right at the top of the list should be for Malta to deliver customer delight in all segments. Brand Malta should aspire to become World-Class and that will be determined by how customers see and perceive the Islands. Let us all remember that it is not just about discussion but about setting our plans for the hospitality business to embrace and follow it. My view–and everyone’s view should be–let’s go world class. So when and where do we start? We would love to hear your views at either or

March / April 2014


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In line with Waterbiscuit’s concept of staying trendy, the new à la carte menu gets to the forefront of the Maltese culinary experience with delicious and innovative dishes for all to enjoy. The menu emphasises the use of healthy and organic ingredients

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Malta Housekeeping & Accommodation Management Association Earlier this month a group of Executive and Assistant Housekeepers attended a Housekeeping Management 3-day workshop held at the Westin Dragonara Resort. This was organised by Angela Attard and conducted by Liz Lycette of L&A Housekeeping Management Consultancy based in

Australia. The workshop focused on Financial Management, Housekeeping staff management and training, & Maintaining quality products and services. Angela, who also forms part of the Malta Housekeeping & Accommodation Management

Association, believes “Housekeeping management is one of the principal management roles in any establishment, a role that manages the largest physical space in the building, employs and manages diverse teams and contracts and often has the largest budget”

To know more about the Malta Housekeeping & Accommodation Management Association please contact Angela Attard on 79381975


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Spotlight on European Elections MEP elections will soon be held throughout the EU. Eurobarometer surveys show that as a nation we are not just one of the most knowledgeable about EU affairs but also most in favour of it. The fear of eurosceptic and anti-EU feelings is possibly less of an issue in Malta, unlike many other member states. But this hardly means all is rosy and right. Insider speaks to Dr Peter Agius, head of the European Parliament Information office in Malta. He sheds light on our relations with the EU and the development of this relationship. He tells us what attributes he believes an MEP should possess and the best way forward for Maltese MEPs. The Insider: MEP elections again. What is their importance? Peter Agius: They are of utmost importance for the continuation of the EU project. MEPs give power back to the people. The European Parliament is the direct voice of the people, of 28 countries. And since the Lisbon treaty came into force this power has increased substantially. It is amazing what the European Parliament has achieved for all the citizens of the member states. How effective is the EU Parliament? PA: As with all institutions there is room for improvement. But much is achieved and much is changed for our benefit. While the Commission and the Council are representing national or supranational interests, MEPs are directly elected and they are the real voice of Europe, Parliament is the place where our aspirations as European citizens can be reached. How effective it is can be best illustrated by what it has achieved in several sectors. Let's take one example: 15 years ago everyone thought it was impossible for a union of members which was growing to offer free movement of, for example, doctors. The question was how can a doctor graduating in Poland be able to work


in France? The European Parliament set the ball in motion and today 28 countries with the most diverse educational systems are moving towards a harmonised one which allows students to tap into the wider EU-wide opportunities. The EU laid down changes which had to be implemented and, thanks to this strength in unity, we now enjoy easier access and free movement. The European Parliament adopts measures which seem impossible at first, but

which lead to a benefit in our daily lives. Has it, or is it, ever easy? PA: Any decision by the European Parliament requires convincing hundreds of MEPs across political frontiers. This is never easy as it requires, above all, a process of mutual understanding of tens, possibly hundreds, of meetings before a decision can be reached between 28 governments and affecting 500 million citizens.

March / April 2014



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From a country that took long to reach consensus about the benefits of joining the EU to one of the strongest and most loyal members. Will we always remain a country which fascinates? PA: I think Malta has now accepted its EU role and thankfully all the past bickering is over. The EU is constantly evolving, as is our relationship with the EU, from one of pre-accession internal fighting to post-accession acceptance. There was a time when we thought all that the EU did and said was right and to be accepted without debate. This has now evolved into a need to challenge and debate. I like to see it as development with a good attitude. We are at a stage where we do not only question what we get but also what we give and what we are doing. Do we see the benefits as mainly monetary? PA: Unfortunately yes we tend to do that. We measure our EU experience by what we have garnered in cash benefits and we forget the more important and long-term benefits which might generate more in the long-term. I believe our integration in a combined market that gives us access to 500 million people is more important. The many benefits that we enjoy from EU decisions are largely intangible but our lifestyle and our quality of life are improved through these decisions. A simple example is worth noting. The EP has just decreed that all mobile phone chargers must be identical. So in a few years’ time all Maltese, and all other EU citizens, will charge their phone wherever they are (as long as they have access to someone else’s charger of whatever make it is) without having to have their own charger. This will be thanks to a legislative decision of the EP with no relation to EU funding. Roaming charges have also been lowered following European Parliament intervention. Many laws, including access to finance, easier-for-SMEs accountancy


our voice heard and put our agenda on the forefront. Can more be done—and is it also up to the MEPs? PA: Yes there is an important role of the European Parliament that can be utilised more with regard to tourism, not just in relation to Malta but to our region as well.

practices and enhanced safety rules, have all emanated from the EP in the past 12 months and are now to be implemented by the member states. Overall EU citizens also benefit from better environmental regulations and more economic activity—all this is slightly abstract and hardly measureable in gains in euros for the country. The next legislature will be the first where we have 6 MEPs for the entire duration. What inroads have we made and how effective have our representatives been? PA: As time passes MEPs get more and more effective. Even a small number makes a difference as all MEPs, as individuals, can propose changes to EU legislation, thereby leaving their mark. Obviously there is too much happening at European Parliament level for MEPs to know all that is going on and they have to prioritise or sink. That is why feedback from people and bodies is vital for them. Organisations, NGOs, and all other parts of civil society need to keep abreast of what is happening in the EU and channel this information to their MEPs. This is how MEPs can be more effective and how organisations like the MHRA can contribute more. If anything affects tourism the MEPs should be advised to follow whatever is relevant to Malta. The tourism sector is immensely important for Malta. MHRA, especially through the MBB, works hard to make

Parliament cannot adopt legislation specifically on tourism as this is considered a matter of national competence. But the European Parliament has another role—that of giving direction. Therefore, through non-binding measures, the EP could highlight the need to ease requirements for issuing of visas, thus affecting Malta’s efforts to attract tourists from China and India. It could also, for instance, make suggestions to propose measures putting more emphasis on the Mediterranean as a region that can attract more tourism. The important thing to keep in mind is that an MEP has a limited amount of time, energy and resources. So, more effort should be made by organised civil society and all interested individuals to liaise with MEPs to truly work for our benefit. We cannot expect an MEP to come knocking on our door to tell us what we need to know. We have to badger them with what we think is relevant to our position. In your opinion, what should tourism operators in general look for when choosing their representatives? PA: An MEP is as effective as the extent and intensity of his/her network and impact on decisions taken by peers in committees and plenary. This counts in particular for our MEPs aiming to move things in the tourism sector where the EU is still in the early steps of giving shape to its policy in this area. Networking across institutions will be even more crucial given that Malta takes the driving seat of the Council in January 2017.

March / April 2014




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Kitchen Hygiene and Housekeeping products

Golden Harvest Mfg Co Ltd UB21, Industrial Estate, San Gwann SGN 3000

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The Cleaning Centre

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In Design (Malta) Ltd. Zebbug Road, Attard ATD 9027

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Insurance Services

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TCR Services Ltd

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March / April 2014

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Entertainment & Culture

Fat Harry’s Pub

Fat Harry’s pub has a unique British pub theme décor walls cluttered with pictures of bygone days, wooden beams, old plank flooring and shelves full of memorabilia for a walk through time. A relaxed atmosphere is always in the air at Fat Harry’s, which also has outdoor seating for summer or for the lovely Maltese winter days. Every night Fat Harry’s boasts some of Malta’s top entertainers besides a Big Screen showing various sports. One can also enjoy a game of darts, dominoes or cards. The Pub always has a fully stocked bar of local and world renowned beers on draught, wines, cocktails and shooters besides a very good selection of imported spirits competitively priced as house specials. Food prepared in house by our team of chefs using fine local produce and ingredients, is served all day. Fat Harry’s favourite is the Traditional Fish n’ Chips and Mushy Peas followed closely by the famous 200g Harry burger and some very tasty rice dishes.


Open every day from 12:00 - 02:00 at Bay Square, Bugibba. Tel: 2157 2163, 2158 1298 Open weekdays from 11.00 - 23.00 and weekends from 11.00 - 23.30 at Level -1, Malta International Airport. Tel: 2757 2163


If you are looking for the freshest seafood, fresh fish and tasty Irish beef steak and you want to spoil yourself, Tal-Familja Restaurant is the place to dine. We serve a variety of seafood and shellfish that is brought in daily from local seafood markets. The restaurant’s most

popular starter is the antipasti of shellfish and this is usually followed up with a grilled or poached fresh fish or a mouth-watering prime cut Irish beef steak accompanied with side dishes of roast potatoes, grilled fresh vegetables and freshly- made salad. Our home made desserts include panna cotta, crème brulée and hot chocolate pudding served with a scoop of ice-cream. Guests can choose to sit outside on the terrace enjoying country views or inside in cool air-conditioned comfort. Early bookings are recommended!! We are now accepting reservations for staff parties... have a look at our staff parties set menus on our website. You can also join us on Facebook. Open Tuesday - Sunday 11.00 - 23.30 Mondays closed all day Triq il-Gardiel, Marsascala Tel: 2163 2161 - 9947 3081 Now also open Palazzo Preca in Strait Street, Valletta

Mirabelle Restaurant The Mirabelle restaurant has been operated by the Debattista family since 1980. In 1999 the restaurant was completely renovated and themed with a cottage style interior, giving you a warm and relaxed feeling the minute you walk in. It is perfect for lunch with friends, a special

celebration, or a romantic dinner for two. One can also dine alfresco, with St. Paul’s Islands just across the bay. One of the family, Godwin, is the head chef and he always uses fresh ingredients for the good selection of pizza, pasta, salads and succulent steaks. His Specials of the Day have become very popular with our guests. Quality of service is very important at the Mirabelle, and another member of the family is always around, helping out and making sure that all are enjoying their food.

Open every day from 9:30 - 23:30 at Bay Square, Bugibba. Tel: 2157 2163, 2158 1298

March / April 2014



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La Rive

La Rive 33-34, Tigné Seafront, Sliema. Tel: 2131 8323, 9944 5102 email:

homemade mouth watering desserts. Thanks to our knowledge of our products and our innovative techniques we can promise not only a tantalizing array of food served in generous Mediterranean portions but flair in the presentation of preparation of every dish that leaves our kitchen.

Blue Creek Restaurant Just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of the Sliema shops, La Rive offers its clientele a chillout lounge serving exquisite food and wine. Its chic ambience presents a clean design with beautiful views of the high, welllit bastions of Valletta and Manoel Island. This tranquil wine bar is wonderfully lit up by candles at night, perfect for enjoying a glass of wine and nibbles, and suitable for a quick getaway for a bite at lunch. An appetising selection of dishes varies from Ravioli Asparagi to crispy beef salad or Chicken Caesar to a delicious ciabatta. One may also choose from the extensive daily specials and vegetarian alternatives are available. La Rive offers an extensive wine list of 100 local and foreign wines as well a fully equipped bar and comfy seating, either on the melt-into leather sofas or the bucket chairs. La Rive also caters for private functions. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday From 10.00 a.m. to 01.00 a.m

Blue Creek Restaurant tucked away in Malta’s southern coast is the ideal destination for sumptuous business lunches and private functions, combining all the luxury of its stunning surroundings and scenery with a mouth watering dining experience. Just on the outskirts of Siggiewi, Blue Creek allows its patrons to relax and dine in the cooling breeze of the terrace, providing a welcome break from a hectic day of meetings and stifling offices. If you would like to impress a client and close that crucial business deal, then we recommend our terrace for a delicious lunch surrounded by the beauty of nature. Off the beaten track, you can enjoy our delicious seasonal a la carte menu, of the main courses, fresh fish, fresh seafood, grills, and our

Our restaurant’s relaxed yet formal atmosphere creates a pleasing and stylish dining experience for business lunches in Malta, and already we have welcomed numerous corporate clients through our doors to sample our freshest produce prepared by our expert chefs. If you are seeking to impress, look no further than Blue Creek Restaurant, the restaurant at the water’s edge. Open every day except Tuesday and Thursday evenings Lunch: 1200 – 15.00 Dinner: Friday and Saturday 7.00pm – 11.00pm Ghar Lapsi, lo Siggiewi Tel: 2146 2800 / 21462786

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Insider Vol. III issue 08  
Insider Vol. III issue 08