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Newspaper post

Vol. III No. 11 February/March 2015

Charles Azzopardi GM at the Hotel Phoenicia

The softness of a towel... the freshness of a sheet, the whiteness of a napkin… as discerning customers, we all decide on that little detail which matters to us! At Swan, we strive to provide this detail which distinguishes us from all the others. Our advanced technology, our technical expertise, our impeccable service… have all been enhanced to offer our clients the possibility of providing their own customers with that...

‘every little detail’ Proven Standards BLB 044 Industrial Estate Bulebel ZTN 3000 Malta

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February/March 2015 Vol III Issue 11 Cover: Charles Azzopardi - page 16 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: Published


a member of



04 Editor's Letter

34 Sugar & Spice and all things nice

07 From the MHRA President

37 Emirates and the Mediterranean

11 From the MHRA CEO

41 The Gentleness of a Blue Elephant

16 The Phoenician Wonder

45 Giving Soul to Wine

20 The Council Members In Depth:

49 Distinctly Mediterranean

Julian Diacono

Malta’s Tourism Industry

27 Let's Clink our Glasses to a great

57 The great lens-man

Sales Manager Marian Poucher

62 Sweet construction in Dubai 65 Inside the News

success story

67 Medina wins the top prize in its 50th year

31 Music to my ears

Layout & Design Jason Attard




Publisher Jason Attard Editor Victor Calleja

54 The hotel man from Finland

23 Another successful year for

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

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.

© All rights reserved by the Publisher. The Publisher’s written consent must be obtained before any part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means whatsoever. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. Whilst every care has been taken in compiling contents and in safeguarding against plagiarism, the publisher and/or editor cannot be held responsible for errors or omissions. You are reminded of your right to refuse receipt of this publication and/or our other products or services by sending such requests in writing to iMNG Ltd, signed by the person refusing receipt.


February/March 2015

CRC (Malta) Limited, Tilio’s Buildings, St. Paul Street Naxxar NXR 4016 Tel: 21419400 - 21419600 • Email: Mob: 77419400 77419600 79419600 79419400



EDITOR’S LETTER: Inside and outside a great city A city like Valletta deserves being fêted not just when V18 approaches but all year round and every year. Thankfully the powers that be, both of the red and blue hues, seem to have understood this and much work and much energy has been expended on this marvellous capital city of ours. Private enterprise and dreamers have also latched on to the awakening of the city and all are flocking to own a part of the action. Bars, coffee shops, restaurants, boutique hotels and chic shops are mushrooming like never before. Hurrah to this movement, hurrah to Valletta. Of course it would be good to know that there is some form of plan. Not uber-control or a step back in time when business acumen had to be in synch with governmental diktat but a holistic plan to make sure we are building a sustainable and inviting city. Enthusiasm and a wish to go where for long no boldness followed is more than healthy. But that is hardly enough and the last thing Valletta deserves is not to be vibrant and successful. The new spirit of enterprise must offer a good balance to attract people to live in the city.


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Residents of a city are the lifeblood that keeps it ticking. May the joie de vivre that is now taking over Valletta not hinder any local or foreigner from living happily ever after in our most cherished city. Planning does not necessarily entail control by any means. But talk, discussion and advice by authorities like the MHRA, MTA and other entities will ensure continuity. Valletta awakens, but hopefully it will not be a nightmare in the years or decades to come.

Inside this issue we celebrate a true grande dame at the entrance to Valletta, the Hotel Phoenicia. It has stood there for a good number of decades, changed owners but thankfully kept its name and its allure. Long may it last to keep us looking with vision towards the future, knowing that all that has been, all our traditions and past are well worth preserving. Enjoy this issue of Insider with many peeks into what makes our hospitality sector vibrant.

Whatever the controversy Valletta now has an entrance which has caused an international flurry of interest. In fact more should be done to advertise the Piano connection. More should also be done to clear the entrance of the hawkers of cheap shoes, iced buns and hats. Hotel and restaurant business has also flourished with the rise of the phoenix. The choice of eateries and accommodation in the capital has never been so good and varied. And interestingly quality has become the true leader in our outlets. May it go on and may Valletta remain our standard-bearer.

Victor Calleja

From the MHRA


Tony Zahra, Acting President

Back to the Future In the Back to the Future movies, 2015 was the year to which Michael J. Fox travelled forward in time. The movies predicted that we would be driving flying cars, have electronics in virtually everything and life would be lived at a quicker pace as evidenced by the speed that people walked down the street. 30 years since the first release, the year 2015 is a reality for us and a quick look around us reveals that the Hollywood

producers’ view of the future in their script wasn't too far off-piste. The emergence of hyper-competitive smartphones, social media and e-commerce, and artificial intelligence that governs drones tasked to conduct various operations, are today not only a reality but a force to continue pushing technological boundaries. The morale of the story here is that nothing is constant except change

itself and most often it requires a think-outside-the-box attitude to survive the future in highly dynamic economies and societies. I like to call this “discontinuous change”. From a tourism perspective, a quick look at my rear-view mirror reveals that, in the early part of the twentieth century, international tourism was seen as the purview of a relatively limited set of affluent travellers.

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...our product needs to embrace the total

quality principle. This is not only dependent on budgets but also on attitudes and approaches

However, as economies grew stronger and closer, supported by new transport and communication means, millions of new travellers started looking to purchase exceptional tourism experiences. Today, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) forecasts that the number of international tourist visits will increase from 880 million in 2009 to 1.8 billion by 2030. Interestingly, over the past 5 years, the BRIC countries have registered the strongest growth in international tourism movement and spending, with China leading the way and the economies of Russia, Brazil and India also generating large increases. Given that Malta is not set in a vacuum, our tourism sector also benefited from similar trends, reaching an all-time record on all fronts in 2014. And here I must emphasise that this important achievement was critical for our economy to remain stable when our neighbouring countries, including some of our key source markets, were experiencing serious economic turmoil. Notwithstanding this success MHRA has consistently stated that not all has been a bed of roses in the tourism sector and that Malta requires a vision to survive the future.

A true vision, however, cannot be achieved by looking back to the best of our achievements and changing as little as possible for the future, but rather one needs to look ahead with a clear strategy.

Time is against us and yet we continue to argue on how best we should address our energy policy and the restructuring of our national airline.

Indeed, circumstances, triggered by war in Ukraine and in our neighbouring countries, changes in technology and demography as well as a changing set of values, fluctuations in international exchange rates and oil prices, and the impact of the new government in Greece on our European Union, are all precursors that support our argument that Malta, especially our tourism sector, requires a vision that challenges the status quo.

Policies that are required to facilitate entrepreneurship still get lost for years in studies, contemplations and endless rhetoric. The public sector remains burdened with unnecessary processes and a growing number of unproductive employees.

Our call to the stakeholders is that the guiding principle in this long voyage must be quality oriented. But here again some of us tend to get confused and confuse the concept of quality with luxury. What MHRA is saying is that we need to take our country up to the next level by capitalising on our strengths. We recognise that getting to this level is no easy feat. Malta and Gozo are islands of great charm and beauty. Each year over a million and a half visitors from around the world, or 4 times our population, discover a treasure trove of natural and man-made wonders. They marvel at sights like the Hypogeum, Valletta, Mdina, the Three Cities and the spectacular Mediterranean coastline and countryside. MHRA agrees with those who claim that Malta is a diamond in the Mediterranean region, but we also share the view that we are far from being a polished one. We have a poor infrastructure, and an even poorer skyline. We still lack the appropriate networks for public transport and the education system which supports our tourism sector has completely lost its bearing since its successful launch in the 1980s.

Our nation branding is blurred and we lack innovation, epitomised by the attitude of some of our politicians who resist constructive change solutions. This time a look at the mirror on the wall reveals that our product needs to embrace the total quality principle. This is not only dependent on budgets but also on attitudes and approaches. There are always reasons to justify the status quo but, in the light of changing discontinuous circumstances, our challenge is to look back not only to see where we started from but to remain focused on the future. We should not wait for events to overwhelm us but work to take advantage of the change which will undoubtedly happen. Let us not be the frog in cold water which will not stir if that water is heated up and will in the end let itself be boiled alive, too comfortable with continuity to realise that continuous change at some point becomes discontinuous and demands a change in behaviour. Some may argue that we are not cold-blooded and that the brain of the frog is much smaller than ours, and I agree. So let’s be smart and start thinking of our meeting-rooms as the time-machine we all dreamed of after watching the “Back to the Future� movies and prudently embark upon a new voyage that embraces real change, leading us safely to our next destination: the year 2045!

February/March 2015


From the MHRA


Andrew Agius Muscat

The National Tourism Policy Tourism is one of the world’s fastestgrowing industries and an important source of foreign investment and employment for many countries including Malta. As it is a large and growing sector, tourism is often scrutinised in terms of its impacts on the environment, economy, culture and societies. Some reviews highlight the power of tourism to contribute to economic growth while others emphasise the negative impacts on ecosystems, indigenous societies and cultural heritage. It is thus clear that tourism can have positive or negative impacts depending on how it is planned, developed and managed.

In this light MHRA earlier last year called on Government to update its National Tourism Policy with a view to establishing a long-term vision that embraces sustainable tourism strategies to promote the positive impacts and minimise the negative. Indeed, MHRA has argued that the concept of quality and sustainable tourism is applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tourism segments. Quality and sustainability principles refer specifically to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development which need to be suitably

balanced to guarantee the long-term success of tourism development. With this in mind MHRA participated actively in the steering committee appointed by the Minister of Tourism Dr Edward Zammit Lewis and in the recent consultation process with all stakeholders. In this process MHRA organised a workshop session open to all its members which gave them the opportunity to voice their opinions. The following are some observations that emerged from the discussions and which will be presented by MHRA to the Minister for consideration in the policy:

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By further involving MHRA in the planning process, conflicts can be resolved and the constituencies develop the sense of responsibility and ownership needed

environmental and social approaches and assessments for sustainable development that will help stakeholders related to different components of the value chain understand their environmental and socio-cultural impacts. They should then work to maximise benefits while reducing negative impacts.

• Action Planning should reflect the

vision for tourism and other public use development and management. This includes zoning systems with the appropriate visitor experiences, security and enforcement systems aligned with the zone.

• Action Plans should be developed • Government must continue to foster tourism as an important economic sector capable of attracting foreign direct investments and supporting sustainable economic development, the production of fairly distributed wealth, and the creation of employment opportunities.

• The proposed policy should make

reference to the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by UNWTO and endorsed by the UN General Assembly and the recommendations and guidelines provided by, amongst others, the relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements and conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the World Heritage Convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Code of Conduct for the protection of children against sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.

• Public and private institutions and organisations engaged in tourism planning, including tourism master plans, should make use of credible scientific methods and tools encompassing economic,


February/March 2015

so as to preserve destination values by outlining processes to monitor change, evaluate threats and opportunities, and permit public and private leaders to respond to key values so as to maintain the destination’s sense of place.

• Action Planning should also address

the potential negative impacts of extensive tourism operations on land and property prices and the consequent evolution of ownership patterns, as well as on local assets such as the aesthetic value of landscapes.

• Action Planning should provide

important opportunities to build community and constituency engagement, to better understand changing expectations and environmental and social conditions and to support local values. By further involving MHRA, as representative of the local tourism sector, in the planning process, conflicts can be resolved and the constituencies develop the sense of responsibility and ownership needed for the implementation of plans. The engagement of MHRA is important in the development and implementation of the plans. The value-chain perspective would thus enhance the understanding of the various roles of different tourism

players and enhance opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.

• Action Planning should facilitate

cooperation and collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and other public agencies and ministries. In this light it is being proposed to set up an intergroup in the Maltese Parliament to highlight the importance of tourism as a policy which impacts other policies, currently embraced in the European Parliament, hence emphasising the importance of infrastructure, transport in general, energy etc.

• There is also the need to inform,

educate and work collaboratively with the tourism industry to integrate sustainability into their policies and management practices, and secure their active participation in developing sustainable tourism.

• Marketing strategies should promote the idea and need for sustainability. Existing promotion and distribution channels should emphasise sustainability as a primary option for tourism development and to influence consumer choices.

• Whereas it is emphasised that there

is still room for expansion in the local tourism sector the success of tourism destinations should be evaluated not only in terms of arrivals, but also in terms of the economic and social benefits for the destination, and in terms of limiting the negative environmental and social impacts.

• The use of local goods and services

in the tourism sector, which minimises economic leakages, should be promoted. These products and services have a strong role in leveraging additional local investment, creating employment for the local workforce and helping these actors to be competitive, while offering concrete opportunities to contribute to the conservation of the natural and cultural environment.

• Opportunities provided by modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to raise awareness on sustainable consumption and operations in tourism should be part of the marketing activities.

• As part of socio-economic

sustainability, tourism businesses should be promoted by conventional and modern marketing techniques that ensure adequate access xxfor local tourism small and medium enterprises (SMEs), local communities and other suppliers (especially in developing countries) to domestic and international markets.

• International organisations, NGOs,

academia and knowledge-brokers should be engaged to support the capacity enhancement of all stakeholders, including national governments, for the achievement of sustainable tourism objectives. Indeed it is being suggested that a radical change in the education system is spearheaded to place more importance and focus on social skills, manners and ethical behaviour at all levels of our education system.

• Governments and businesses should

set baseline and measurable targets, review progress and report towards the achievement of sustainable tourism objectives. The UNWTO guide on ‘Indicators for Sustainable Tourism’ should be used as examples of practical applications.

• Current employment legislation should be reviewed to reflect industry developments in the tourism sector.

• The idea of the industry offering

a career rather than just a job should be developed and promoted, elevating the profile of a career in the hospitality business.

• As a crucial segment of the tourism

sector and perfect for enhancing performance of low and shoulder months, the MICE business should be given more importance in the policy. In the meantime the development of new MICE tourism markets should be incentivised through events and other initiatives.

• Further investment should

happen in security and safety as a cornerstone of the tourism sector.

New markets should be developed, in particular from the BRIC, while balancing efforts to further consolidate current source markets.

• New markets should be developed,

in particular from the BRIC, while balancing efforts to further consolidate current source markets.

• Emphasis should be placed on the

importance of Malta as a leader in the Mediterranean tourism field, hence reflecting the Mediterranean Tourism Forum efforts set to present the 2016 /17 manifesto for Government to implement during Malta's Presidency of the EU.

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ASSOCIATE MEMBERS LIST Platinum Associate Members

Bank of Valletta p.l.c.

E-mail: Service/Product: Banking & Financial Services

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

Corporate Associate Members

Air Malta

E-mail: Contact: Melinda Kecskes Service; National Carrier

Captain Morgan Cruises

E-mail: Contact: Mr Kevin Zammit Briffa

Service/Product: Specialises in cruises around the Maltese Islands, Jeeps Safaris on Malta & Gozo

and also Underwater Safaris and exclusive charters. City Sightseeing Malta


Service: Operators of Hop on Hop off tours on open-top buses, both scheduled and chartered

Emirates E-mail: Contact: Mr Paul Fleri Soler Service: Air Carrier

Ernst & Young E-mail: Service/Products: Assurance, tax, transactions & advisory services Grant Thornton Malta E-mail: Contact: Mr Mark Bugeja Service: Audit and Assurance, Business Advisory, Tax, Corporate Services Malta International Airport plc E-mail: Service/Product: Airport Operators

Gold Associate Members

Attard Brothers


Service/Products: Shop fitting, contract furniture, machine services Braveagle


Services: Hospitality Consultants and

management focused on teams to make it happen Cleaning & Security Services Ltd E-mail: Contact: Alan Bonnici

Easy School of Languages E-mail: office@easysl.comÂ

Service/Product: Educational Institution


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Global Payments Limited E-mail: Services: Payment institution, debit/credit cards, acceptance-EPOS, telephone/internet Helms Briscoe E-mail: Service/Product: Meetings Procurement HSBC E-mail: E-mail: Service/Product: Banking Services INIALA E-mail: Service/Product: Corporate Philanthropy, part of the Inspirasia Foundation

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

MSV E-mail: Service/Product: Provider of life insurance protection, long term savings and retirement planning Simonds Farsons Cisk plc E-mail: Service/Product: Beer Bottlers & Catering Operations Smart Technologies E-mail: Contact: Christopher Demicoli Service: IT Solutions Packages Studio 7 Co. Ltd. E-mail: Service/Product: Audio Visual Services, Sales, Installations, Media Productions

Intertek Laboratories E-mail: Service: IT Consultants, support & network specialists John’s Garage E-mail: Service/Product: Taxi, car rentals, transport services, leasing KPMG E-mail: Service/Product: Audit, Tax & Advisory Services Laferla Insurance Agency Ltd E-mail: Service: Insurance Palazzo Parisio E-mail: Services: Weddings & Events

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 &

The General

Co. Ltd.

Soft Drinks Co Ltd



Service/Product: Importers and suppliers of


Horeca food & beverage brands Dewar’s, Martini,

Bottlers & Distributors of Soft Drinks, Water,

Lavazza, Ferrero, Foodworks

Beer & Energy Drinks

Bronze Associate Members

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

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


Sigma Coatings (Malta) Ltd.


E-mail: Service/Product: Paint Suppliers

Service/Product: Kitchen Hygiene, Housekeeping Detergents, Disposables, Trolleys, Safety signs & Colour coded Products Mac Pherson Med Ltd E-mail:

Service: Paint suppliers Impressions Printing & Signs E-mail: Website: Ltd. Service: Effective printing and sign services – E-mail: Menus, brochures, business cards and more 28244 Generic J&C Pisan#49FE2CD 5/16/13 4:24 PM Page 1 Service/Product: Transport Services possibilities C







The Phoenician


Few capital cities, notwithstanding their fame and beauty, have been abandoned like Valletta.

Till a decade or so ago finding a local who wanted to live in Valletta was like finding oil or a rare gem. It was our unpolished diamond. People were flocking out instead of in and even shops and offices were being relocated outside the capital. Then thankfully something clicked and Valletta resurged back on our consciousness and all things city became fashionable and sought-after.

Accommodation today, even for travellers, has become of the highest standards. But close to

Valletta, just off its entrance, is a giant that never lost its lustre or its allure. The Hotel Phoenicia has always been the grande dame of Maltese hotels but the revival of Valletta presents new

challenges, new horizons. Insider meets Charles Azzopardi who, together with his team, keeps the Hotel Phoenicia looking good and stately.

Azzopardi heads a hotel with an illustrious history. We ask him what its future is and whether it has been kept up to date with all things modern. Azzopardi smiles his signature smile and says that he is happy to be part of a classic hotel but yes, it has been modernised without losing its soul. All amenities are in place, all the important bits and pieces the modern traveller needs are catered for. He cites as an example the fact that recently the hotel’s Wi-Fi was replaced so that, besides being accessible free of charge in all public areas, including the swimming pool area which is nicely secluded and rather distant from the main hotel area, it caters for all modern usages. People today use not just one device but a whole array of them and many are in use at the same time. So the system and the hardware has to be efficient, available and free. The hotel has a very low turnover of staff compared to the trade average. A few factors come into play here. Azzopardi smiles when asked if it is the result of good management but one of the most important aspects must be that employees


February/March 2015

feel happy enough to remain longer than staff members in other hotels. The idea that they work for a hotel with a rich pedigree helps and this further proves how good the brand Phoenicia remains. All members of staff feel part of a team, a family that works to achieve good results, which leads to the staff feeling closer to the guests. The Phoenicia has a high—again higher than the trade average—repeat business model which allows clients and staff to get to know each other better. Sometimes clients and staff even know when birthdays are due, when weddings have been celebrated and babies born. This is exactly where the old traditions of travel come into play at the hotel: people are still seen as individuals with a true soul. The fact that the hotel is small in comparison to many others further contributes towards this deeply personal touch. An important factor which comes into play is that the hotel knows its exact position and capability. It does not over-stretch itself to compete with the rest. If there is a demand for a 100-room conference, even if it is enticingly


brands for the


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attractive, the Phoenicia declines it. The hotel has 136 rooms so accepting such a big group would engulf the hotel’s normal routine. What Azzopardi believes in and the team continuously strives for is always to sell at the optimum levels. The secret is to sell rooms, meals, events and anything connected to the hotel ensuring that price and value are offered in line with market demand and guest expectations. It is easy to sell cheap, however this very rarely equates to delivering the required level of return to the investor. In the end, if one sells cheaply, quality suffers and, in today’s competitive world, this just cannot be compromised. Striking the right balance is the name of the game.

Talk of Valletta gets Azzopardi to beam even more enthusiastically. If there was any doubt about Azzopardi’s love of Valletta and its resurgence, his next comments certainly don’t allow any room for this. Azzopardi considers that the Phoenicia is intrinsically tied to Valletta and he feels very strongly that the hotel is still the flagship of the capital city. Azzopardi acknowledges that the dining experience in the city has improved immensely. And he says “I’m all for it. Gone are the days when guests eat all their meals in the hotel. They might dine there a few times but they want to go out, explore, enjoy the experience and come back to the hotel re-energised. And Valletta offers that and more—it provides all sorts of sites and spots and it has cranked up its offering beautifully.” What is surely a great sign for Azzopardi is that the capital has improved its accommodation and that, as a result, there will never be mass tourism. Valletta remains the place for individual experiences, where hotels are small and unique. Valletta and culture are intrinsically tied to the hotel Phoenicia. The hotel is a great believer in, and sponsor of, all things cultural, from the jazz festival to the baroque festival. The latter is held over a long period in January—the nightmare month to fill. Talk of music at the Phoenicia makes Azzopardi brighten up even more—to him music and any cultural offering is good news for his hotel and Malta, as long as it is centred around quality. And the quality is not just in what is enjoyed and seen but also in what is around us. The culinary experience at the Phoenicia has also been improved in the last years. As more and more people opt for different diets and pinpoint their individual dietary requirements the Phoenicia moved even in this sector to more personalised servings. It’s not just food but more about people and what they wish to have. Another way forward in the food experience is that all meals are based on fresh produce, with a high percentage of products being locally sourced. A vegetable and herb garden has also been introduced in the hotel grounds to really make fresh not just a concept but a living reality. Charles Azzopardi believes this is what makes the Phoenicia experience a truly memorable one. After 20 years of working at this hotel with a few names owning and putting their own stamp on it, he is proud that it has remained steadfast as a true bastion of quality and standard-bearer.

Phoenicia is intrinsically tied to Valletta and the hotel is still the flagship of the capital city.

February/March 2015


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

The Council Members

IN DEPTH Julian Diacono


February/March 2015

Position at MHRA: Council Member Establishment represented: Hilton Malta Years in council: This time round 5 years but also served on Council between 2001 and 2003. Reason you are in hospitality: I started with a focus on catering as my family had been involved in catering for many years. Food is a way of life for us and I inherited that passion. During my years at Holiday Inn I took the opportunity to try out various departments, spent some months with the sales team where I found my true calling and pretty much developed my career from there. List previous places you worked in, owned or managed: As hotels, prior to Hilton Malta, I have worked for Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Corinthia Hotels, The Westin Dragonara Resort and The Excelsior. I also spent four years as Marketing Manager for Malta International Airport between 2003 and 2007. During the same period, I represented MIA as a founding member on The Malta Cruise Network, working to promote Malta as a homeport for cruise line business. Dirty hands because of hands-on policy or better suited for delegating? This very much depends on the situation and the task at hand. Obviously, when working on something that needs to be done and followed up by yourself then hands-on is inevitable and I have no problem with that. However, over the years, I learnt that working with a team and proper delegation allows your colleagues and team members to develop skills and grow in their position, while increasing trust, initiative and creativity which gives much better results in the long run.

What are your aims for MHRA? Personally I believe that our role as an association is to ensure that tourism and hospitality remain at the forefront of the local decision process. This industry is a major motor for our islands and unless we keep it in mind when taking decisions for projects and developments we are running a high risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. The new National Tourism Policy puts an emphasis on excellence and quality and we need to hold the authorities to this if we ever want to achieve the targets we are setting ourselves. Favourite pastime: Food, Wine, Sailing and family time – not necessarily in that order. Favourite food: Too many to list and changes according to the mood. What are Malta and Gozo’s shortcomings in tourism? A very distinct lack of understanding of, and focus on, quality and professionalism. We seem to have an ingrained aversion to doing things the way they should be done. For some strange reason we actually look down at or mock someone who is a perfectionist or does things as they should be done. This can only be addressed through a radical change in our education system, placing more emphasis on social skills, manners and so on rather than just on academic skills. And what about the positives? The natural friendliness and hospitality of the people is second to none. A smile here – when you get it – is genuine and heartfelt not plastic and forced. To this add the climate, the safety, the history and the developing food scene, producing improvements in the overall experience.

February/March 2015


Another successful year for Malta’s Tourism Industry

2014 has yet again registered an all-time record number of incoming tourists, with 1.7 million visiting the Maltese Islands. Malta’s tourism performance has been amongst the highest when compared to European and Mediterranean figures. This represents an overall increase of 6.8% when compared to the previous year, namely 2013. Other indicators relating to tourism have also registered remarkable increases. Throughout 2014, the total number of guest nights increased by 4.9% when compared to 2013. This means that total guest nights in 2014 were 13.5 million. The average length of stay for 2014 was 8 nights. The total expenditure of incoming tourists also registered an increase, with €1.5 billion being spent. This is an increase of 6.1% when

compared to 2013. These increases can be attributed to the hard work by the Ministry of Tourism, the Malta Tourism Authority, Air Malta, as well as hoteliers and all the other stakeholders.

Malta is currently being served by no less than 17 routes out of the UK and the rewards from this increased accessibility are tangible as 2014 was better than 2013, with an increase of 7.3% year-on-year.

The UK market continues to be Malta’s largest source market in terms of tourist arrivals, bed nights and revenue, now accounting for almost 29% of total destination arrivals, with a growth of over 10% in the past 5 years.

During the past year, the British market has responded very favourably to the MTA’s marketing campaigns. These were conducted on a number of media platforms, with the main focus being on TV, radio, print, outdoor, and innovative digital marketing.

February/March 2015


A digital campaign was held, together with the Telegraph, in the form of an interactive travel guide. Other campaigns included a 4 week long outdoor campaign on the London buses, and a TV campaign on the Sky platform including Sky Sports, Comedy Central and Discovery History. In June 2014, Malta hosted the Institute for Travel & Tourism's (ITT) annual conference, which is one of the UK’s leading tourism and travel trade events. From a PR standpoint, 2014 was a successful year for the UK market as Malta hosted 73 UK-based journalists, who delivered over 1,600 articles, with a circulation reach of almost 13 billion readers. The MTA’s UK office also participated in targeting a number of niche areas. The MTA was a headline partner at the CIT A List event, which celebrated the best 35 conference buyers under 35 in the MICE industry. The MTA supported this by hosting 10 of the winners on an incentive trip to Malta. Besides this, the MTA launched the “Weddings & Honeymoon” promotional plan, which included the production of a specialised wedding brochure. During 2014 MTA also became strategic destination partners with the British Sub-Aqua Club, which is the UK’s leading dive club and national governing body. This led to

the Maltese Islands being promoted as an accessible and exciting diving destination. Malta’s outdoor attractions were also promoted via travel fairs such as the Cycle & Outdoor show, which promoted the Rural Malta walks. Gozo too was promoted as an outdoor distinct destination with Eco-Gozo being on the forefront of dedicated press trips and marketing campaigns. For 2015, the MTA aims to continue the development of Malta’s unique selling points, namely its history, culture and diversity as well as the fact that it is a family friendly destination which offers music events, adventure and luxury breaks, all of which appeal to a wide British audience. The Italian market is the second largest incoming market for the Maltese Islands, with an overall market share of 15.5% during 2014. The Italian market registered the best growth rate of the core markets, closing with an estimated growth of 12.3% over 2013. The Italian market responded very positively to the MTA’s marketing campaigns during 2014. Eurotram and bus campaigns were held in spring and autumn, with a wave in Torino, Milano, Mestre/Venezia, Bologna, Roma and Bari. Another outdoor campaign was held in summer and late autumn, as well as a tactical outdoor campaign in Rome and Milan.

For 2015, the MTA aims to continue the development of Malta’s unique selling points

These campaigns were supported by regional print campaigns, digital marketing campaigns, as well as tour operator support and online travel agents' advertising. The growth and positive response was also thanks to the operations of several airlines, namely Air Malta and Ryanair, which opened new routes from Italy and increased their flight schedules. Meanwhile, for the first time, Vueling began operations out of Rome Fiumicino. During 2014, MTA appointed Javier Zanetti as a brand ambassador so as to give more visibility and impetus to the destination in the Italian market. As regards the PR front, 2014 has been a successful year, with promotional content appearing in leading lifestyle print publications, periodicals, national and regional newspapers, blogs, radio and TV. In fact, the broadcasting of the TV programmes “Linea Blu” and "Sereno Variabile” on national TV provided great exposure of the Maltese Islands. During 2015, MTA Italy aims to consolidate and maintain its market share, always focusing on Malta’s diversity as a destination to be visited for different reasons, namely diving, sport activities, TEFL, MICE, history and culture, as well as short breaks. The German market in 2014 remained the third largest in terms of market share, accounting for 8.5% of incoming tourists. The German market is still highly tour-operator driven, which led to a number of joint activities between the MTA and the major tour operators in Germany. During 2014, MTA Germany gave increased importance to the new niche markets of pilgrimage and LGBT travel, and in this regard the MTA carried out a number of campaigns to promote the Maltese Islands for these particular segments. Moreover, the MTA conducted a number of outdoor

campaigns in the form of billboards and city light posters, while a digital marketing campaign took place mainly in spring and autumn. The MTA also took part in joint activities with tour operators, such as travel fairs, workshops, roadshows and joint advertising. The Maltese Islands were very successfully promoted on several German TV stations. Our Islands were the focus of numerous programmes which were screened on HR TV and SWR TV. Deutsche Welle had two programmes dedicated solely to Malta. For 2015, MTA Germany will focus mainly on promoting Valletta as the Capital of Culture in combination with short breaks. The MTA will also give due importance to the EFL segment and the diving segment, which will be promoted in conjunction with Gozo, particularly through supplements in specialised diving magazines as well as related fairs. The French market is also an important one for the Maltese Islands. Since 2009, the number of French tourists to Malta has increased progressively, topping 117,000 French tourists by end 2013, translating into a 35% average overall increase in French tourism volumes between 2010 and 2013. Figures and statistics show a 7.7% increase in 2014 over the previous year, which means that for the first time ever, the 120,000 benchmark of French tourists was broken in 2014, generating over 900,000 overnight stays and 110 million Euro worth of expenditure. Today, the French market occupies just under 7.5% of total market share of tourists to Malta. During 2014, the French market responded very favourably to MTA’s marketing campaigns. Métro and bus campaigns were held in spring, with a wave in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Nantes. A tactical campaign

at the main Paris train stations was held in June, whilst another 3-week métro campaign was held in Paris in September. These were also supplemented by digital marketing campaigns, as well as tour-operator and online travel agents' advertising. The growth and positive response was also thanks to airlines, particularly the commitment of Air Malta over the Paris route, with increased frequencies and capacities from CDG as a result of their code share agreement with Air France. Furthermore the introduction of a new route from Nantes with Transavia in summer consolidated the growth development of the market. In November 2014, some 250 travel agents of the Tourcom Travel Agency Network were hosted in Malta for their AGM. On the PR front, 2014 was a successful year, with numerous media falls appearing in leading lifestyle print publications, periodicals, national and regional newspapers, radio and TV. One of the main highlights was the broadcasting of a 52-minute TV programme called Échappée Belles on national TV, entirely dedicated to Malta. In 2015, MTA aims to consolidate and maintain its market share in France, as well as continue to work closely with

its airline and tour operator partners to ensure increased seat-load and increased tour-operator promotion and sales. It will continue to reach out to corporates and agencies to increase MICE business, as well as identify opportunities for specific market segments, specifically for diving, weekend breaks, cultural tours and EFL. Commenting on the success that the Maltese Islands and the Malta Tourism Authority have had in 2014, the MTA CEO Mr Paul Bugeja said that “we are all very satisfied with this positive performance from Malta’s core markets. These impressive results have come about due to the strong collaboration between all stakeholders”. Mr Bugeja continued by saying that while the core markets once again did well, the Maltese Islands experienced interesting growth from other markets, such as the US market which increased by 15% and the Swiss market which grew by 12%. Mr Bugeja proceeded by commenting on the future of tourism in Malta by saying that “the next challenge is to consolidate what we have achieved so far, whilst aiming to attract more high-quality tourists to Malta and that for this to happen, it is not enough for hotels alone to improve their product, but Malta’s infrastructure as a whole must continue to improve on a holistic level”.

February/March 2015


SHADING SYSTEMS Awnings - Pergolas - Heavy Duty Umbrellas For Commercial and Domestic Use

Let's Clink our Glasses

to a great success story Picture the scene—me as a 13-year-old, rather awkward and being taken to a steakhouse by my parents. We were far from steakhouse regulars but that day my father and mother wanted to entertain—and impress—a visitor from the US and for some strange reason I was dragged along. All I remember—besides being hopelessly lost in what to do, say or how to eat—was that the visiting couple had a son my age whom my father, for another of those unknown reasons, called Sonny. The magical thing I remember most was the restaurant’s name—Whisper. words: Victor Calleja

The Whisper restaurant, which later had another magical name-change to Ta’ Marija, reached the epochal mid-century last year. That a restaurant has lasted so long and is still run by the same family is a true achievement. That it went where few dared roam

is another great achievement. And all this while dishing out impressive fare. We live in an island where our gastronomy, culture, national pride and language concoct into strange, sometimes maddeningly contradictory,

ideas. Most of us are fiercely proud of being Maltese but for a long time we weren’t exactly enamoured of our language or of our cuisine. However, things are changing and we do go out of our way to retain—and renew—the old ways and the old culinary favourites.

February/March 2015


Entertainment at Ta' Marija. Marija Muscat can be seen on the right.

All proceeded well but when tourists changed from the independent and select few to bigger numbers, Ben and Maria made another move—to something wholesome but Maltese. And what Ben came up with after much thought and research was a concept which again was hardly runof-the-mill. The Ta’ Marija concept as it is today was born and flourished. Besides offering Maltese food, even the entertainment was home-grown. Some of the leading local singers and entertainers graced the Ta’ Marija restaurant and, like James Bond before them, wooed the crowd. The Ta’ Marija experience is a lively one—you get a true feeling of all we have which is Maltese. Unlike most other restaurants in Malta, nine of the twelve pages of the wine list feature Maltese wines. All popular liqueurs are available but the local ones—including a recently launched fortified wine, a ‘port’—are given particular prominence.

Back in the sixties Ben Muscat returned from studying electronics and communications in the UK—not exactly the most traditional of subjects then, as the world of instant TV, internet and communication was still undreamt of by even the best crystalball gazers.

settlers and an even bigger number of British servicemen and their families. These were Ben’s targets and, from just giving them a great watering hole, the move to a restaurant where good, succulent fare was available, was one small eureka moment in his fertile mind.

In Malta Ben was courting his future wife, Maria, and teaching electronics at what at the time was the Polytechnic, the precursor of MCAST. All was moving smoothly till one day he told Maria that he had bought a rather ramshackle bar in Mosta. Surprise and no little anger surfaced in Maria’s mind. But back then the man you loved was always right and, even if not, you followed him, so Maria accepted this and moved on.

The idea of steaks was brilliant— British people loved their steaks, especially if they were the special kind Ben and Maria started dishing out. The American fleet was also making regular visits. So even more fitting to come up with a steakhouse called Whisper, which had some connection to the James Bond films of the time. This connection was made even more lasting as one of the most successful Bond actors, Roger Moore, used to visit Malta regularly and he frequented the Whisper where he sang and cooed.

In the 60s Maltese patrons were very few but there were a number of British


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The food is typically Maltese, with fenek moqli, stuffat jew mimli (fried, stewed or stuffed rabbit), bebbux bl-aljoli (farmhouse snails), sfinec ta’ l-inċova (anchovy fritters), ravjul stil antik tad-dar (home-made ravioli), aljotta (fish soup), minestra (vegetable soup), laħam fuq il-fwar (steamed meat), klamar mimli (baked stuffed squid) and prinjolata (carnival cake; served all year round) being some of the all-time favourites. The wonderful steaks are also still available—and add something juicy to the word yummy. Ta’ Marija is today a living legend—and a real good place to visit to see what passion can do to a dream. The last secret I uncovered while speaking to the mother-son duo was that Ben Snr’s nickname is Ta’ Paroli (the talkative one). He might talk a lot and never stop—but with what he started with Maria and is now a reality was a sure sign that he is not just words and no action.

Lara, Ben Snr., Marija and Ben Jr. The name Ta’ Marija, a typical Maltese name back when names were still names and not strange concoctions of sounds or copied from Hollywood stars, reflected Maria’s pivotal role. Being given a special welcome by the actual Maria of the restaurant name was a touch of genius. And the actual Maria, the ever-smiling gracious host is still there today, looking radiant, 50 years after the first foray into hospitality by the Muscats.

'Fenek Moqli' – Traditional rabbit cooked in wine and garlic

Ben Snr has now moved out of the running and the picture and Ben Jnr has taken over with fresh blood and energy. Lara, Ben Jnr’s sister, is a great cook and taster and is spot on with her ideas of presentation and the whole food offering. Ben Jnr and his mother Maria are both very organised and calm and put great emphasis on the smooth running of the business, especially dealing with clients. So the whole family unit works perfectly together. When I meet Maria and Ben Jnr to talk of the old ways, the golden days of yesteryear and of how the business moved and moves today I love Maria’s hearty laughs about how temperamental Ben Snr is and was. Today it is all plain sailing—and planned. With her husband it was all great—organised mayhem which gave good results but was stressful.

'Aljotta Friska' – Fresh f ish and shellf ish soup

“But,” Ben the son interrupts, “his passion is what made it all happen. Together with my mother, he instilled into this venture, which has made it to

this day, the love of food and service we have always believed in. And this also worked with all the team. In fact we are the Ta’ Marija family—all of us who work here feel part of a great team and family. Without the team Maria and I and the restaurant would be nothing.” I had a meal at Ta’ Marija in the company of some good friends and we all agreed that the food is everything the Muscats told me about—genuine Maltese dishes and some pleasant surprises with Maltese gastronomy given a few twists. The ingredients are genuine and the end result is close to what most of us locals had at home, especially a few years back when time was more available for whoever cooked the meals. And yes, it was usually the mother who did that—sexist correctness had not yet hit us back then. The secret behind the genuiness of the food is that all is done as it was in the past—with slow cooking taking centre stage and no hurried harried customers dying to get on with it as fast as possible. The kitchen at Ta’ Marija is an open space so you see it all happening. And even with the place heaving with diners, there hardly seemed to be any panic or trouble brewing in the kitchen. In Maltese we use an Italian word to cheer, so I definitely clink my glass—as many others no doubt will—and say EVVIVA to another half-century of Ta’ Marija.

February/March 2015


Music to my ears To advance from a trumpet player to the man who leads the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) is no mean feat. This is what Sigmund Mifsud has achieved and he has ambitions for the MPO which are worth noting. Insider meets Sigmund Mifsud to hear what he has to say about the Orchestra’s future, its role in society and the role the hospitality industry can play to make our music and culture even better known and appreciated.

Insider: What is your role? Sigmund Mifsud: I am Chairman and CEO. As I head the board and am also responsible for putting the board’s vision into practice I am in a position to get things done. I: Isn’t that a conflict of interest? SM: Not really. We find it is more proactive and definitely gets results. I’m very happy with the way things have progressed so far. And the board is in agreement. A case in point is our relationship with MHRA. The CEO came up with an idea and I took it forward immediately—no need for unnecessary bureaucracy. Of course I take decisions and always discuss them at board level but this way forward has proved much better. I: You were a part of the orchestra, a trumpet player. Now you have moved to head the MPO. How did this work out? SM: To be honest, from what I see and hear it has worked well. I knew what the musicians felt and feel as for 15 years I was one of them. I think the gap that existed in the past has now been filled and the musicians and management pull one rope. There is better cohesion and this produces better results. We, as management, are nothing without the musicians and I have the full backing of the board when I say we have full faith in our musicians and their work.

I: How has the Philharmonic Orchestra progressed in these last years? SM: On the artistic side we have made great inroads by appointing Mro Brian Schembri as artistic director and principal conductor. He not only brings knowledge and experience but is an acknowledged and respected figure worldwide. He is a great ambassador for Malta and the MPO. We have also managed to attract visiting conductors of high calibre. And we have opened our doors to more local soloists and composers, also increasing the popularity of the orchestra. I: Are these results of the MPO tangible or is it just your feeling? SM: Feelings and what the professionals and critics say but also we have seen better numbers attending our concerts and activities at MCC and the Manoel theatre. Not only have numbers increased by about 25% but we have added more evenings for some concerts, something that hardly ever happened before. We have also added to our repertoire and have even participated in joint ventures with other organisers. This made it possible to take on work which carried more risk but, as others took the risk, we just gained the exposure and got the benefits. It’s never enough of course and we will work even harder to reach ever more people and locations.

February/March 2015


I: Orchestras and musicians thrive on exposure, not just local but also abroad. Does the MPO venture abroad? SM: That in fact was another of my dreams and I always knew it was necessary, but for 5 years when I was still a musician it never happened. Last year we went to China and played in some amazing concert halls. We played to full houses and always received standing ovations. The experience is not just good—it is necessary and also adds to our CV. I look forward, as I’m sure the rest of the orchestra do, to many more. I: Are enough Maltese taking the baton and taking up other musical instruments? SM: Not at all. Music is not seen as a profession and it is always sidelined, even in schools. More should be done there and, with cooperation from others, I hope to change, or at least to improve, the mould. It’s not just the educational system which is to blame, although I feel that we do not have enough competent teachers for a subject that needs dedication and understanding. We are now undertaking the final preparations to launch a music academy. This will not only give us better exposure to music students but also enable us to get tutors from abroad. And the youth orchestra, which now is a reality, will have even better rehearsal space and guidance. I: Is it true it is easier to get outsiders from beyond our shores to join? Is this all due to money or expertise? SM: Just as Maltese musicians are venturing abroad and gaining more exposure and experience so foreigners come here for experience. And the more our orchestra and talent get known abroad it follows that more apply to join us. This is the two-way traffic the EU opened up. We advertise and get people from abroad. What we need to do is make sure local talent keeps sprouting and being looked after so that we keep churning out the necessary numbers. As we stand, the orchestra is half Maltese and half foreign. Then of course there is the bottom line—we can train hard and find the passion but, as musicians live by their music, they need to earn their keep and if our salaries are low they do find alternative jobs or seek better rewards abroad.

I: What role does music play in tourism? How can hotels, restaurants and other hospitality front-liners increase awareness of the music scene in Malta? SM: Music needs to be more present in all things Maltese. I think more exposure to concerts, to what music is, needs to be fostered. Foreigners need to find out all about us and our work and our concerts. When we went to China for example we saw it plastered all over—culture is everywhere. And when I say music I mean music of all types, from concerts to feast marches, to rock and jazz festivals. We’ve come a long way but we can do even more. Hotels and restaurants can do more by encouraging more music on their premises and not stop the musician immediately there is a squeeze on numbers or money. Music—and entertainment—must not be treated as another sideline we can do without. It adds value and character, it adds to what we are as a nation. I: What is your dream for the MPO? SM: To have a purpose-built concert hall where we can hold our rehearsals and concerts. That would make the music scene in Malta even better. But it is a costly dream—although I believe the cost will be rendered back in bucketfuls not just culturally but even because then we could do so much more and attract so many more events. The acoustics would be improved and, when an orchestra performs in near-perfect surroundings, the concert-goer’s experience is so much more fruitful. The same can be said of the musicians who will improve their own work immensely. It’s a dream—but hopefully I’ll see it happen. I: Music is one of the most effective educational tools and unifiers—what is music to you and how can this message be taken further? SM: Music has been my life. Friendships, or most of them, in my life were and are all centred round the music scene. It has really permeated my life. And I still turn to music—of whatever type—to de-stress. Music has given me a lot and I am sure it gives a lot to many. If we keep nurturing music and expand it even as a tourist attraction we can achieve so much more. Music is the best antidote to any harm in the world and gives us all an international language which goes way beyond cultural, linguistic or geographic barriers.

Mro Brian Schembri


Sugar & Spice

and all things nice

Insider was invited to follow the words, wisdom and hearty cocktails at a recent Bols bartending academy event. The talk by Malika Saidi was not just another boring piece of “here’s a cocktail see if you can do any better” but a great dip into what makes the world of cocktails rock right now and what lies ahead. The Insider team were intrigued and blown Malika Saidi in training action

Organised by Farsons Beverage Imports (FBIC) at the Phoenicia, the Bols event was, as Malika herself said, a breezy way to pass a usually mundane, horribly wet, Monday morning. Malika is not just a good cocktail-shaker, she is also a trainer and a Bols brand ambassador and she does it all in cool style. Malika’s training was hardly alcohol-based as she initially studied to be a physiotherapist. But she moved easily from treating people for their ailments to giving people a treat with her concoctions. She even helped in setting up and launching bars, including Momo in Amsterdam. After that she was asked to join Bols as a trainer and she has done that for the last five years—travelling, giving demos and training people in what comes naturally to her as we and the rapt bartenders experienced first-hand.


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away by the new trends and new tastes.

Bols, to the uninitiated, is the world’s oldest distilled spirit brand and today produces 38 liqueur flavours in Holland, with the majority of them available in 110 countries. The history of liqueurs is interesting especially because of its own connection to healing and medicine. Spices and herbs have great medicinal properties which were back then put into alcohol to preserve and extract the flavours and so add to the medicinal effect. This herbal medicine, together with the accompanying alcohol and added sugar to make it more palatable, was served as a tonic. After a few experiments and trials the tonic didn’t only work to restore health but gave a great kick to the imbiber. From that to the production of liqueurs was one easy step which Bols have been doing—to great applause from the leading barmen and consumers of the world—ever since 1575.

In the 16th Century spices and herbs were rather difficult to obtain and the world’s biggest—or costliest— trades mainly consisted of these ingredients from the East. Even wars—the spice wars—were fought over the trading and ownership of countries and passage-ways that gave the West this much-needed commodity. Today these wars are a thing of the past but sourcing the best ingredients has remained topmost in the manufacture of liqueurs by Bols. In the 17th Century Lucas Bols took over the distillery and turned this Dutch company, which supplied the locals with their needs, into an international one. While in the past it was the west which dictated dominant tastes, tastes and special mixtures are now catered for in different countries.

Asia loves its teas, which probably explains why this is the second most consumed liquid worldwide after water. Bols has actually developed a tea-based liqueur for the Asian market and a yogurt one for the Chinese market. Malika Saidi also discussed what is now trending around the world, adding more than a bit of sparkle and spunk in this ever-evolving market. She spotlighted two new liqueurs which are gaining a lot of interest in bars, an elderflower-based one and a honey-based one. During her presentation she also mixed a few cocktails using these liqueurs and the knowing nods and smiles from the audience seems to have given the thumbs-up to these new additions to the Bols stable of drinks. Here are some of the trends which are taking over the world of cocktails: Turn down the base. These cocktails are less intense in alcohol but with more punch in the way they are prepared. This low ABV (alcohol by volume) ensures that more cocktails can be consumed with less inebriation. The experience lasts longer. Carbonating cocktails are light, aromatic and add intense flavour. They come ready and need no ice, no perishables—just give out the bottle and that’s it. Less theatre maybe but for some bars like the White Lyan in London they are creating a real buzz. Tea Mixology. Coffee has long featured in cocktails but now tea is taking centre stage too, no longer associated with old age and doddering fools who can’t drink anything more potent. Tea has been discovered as another good ingredient for a cocktail with a taste that lasts. Savoury Cocktails. With more health-conscious ideas taking over the

The audience at the Bols event world of gastronomy there is a marked crossover between the bar and the kitchen. It’s becoming trendier to have heathier food and healthier drinks— with ingredients that are in season and available. More ingredients like carrots, peas and beetroot are going into the mix of cocktails, making them even more imaginative and colourful besides healthy. Less sugar is also a new idea taking over. Aging Cocktails. There are three approaches to this—barrel, bottle or leather aging. Some of these involve quite a bit of work and dedication but aficionados will be truly impressed. They add not just zest to the concoctions but also history. Pop-up bars. These are mushrooming quite a lot all over the world. The attraction—besides the mobility—is that they are not permanent and so offer something exciting because it ends. Frank’s Campari Bar in London on a car-park is one sure success story, especially because of its strange location. There are even pop-up bars on location—a bar in a bar. Conceptual Cocktails tell a story and pack much more than just good looks and good taste. Drinking needs to be an

experience and, for the experience to be long-lasting and successful, the theatre part of it is paramount. Concepts like memory, nationality, and interpreting food experiences into cocktails are all part of this great and innovative way. It needs more inventiveness than just preparing a good drink but the concept, if well-executed, is a very memorable experience. Malika’s interpretation of Harira, the traditional Moroccan soup, was a good example of what conceptual cocktails can be. The preparation was also worth noting as she poured the ingredients with a good nod to the theatrical that is used by Moroccans to prepare their food. Malika is half Moroccan and half Dutch so she fused the two into this concoction—the coriander, the cinnamon, the tomato from Morocco blended perfectly with the Bols Genever. Drinking the Harira was lighter than the food but the aroma, the spiciness was there and remained for a long time after it was consumed. Malika Saidi managed to distil her passion on a wet Monday morning. Thank you Malika and thank you Bols: cocktails and liqueurs and their presentation will never be the same for us at Insider.

February/March 2015


Distributed locally by Charles Grech & Co. Ltd., Valley Road, Birkirkara. Tel: 2144 4400 – Distributed locally by Charles Grech & Co. Ltd., Valley Road, Birkirkara. Tel: 2144 4400 – Distributed locally by Charles Grech & Co. Ltd., Valley Road, Birkirkara. Tel: 2144 4400 –


and the Mediterranean

Emirates had its first flight to Malta in March 1998, and our country is among the earlier European countries to have been served by Emirates. It was their 8th European country and the 41st destination. Today their network spans over 148 destinations in 83 countries, thus linking Malta yet more strongly to the world. Insider meets Paul Fleri Soler, Emirates Manager for Malta to find out about the fast-growing airline's plans and objectives for its Malta hub.

February/March 2015


Insider: Business as usual? Or a strategic shift? Is Malta perceived as just another destination or does Malta have specific strategic importance? Why? Paul Fleri Soler: Emirates provides opportunities to business and leisure travellers in Malta to seamlessly connect daily to Emirates’ worldwide network through its Dubai hub, particularly to eastbound destinations, including the Middle East, Far East and Australia. Emirates operates a daily scheduled flight between Malta and Dubai via Larnaca, Cyprus. I can say that we have a healthy mix of business travellers to and from Malta, and leisure travellers to or from Malta visiting Dubai or onward destinations. We are also the main airline providing great connectivity to the thousands of Maltese emigrants in Australia.

I: What specific value is Emirates providing to the tourism industry in Malta? PFS: Every air link the world over assists tourism and trade. Emirates has brought considerable economic benefits here in Malta. Emirates passengers to Malta originate from the Middle East and Asia and the highest percentage from Australia. The airline operates to Malta with a mix of Airbus A330-200 and Boeing 777s to meet the growing passenger and cargo demand and also to boost trade support. More streams of revenue to businesses from our operations in Malta include: 15 rooms daily of 5-star crew accommodation; crew transportation from airport to hotel and vice-versa; chauffeur service for First Class and Business Class passengers; catering supplies of 300 meals a day on average; fuel, ground handling and other office related services in Malta. Malta being served with a daily flight to/from Dubai, the opportunities of developing new source markets are endless. Our network nowadays spans over 140 destinations so this offers great connectivity to the island.

I: What can you tell us about Emirates’ presence, objectives and commitments towards the Mediterranean region? Is Emirates’ presence in Malta aimed to leverage the fact that Malta is located so centrally within the Mediterranean? If so, how is it doing so? PFS: Emirates’ objectives and commitments are the same across the six continents where it operates. Both on the ground and in the air, our aim is to provide the best possible experience for our customers. Emirates already has a very well-established and growing network around the whole Mediterranean region, spanning all southern Europe, North Africa and also the eastern Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region certainly plays a very crucial part in the success of the airline.

I: Is the tourism industry in the Mediterranean very competitive for passenger airlines? If so, how would it be possible for competing countries to collaborate?

"Both on the ground and in the air, our aim is to provide the best possible experience for our customers."


February/March 2015

PFS: Emirates operates from its hub in Dubai to Malta, and it also services east bound travellers. Like the tourism industry, the airline industry is extremely competitive. As I mentioned earlier, Emirates already covers the vast Mediterranean region

with daily and sometimes even two or three daily flights to certain destinations. An example is Rome where we offer three flights a day, two of them operated by our flagship Airbus 380. Besides providing connectivity, Emirates prides itself on its onboard and ground products. Forums of collaboration between Emirates and other airlines operating in the region already exist. For example we collaboarte with EasyJet, which has a vast network all around Europe. Emirates Skywards members are able to redeem their miles on EasyJet flights.

I: Tourism in the Mediterranean is envisaged to grow to around 500 million tourists by the year 2030, up from around 320 million at present. What is your vision for Emirates in capturing a significant share of that growth? PFS: Emirates growth has been on the increase ever since the airline started operations. By 2020 Emirates anticipates that it will carry some 70 million passengers to more than 180 destinations. I am sure many of the above passengers will travel to or from the Mediterranean region.

"By 2020 Emirates anticipates that it will carry some 70 million passengers to more than 180 destinations."

I: How vital is the Mediterranean region’s health to European tourism? Do you see Emirates enjoying an important role? How does this fit in with your airline’s strategy and objectives? PFS: Tourism is a very sensitive industry. In times of peace and tranquillity tourism flourishes, whereas, in times of wars, political unrest and natural disasters, it suffers. Airlines play a vital role in the tourism performance of any region, so having a healthy Mediterranean region is essential for Emirates and all other airlines. The Mediterranean and the whole European region is of vital importance to Emirates, with over 444 flights a week.

I: Emirates has seen stellar growth since inception in the 1980s, achieving a highly enviable reputation and market share position. What secrets of your success can you share to help Malta develop its position in the Mediterranean tourism industry? PFS: Emirates is very proud of what it has achieved to date. Besides the ever-growing network that operates through its hub, Dubai, the airline has invested heavily in its onboard and ground products and continues to do so. Maintaining one’s edge by consistently offering innovative products of a high standard is very positive and will undoubtedly produce good results.

Mini-pods in Business Class on Emirates A380

February/March 2015


The Gentleness

of a Blue Elephant

Victor Calleja

I was once at a social gathering where all was chic and right. The drinks were multi-coloured,

the dresses glitzy, the atmosphere electric. I felt truly out of place, a hanger-on, but I battled on.

Then I overheard a conversation which intrigued me. Someone said that elephants were calm and collected animals which prompted someone else to shoot this down and say that elephants are

deadly. Both sets of nostrils flared and the electric atmosphere was turning explosive. I have no

clue what elephants do or how deadly their bulk is but what I know for sure is that one Elephant in Malta is Blue and is a restaurant which sets standards for food on the island.

Since I am hardly glitzy or electric, when I go out for a meal I look for somewhere which makes me feel good not just thanks to the food but the entire experience. If the service or the welcome are lousy or the toilet facilities stink, I cannot enjoy my food, even if it is laced with the best stuff in the world.

world away from all around—you feel enveloped by serenity. You waft in and are greeted by these ever-gentle, softspoken people who lead you to your table. This is a place where even the voluble turn down their decibel level because the atmosphere is conducive to whispering and pampering.

The Blue Elephant somehow manages to tick most boxes in any contest or context. When you enter the world of the restaurant—yes it is like a

However no pampering is enough to win over a diner if the food is not up to scratch. And the food at the Blue Elephant is rather more than that.

The Blue Elephant offers Thai food and I believe blue is the colour of the Thai flag, which could explain the name, but who cares what it is named after? Waiting for our food and being dazzled by the surrounding foliage, stream and colours, we discussed the aptness of the name. We toyed with the idea that it could be because it’s a once-in-a-bluemoon occurrence to find such a place away from Thai shores.

February/March 2015











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In the same way how many times would most of us Europeans see an elephant unless in a sad cage or in film? And even if we had to see many elephants how many of them would be bluish? We waited just a few minutes— enough to settle in comfortably and glance all around. Then we were given menus and offered a drink. The mainly Thai employees tiptoe around graciously and are constantly at hand without being obtrusive. You hardly realise they are there but although the whole restaurant is big you never wait for more than a few seconds before all your needs are seen to. My, wife who adores the quiet, was mesmerised by me more than ever—I was soft-spoken and loved the scene. Yes, she seemed to be thinking, miracles do happen down at the Blue Elephant.

We ordered at our own pace and far from being rushed or pressurised. If heaven is run by Thais it must undoubtedly be the perfect place. My wife is vegetarian and the menu has a section just for un-lovers of anything meaty or fishy. Her choice was vast, as was to be expected from a people who love their greens. What fascinates me about anything Thai is how they manage—unlike most western cuisines—to go into the intricate, blending their spices and aromas in perfect fusion. The whole sensation is of a myriad of tastes all blending like gastronomic magic. No one flavour predominates and the senses—not just taste—are well served. The presentation, both of the food and the servers, is immaculate. Feelings of serenity and royal treatment spring to mind. We ate our fill, we drank the scene in and we both agreed that this Blue Elephant is definitely a good one to have on our island.


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Giving Soul to Wine

There are some parts of our life which we never question: Swiss time-keeping, the dryness of

English humour, the organisational strength of the Germans. The silliness of some politicians

made in Italy is another given which we all accept with hardly a blink, along with other staples like the dolce vita of all things Italian. The language from the nearby peninsula is so melodious that even to non-speakers it sounds like poetry or song. One of the words that, to me, evokes something magical is Zonin, an Italian name closely connected to all things vinous.

February/March 2015


I know, or thought I knew, the Zonin range of wines reasonably well. I have always loved the taste, which varies from the light and fruity to the more intricate. I have toasted a few occasions with their gorgeously sparkling Prosecco. But I wanted to learn more about them so I went in search of some wine-lore at the World of Wines in Ta’ Xbiex. Close to beautiful buildings and yachts, World of Wines is a showcase of wines, spirits and snacks from all over the globe. And in pure Charles Grech style the design is easy on the eye and easily leads you to feel relaxed which is what most of us need most of the time. Talking in near-perfect English, which somewhat disappointed me as I love English spoken with that Italian lilt, was Giovanni Tasco, the Zonin man from Naples. He is Export Area manager at Casa Vinicola Zonin

for East Europe, North Europe, the Mediterranean Region and Africa and, like most Italians, especially Neapolitans, he has besides his blood pure passion running in his veins. This Neapolitan might also have some wine running in those veins because he doesn’t just talk of wine he captivates you.

of the wine enhances that art. And knowledge and knowing more of the land, the composition of the soil and the surroundings will not change the taste but will make us more alert to the nuances, the depth, the colourings and the smells. All together this gives us a more refined, more appreciative way of drinking.

Learning about wines is like learning about art. We all have eyes to admire a great painting, just as we all have taste buds to let the wine do much of the talking. But if an expert gives his interpretation of the painting, then each brushstroke becomes important and the more you learn about art the more you can sit back and relish each piece of art.

The vintner needs to know his land, his vines and when and what to harvest for us mortals to appreciate the richness and the fullness of the vine. The more we know about the way the process is followed and why, the more we can sit back and enjoy the fruits of the wondrous grape.

In the case of wine, the taste reveals the land, the sun, the breezes and the soil that give us the masterpieces of the vine. Nature itself is the best artist but each step in the production

The atmosphere at World of Wines is congenial to enjoyment—and while Tasco talked there were yachts-people, business associates, restaurateurs and media people all mingling while enjoying the wine and snacks.

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The day after the tasting I again met our man from Zonin at another of the Charles Grech outlets—this time at their iconic café in Valletta. Tasco was accompanied by Zoran Crncevic the Charles Grech expert on wine. If it wasn’t for his impossible-topronounce surname the man could easily be the ideal guide to much more than wine. Wine flowed anew while we ate and discussed wine and Italy. Nothing could be better to relax and to see the Valletta crowd thronging at the café which never sleeps. And the more I heard the more I liked the masterpieces—all things Italian and all things Zonin. The Zonin family owns the largest privately-owned winery in Italy and has been making wines since 1821. But the real revolution happened in 1921 when Domenico developed his family’s lands and vineyards and created Casa Vinicola Zonin. Because of this huge connection to the land that gives the wine, the family considers the produce not just a means to sell more bottles and add to their revenue but as a gift of nature. Casa Vinicola Zonin has around 2000 hectares supervised by a team of 32 oenologists and agronomists, as well as another 2000 hectares of land around the vineyards. This land is in nine estates situated in Italy’s seven finest wine regions. Zonin has even moved further afield, into the New World, with an estate in Virginia.

Giovanni Tasco and Zoran Crncevic Sicily is a great producer of wines, with their Deliella Nero D’Avola which carries a fine bouquet, full-bodied and rich in taste. And, while the land in Sicily is hardly rich in water, the ecological side of the Zonin family has ensured it is self-sufficient by creating a lake to add to the natural magic.

This is how the world of wine will evolve even more not just by sticking to the traditional but by opening up to the new, to the adventurous, to going far afield.

The same can be said of all the wines from all the different regions and all of them are developed and nurtured for their singularity, their uniqueness. Beyond the vineyards in the Veneto where it all started Zonin acquired an estate in Friuli, then the Castello d’Abola where the Chianti classico comes from.

What distinguishes Zonin is that all the different estates are chosen personally by the president Gianni Zonin, specifically for their terroir.

Other regions were constantly searched and acquired and wine classics were either added or developed. The estate in Piedmont

gave the Moscato, Saluto Puglia the Primitivo di Manduria, the Tenuta Ca Bolani in Friuli gave the Sauvignon and the Pinot Grigio and from San Giminiano near Tuscany the Abbazi Monte gave the winery the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The Zonins also protect the biodiversity of all their lands, wherever possible replanting woodlands and shrubs, thus making the zone a haven for local flora and fauna. Meeting Giovanni Tasco and hearing him impressed my mind and soul as I went back to work with an easier smile than usual. The taste of good wine, long after I drank it lingered in my mind and is now even more embedded in my soul.

February/March 2015


Distinctly Mediterranean

Peter Borg

Malta, with its limitations of size and resources, has had a most amazing story since it

achieved its independence just over half a century ago. The country flourished in many sectors, reinvented itself, had its downs and also had—has, and will have—a few niggling problems. Sometimes it is difficult to believe what this nation and its people have achieved.

When a local brand is launched abroad and it starts making its presence felt, this is even more impressive. Bortex, which came into being the same year as Malta’s independence in 1964,

has had a chequered history. It has changed, evolved and moved on. And today it boasts the

Gagliardi brand which is finding its own niche in the clothing world in Malta and also abroad. “It’s never an easy thing to launch and sustain a brand in the very crowded and ever-changing field of clothing,” Peter Borg tells Insider, “but we have managed to make inroads, get noticed and we are now winning respect. We also have

managed to build a good reputation not just for good Mediterranean style, but also quality.” Peter Borg is Managing Director at Bortex and sits on a board which includes Karen Bugeja, his sister.

Peter’s and Karen’s father, Sunny, started it all by first importing various textile products, then moving into manufacturing. The move to denim and jeans was easy, and labour for this work was quite readily available without being too costly.

February/March 2015


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Then in the late 60s, Sunny Borg had one of those important but quite fortuitous meetings with a Dutch businessman called Van Gils. This was the turning point for Bortex—from jeans it moved to producing suits, and the name Bortex has since become synonymous with fine tailoring. Throughout the years, there were different places to relocate to, and there were also great changes in the business model adopted by Bortex, but throughout, the main staying power of the company was the suit. Bortex went from high-level mass production with less manual intervention, to what it does today—a top-end garment which is of the highest quality. It now operates on a more specialised, more upmarket level not just for its own brand—Gagliardi—but also for top names like Hackett, Cerruti, Rochas and Zegna. The manufacturing arm is no longer in Malta, but everything else from design, planning of production, shipping, marketing and sales, to branding and franchising, happens from the Bortex offices in Malta. Online presence and online sales are growing rapidly and everything is coordinated locally. The knowledge base is here—making sure all outlets scattered all over the globe from Malta to Ireland, Sweden, Serbia, Russia and England have sufficient superb garments. The Gagliardi brand is dubbed “Distinctly Mediterranean”, and this is what it truly represents—style meets quality in an easy, and comfortable, line. Besides suits, which it specializes in, the Gagliardi line includes anything from ties to shoes, to leather goods and cardigans. All come with the same distinctive branding, and can be found in leading department stores or franchised outlets. Peter Borg pays tribute to his father who had the vision to start the company.

From the Gagliardi Autumn/Winter 2014 Collection

February/March 2015


Even now that his father is 89 years old, Peter still discusses with him all new projects and avenues the company pursues. And, with the company entering international markets and finding its own niche, Peter admits that his father, far from telling him to hold on and move slowly, actually encourages him to take great strides. Without risk, his father always said, everything stagnates. When Sunny Borg started roaming the world in search of suppliers, contacts and clients, he was nicknamed "il gagliardo" by his Italian friends and business acquaintances. The word roughly translates as strong, robust, sure of himself. And the name was a fitting one for the fledgling Bortex brand—Gagliardi—which had to be developed and exported, before finding its own robust space in the clothing world. The name also gives a nod to nostalgia—to the founder’s nickname in Italy, the place where style and craftsmanship are as revered as they are by Bortex and Gagliardi. When Insider meets Peter Borg the feeling is relaxed, but all around is an atmosphere of neatness, exactitude and a definite agenda. This is to be expected as the Bortex GM has to deal with so many ongoing developments. His son Sam is now fully on board, handling the internationalisation of the brand. The idea of going international with a strong brand and concept draws an interesting parallel with MHRA. Like Bortex, MHRA is a locally established and recognisable name, which is now striving to go beyond our shores. The idea of the Mediterranean forum and academy was, according to Peter Borg, a great and bold decision. Borg believes we always have to look beyond our shores—not just to learn and add to our knowledge, but also to expand our potential.


February/March 2015

“I feel,” Borg tells Insider, “that Malta is ideally placed. We are smack in the middle of the Mediterranean and perfectly placed, culturally, to be able to act as communicators between the different countries. We can make things happen, and we have had a rich history linking us to many countries, many people. The MHRA is ideal to be a catalyst for all that the Mediterranean can offer.

Putting our country and its varied attractions more on the map for people from far-off China, Russia and other fast-emerging countries, is highly commendable. Borg cites his own experience with these countries—Bortex is in deep discussion to open a Gagliardi store in China, and it already has a 450-square metre store in Russia through a franchisee.

“I see other parallels besides our local success and the MHRA’s—even our age is quite similar. But more than anything, I see the MHRA as a good way of finding new partners, new ventures with other countries and other associations. We collaborated with partners far and wide, and are still doing so. And if one keeps quality and the offering high, size does not matter. If one puts size as the be-all and end-all, we would not compete on any level. But Malta as a country, and Bortex as a company—as well as MHRA as an association—have moved on and not let size be an impediment. In fact, our smallness makes us nimble and fast learners—what other big entities sometimes fail to see, we grab as ideal opportunities.”

Malta has a good name, and Bortex is gaining from this connection, unlike a few decades ago when the islanders tried—or indeed were even asked—to hide that anything originated from Malta. Malta, and anything connected to it, now adds prestige to the product, and to the island as a destination.

Malta, according to Borg, has a unique offering, which the MHRA is doing well to emphasise and work on.

As a tourist attraction, the same is happening and more should be done with combo-holidays in different destinations in the Mediterranean, according to Borg. Nothing happens easily, and nothing can remain the same—this is why Bortex, like MHRA, loves the challenge of the new, the untrodden paths. To move on, to embrace new ideas, is the way to go. Value lies in nodding to the past, by using the knowledge acquired to go boldly forward.

The hotel man from Finland Insider meets Sam-Erik Ruttmann, an expert in the hospitality field who has been involved in the line for 43 years. The Ruttmann-Malta connection is now well and truly established. He was instrumental in setting up, together with Brian Farrugia, a Maltese-Finnish Business Chamber of Commerce. Brian Farrugia has been nominated as President and Ruttmann is the Vice President looking after the Tourism and Hospitality sectors. We meet and discuss Malta, hospitality and the way forward.

It is always good news to hear of people who have moved up the ladder from deep down the rungs. Anyone who says he can’t move up needs to listen to Ruttmann who started off working as a lowly receptionist with little or no responsibility and ended up regional vice-president in Dubai of a major hotel group. The responsibilities sound daunting and covered such aspects as making new contacts and attracting brands to the Middle East as well as getting the management teams ready for the opening of top hotels. Top names like Dusit International and The Langham in Hong Kong are some of the places Ruttmann has worked for. Just over a year ago he moved back to Finland after 30 years away from his homeland. Now he intends using his expertise and knowledge in the hospitality field to add value to hotel-owners all over the


February/March 2015

globe. His company offers creative hospitality ideas, ideas which are part of his long connections with hotels and other trades. Ruttmann is a relaxed, very easygoing person with a very Nordic way of looking at things—cool, calm and high on the deliverables. He has also learnt different ways of doing business in different parts of the world and that is where he excels: adapting to the style of the land and the partners concerned. His main attribute is that he is now experienced enough to discover what a hotel owner’s vision is and find the right hotel company to fit that vision. He then proceeds to ensure that this connection remains working seamlessly, or as seamlessly as possible. This is Ruttmann through and through—he talks bluntly and moves on.

He is enthusiastic about all that Malta offers. His words about our treasures, our sites and our weather are all very positive. He finds the food superlative—he tells Insider that he has had some great food in great places. The bread we produce he feels is just the best in the world. One word of advice from him here is that we should all look after our traditional Maltese loaf and make it more available. It is these savoury details that make a nation that much more important on the world map. The big picture is important but to him the details, so well represented by the ħobża Maltija, will win us more recognition. Ruttmann believes the way forward is to be different, be local and be very refined in all details. The big picture— the sites, the sea, the sun, the food in general—are important but they can be found in many other destinations.

Zooming in on the particular— even sometimes on the peculiar, the unique—is what will add value for the new discerning traveller. Travellers today are more demanding in their experience. They want it their way and this is where he finds our hotels, restaurants and other sites somewhat lacking. The new wave of traveller is doing it all online but the local presence online still lags somewhat behind. Ruttmann, ever so diplomatic and exact, corrects himself and says it isn’t lagging actually but the online presence is not prevalent enough. Finnair is scheduled to start flying to Malta, opening up new opportunities for the Finns. But, beyond Finland, this could also be a great stepping-stone for travellers from China, Korea and Japan.

Ruttmann runs, a hospitality consultancy company, whose mission is to help clients maximize the potential of their hospitality assets. Ruttmann speaks about the perennial story-telling that should be our staple, our forte. We have a great story to tell and we should tell it. Pilgrimages and the way the religious story of these islands which spans so many millennia can be told and retold is a fabulous way forward for our tourism. Product Malta is good but if we package it better, turn it into one long weaving story, we can attract even more quality, high-end travellers who want to be fascinated. And Malta to Sam-Erik Ruttmann is way more than fascinating.

Sam-Erik Ruttmann

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The great lens-man words: Victor Calleja

In life there are, thankfully, many things

that intrigue and baffle us. We are

inspired by different moods, thoughts

and sights. This is what makes our world

interesting, electrifying and positive even

with its downs. To some of us words are

all-important while others find a picture


by Mic h

a el C a


more embracing, more involving. Making

pictures talk, telling us more of a story than

what is presented in a photo is an enviable talent. Having this talent when still very

young is even more of a feat. I meet Sean

Mallia and discuss life, work, the future, art

and the art of food.

Sean Mallia’s work is on the Insider cover and he has been the main photographer of Insider covers for a number of editions. His work can also be seen in Malta’s other leading publications, the best websites and other media. Mallia is in big demand and his visual work in the fields of gastronomy and architecture are becoming legendary. Are words like talent and legendary too superlative for a man who is just 26? Maybe—and I, a scribbler and rather lacking in photographic knowledge—might be the wrong person to say them. But if I am wrong can the leading restaurants, coffee

shops and design studios of Malta be so wrong too? Besides taking photos of food he also shoots architecture and his photo of the Valletta lift has been used, in its rising glory, on the cover of a leading architectural magazine abroad. Besides having an eye which impresses, he is adept at various other things. Apart from being a photographer, he is a student of architecture and very involved in student organisations, even occupying for some time the post of President of SACES, the architectural student body. He was also the PRO in the top student body, the KSU (Kunsill Studenti Universitarji).

He lives three full lives managing the different aspects of his life extremely well, stretching time by sleeping less than he should. He meets many people in the food as well as the design industry and remains ever-ready to smile. Not an easy thing to do, especially when he has to beat sometimes seemingly impossible deadlines. One of the first things I ask Mallia is about food. Is he just a shooter of food or a food faddie? He smiles and says that food gives him more than the clichéd kick—he thrives on it. So I prod him on: “did you go into food photography to get food thrown in as a reward?”

February/March 2015


“It does help of course,” quips Mallia. But food and its essence, how to get it right, how to see it right, how to make it whet anyone’s palate, is what makes it all so much fun for him. He loves the madness of the food preparation and the idea that the photos will tantalise people and make them want to experience the real thing. Food is alive but to Mallia so is photography. He considers it scandalous when photography lies, when what you see is not what you get on your plate.

photo by Michael Calleja

Photography to Mallia has nothing to do with trickery. Just as chefs prepare food well and the presentation is superb that is also what a photo session should be: it should reflect the truth. The same can be said for people and buildings—his other great passion in photography. The angles, the lighting, the twists in the subjects, captured in different modes, are all important but the essence is what is real not what is imagined.

The angles, the lighting, the twists in the subjects, captured in different modes, are all important but the essence is what is real not what is imagined.

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Talk of truth and reality gets me to ask Mallia what he considers his most important role: photography, architecture or food? Mallia’s smile turns slightly to a grimace. He doesn’t want to get classified. To him anything is of interest, especially if it concerns design, and not necessarily on film. It can be interior design, graphic design or architectural. All design, all detail is what gets him going but he doesn’t wish to fit into any pigeon-hole. In fact he does not put it beyond him to one day get hold of all he has done, all the photos he has taken, and throw them all away to start with a tabula rasa. He sees my look of concern and assures me my work and that of all his clients will be stored safely but where he will end up, what he wants to do, is forever changing. One thing I always notice in Sean Mallia is that he never sits still—he is definitely not a static man. Even while

February/March 2015


Interiors at Dar il-Bniet

photo: Paul Borg Olivier

The photo which started it all

Sean being interviewed by the editor Victor Calleja

Shoot for Marks and Spencer campaign

Interiors at Harbour Club, Valletta

Alex and Pippa Mattei's kitchen

Photo of Barrakka Lift commissioned by Architecture Project

Table setting at The Harbour Club

Molecular food photography

Madeleine Baldacchino wearing Luke Azzopardi

being interviewed he flits from one thing to another—his mind is full of plans, full of projects, full of thoughts. He never shoots down any ideas and all to him is possible, all can be fitted in.

I expected him to reply that only a professional eye is good but his response baffles me although it makes absolute sense. In fact he says he loves it—loves the capture-a-moment-atall-costs attitude society has today. “It might not be art but the capturing of so many acts, so many different snaps, makes it all great. We live in an age where the moment, the instant is king. I love this.”

in his mind and when he saw the photo printed he was hooked. The need to take shots of inanimate or animate objects was born then, even if he didn’t realise this for a long time.

“But,” I further ask him, “isn’t this debasing all things photographic?” Mallia definitely doesn’t think so—in fact he believes it leads many others to take photos professionally, even if not commercially. The digital revolution has made photography instant and available. It’s also a good commentary on our life—we don’t just eat the food we see in front of us, we shoot it and show it off. Part of it might be narcissistic but most of it is great sharing of memories, of experiences.

His dream is to set up a visual studio that groups a number of creative people from all the visual arts. He wishes to head it himself of course. His ambition, even if positive and tied to reality, knows no bounds. He’s obsessive about detail in anything and wants to be top in all he does and tries to overcome any obstacles that might stop him from reaching his very high bar. I have seen his perfectionism work in various jobs he did for Insider but, unlike some creative people, he knows how to listen and evaluate advice and he will actually change his chosen way if he is convinced.

I realise I must not try pinning him down so I ask him what he considers more important—the food prepared or the preparer? His look is now beatific—I think it’s because he loves the whole concept of chefs. He says “both but a bit more emphasis on the chef ”. He mentions a great chef who is Maltese and is controversial but says that if he—the chef not the photographer—had to fry an egg it would be interesting and loved. People would want to taste it not because it was just an egg but because the master chef had worked his magic on it. If anyone else fried the egg it would just be a bland old egg. So yes, the creator is important—a most important ingredient in all the food equation. He then goes on to say the same thing about buildings and I ask him if the photographer’s eyes are as important as the subject. “Not just as but yes, the one making the building possible or taking the photo, is vitally important.” I ask Mallia what he thinks of the new wave of photography—the insistent persistent who need to have photos taken of anything at any time.

What moved him to get into photography is my next question. His father had a camera—pre-digital age and for that time quite a good one and one of the first things he remembers seeing his father doing with his camera was taking a photo of a lizard. The action of the photographer and the subject fascinated him. The image of both remained imprinted

Marvin Gauci, celebrity chef

Mallia considers each new shoot the most exciting one as he never wants his work to be mundane and the same. If that ever happened he would pack it all in.

Mallia is a man with a mission—not necessarily to change the world but to be part of the revolution to let good design rule us. Keep an eye on Sean Mallia, the young man with keen eyes and set goals who knows his worth but whose feet are firmly stuck to the ground.

February/March 2015


Sweet construction in Dubai Most of us find chocolate a wondrously uplifting part of life. Some also believe that chocolate offers health benefits. The cocoa bean has given civilised man and woman more to talk about by enjoying it in various modes. One aspect of chocolate that is rather surprising is its use as a building material. Andrew Farrugia knows his chocolate well through his work as a leading patissier and ITS lecturer. But his mission in life is way beyond just dishing out chocolate surprises on a plate. He builds trains, pianos, and all sorts of gorgeous and fascinating things— all with his favourite chocolate. Insider catches up with Andrew so that he can tell us more about his latest artwork: a chocolate reproduction of the world’s tallest building.

Andrew Farrugia by The Burj Khalija chocolate replica Chocolate supplied by Maltos Company Ltd


February/March 2015

I: What kind of chocolate did you use? AF: It was created with the same Belgian chocolate I used for the train in Brussels, Belcolade. It's a couverture chocolate which is in great demand.

A tough job from start to finish, it was a great team effort to finish the project and put it on display.

I: Is such a project sponsored? AF: Obviously something of these dimensions requires plenty of support. I was given support by the Parliamentary Secretary for Culture the Hon Dr Jose Herrera, Mr. Michael Conway, agent and importer of Belcolade and Puratos products, Mr. Henry Mifsud, Executive Director of ITS and Mr. Radwan Mouselli and Walid El Dana from Belcolade in Dubai and Brussels respectively. Without them and their assistance there would have been no chocolate replica of the tallest building in the world.

Insider: You were asked to construct the biggest building in chocolate. What led to this? Andrew Farrugia: I came up with the idea of creating the highest chocolate structure after I had built the longest structure two years ago in Brussels. It was a personal challenge although I was also encouraged by some friends to go for it.

I: You also teach at ITS. How do the students react to your projects? AF: I always enjoy having students assist me and I try to give them the opportunity to see how things are made. Three former students, Jamie Cini, Adreana Scerri and Braden Schembri, dedicated a lot of time to help me construct this building.

I: How big is it? How much does it weigh? AF: The final height was registered at 13.53 metres, which is approximately 4½ storeys high. The engineers and architects of Dubai Airport made us move the first part we had erected as they feared that the area would not support the weight. The weight was registered as 4200 kilos.

I: How was it transported? AF: That presented a huge logistical challenge. I built the structure out of about 10,000 hand-cut pieces which I had worked on before and built all the sections. Each part was placed on a wooden pallet then put into wooden boxes. All this was then placed in a 40-foot refrigerated container and shipped to Dubai. On arrival it was placed in a warehouse owned by the Baqer Mohebi Group which assisted me with all the logistics in Dubai. The next and final stop was Dubai airport. It was erected on site with the use of 6 lifting machines. A tough job from start to finish but the end result was more than worthwhile. It was a great team effort to finish it and put it on display. Besides the people who assisted in logistics, sponsorship and with the work itself, my brother David was instrumental in putting the pieces together.

I: Interesting although obviously recommendable that engineers came into it. Had you at initial planning stage asked for professional help or advice about the whole structure? AF: I did get advice from an architect friend of mine, but the entire design and plans were done by me. Most of my work actually entails designs and plans and the planning stage, especially for such a big project, is crucial. I have always found planning interesting and intriguing. In fact before I went into food preparation I had toyed with the idea of becoming an architect. So I went from buildings to chocolate to buildings yet again. I: Why Dubai? AF: The idea was to replicate in chocolate the highest structure and as Burj Khalifa is currently the world's tallest, I chose that. We were invited to place it in Terminal 3, in the main departure lounge at Dubai Airport and my agent and I grabbed the opportunity. Having my creation seen by so many passing travellers was a dream come true.

I: How did the foreign media treat the chocolate building? AF: All the major media in the United Arab Emirates carried a report about this chocolate building. A TV crew from National Geographic was also intrigued and the station will be featuring a programme about it. I: What do you plan to do next? AF: I have been commissioned to create a sculpture at the main train station in Toronto, Canada. My next dream is to have an exhibition of refined chocolate sculptures at the Louvre in Paris in the near future.

February/March 2015


Inside the News Hotel Juliani tops the bill Boutique Hotel Juliani in St. Julian’s has won the coveted number one position in the Top 10 Hotels in Malta category of the 2015 TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards. For the 13th year, TripAdvisor has highlighted the world’s top properties based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from travellers around the globe. More about Hotel Juliani and how they constantly achieve a good placing with TripAdvisor in the next issue of Insider.

Giant step for Malta-based hotel-group Malta’s renowned hotel brand Corinthia Group (International Hotel Investments), which has a number of properties both locally and overseas, recently announced that it has plans to buy the Radisson group (Island Hotels Group Holdings p.l.c.) in a takeover deal. This is the first time two publicly-listed companies have merged in this way. The move also places the group in a much stronger position abroad. Corinthia announced that following discussions with a significant majority of shareholders of Island Hotels Group Holdings p.l.c. (IHGH), it has entered into a conditional agreement with a view to merging the assets and operations of IHGH within those of IHI through the acquisition by IHI of IHGH.

February/March 2015


A member of the VJ Salomone Group of Companies

25 years providing systems to the top restaurants in Malta Point of Sale Systems • Complete solution with handheld terminals • • Huge clients' database ideal for delivery service


Tel: 21442123 Fax: 21442128 Joe Gasan Street, Pieta PTA1410

Medina wins the top prize in its 50th year There was dead silence when Lisa Grech was about to announce the overall victor at the Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants Awards Ceremony. Then a resounding scream from the Medina Restaurant table. 2014 was a great year for Noel Debono as the restaurant he runs was celebrating half a century of service. The award was a fitting crown of glory and definitely deserved the great applause—and the screams—it solicited.

The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants Awards Ceremony was sponsored by HSBC and Charles Grech & Co Ltd and held at the Radisson Blu Golden Sands in December. The awards celebrate the outstanding achievement of Malta & Gozo’s top surveyrated restaurants as voted by diners who participated in the Malta & Gozo Restaurant Survey online at The results were presented by the Minister for Justice, Culture & Local Government, the Hon. Dr Owen Bonnici, Mr Sergio Bellizzi from HSBC, Stephen Ellul from Charles Grech Co Ltd and Mr Alfred Cuschieri from Continental Purchasing on behalf of Villeroy & Boch who supplied the award plates. Award restaurants were chosen from the various price categories, taking into account not only the overall rating but also individual Food, Service and Ambience ratings, the number of people rating, value for money, comments and other data from the survey. The results of the Restaurant Survey can be found in the 2015 edition of The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants in Malta and Gozo which is available to purchase online for 8 Euros at This entitles the purchaser to the Guide online and a free hard copy of the guide, which will be posted. It is also available at leading stationers and bookshops in Malta & Gozo.

Restaurants which won award plates, in order from most highly-rated are: Medina Restaurant De Mondion Restaurant, Xara Palace Tarragon Restaurant Caviar & Bull Sa Re Ga Ma Indian Restaurant The Arches Restaurant and Wine Cellar Patrick's Lounge & Restaurant Ta' Frenċ Restaurant The Villa Brasserie San Andrea, Palazzo Castelletti Ta’ Marija Restaurant Suruchi Zest, Hotel Juliani Rebekah's Restaurant Blue Elephant, Hilton Malta Temptasian, The Palace Oceana, Hilton Malta The Boathouse, Gozo La Maltija Flavours La Capanna L'Ortolan, Kempinski San Lawrenz Sciacca Restaurant Zeri's Restaurant Essence, Radisson Blu Golden Sands Rubino Commando Restaurant La Trattoria, Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz Luna – The Restaurant at Palazzo Parisio Rickshaw, Corinthia Palace Hotel The Lord Nelson Baia Beach Club Palazzo de Piro Beppe’s Restaurant Tartarun Waterbiscuit, InterContinental Palazzo Preca Restaurant Trabuxù Bistro Giuseppi’s Wine Bar Wiġi’s Kitchen

February/March 2015



Catering Supplies (Equipment)


Flags & Banners

Insurance Services

M.S. Catering

Golden Harvest Mfg Co Ltd

(dealers in pre-owned and refurbished imported catering equipment)

T: 21 332 391 F: 21 310 044 E:

Mario Said M: 99 49 2630 E: mscateringequipment@

UB21, Industrial Estate, San Gwann SGN 3000

Cleaning Material, All Types

Middlesea Ins. p.l.c Gauci Borda & Co. Ltd

53/54, Msida Road, Gzira GZR 1400 T: 2133 4255, 21 313 748 F: 2134 3604 E: W:

General Cleaning/ Professional Window Cleaning

Middle Sea House, Floriana FRN 1442

T: Tel: 21 246 262 F: Fax: 21 248 195 E: W:

Kitchen Exhaust/ HVAC Systems Cleaning

The Cleaning Centre Ozosystem

Forestals Building, No 6 Triq L-iskultur Qormi

T: 21 472 552 E: W:

Catering Supplies

Kitchen Hygiene and Housekeeping products

27, Garden Street, Gzira GZR 1411 T: 21 322 153, 27 005 678 M: 99 430 944 F: 21 332 938

Disposables & Food Storage

TCR Services Ltd Ozosystem

Forestals Building, No 6 Triq L-iskultur Qormi T: 21 472 552 E: Isabelle.farrugia@


15 Triq Iz-Znuber Mosta MST 4000

T: 2143 3200 M: 9945 5152 F: 2142 2020 E: W:

Oriental Sauces Hotel Chambermaid/ Personal Maid Service

Di Rocco Trading Ltd


G1 Triq Tal Handaq Tal Handaq Qormi QRM 4000 T: 2141 3154 F: 2131 3183 E: W:


February/March 2015

Di Rocco Business Complex, Prince Albert Street Albert Town, Marsa MRS 1045 T: 2122 7342 / 4 F: 2122 7345 M: 79478222 E: W:

J & E Griscti Ltd Ozosystem

Forestals Building, No 6 Triq L-iskultur Qormi

T: 21 472 552 E: W:

Importers, General Merchants & Commercial Agents. “Minerva�, Quarries Street, Msida MSD 1103

T: 2123 3375, 21 230 071 F: 2123 6904 M: 9947 6732, 9949 9219,

Security Services

Dedicated Micros (Malta) Limited

BLB017, Bulebel Ind. Est., Zejtun ZTN 3000

T: 2148 3673 F: 2144 9170 E:

Software Solutions

Scope Software Solutions

14 Gio Batta Saydon Street, Zurrieq ZRQ 3560 M: 7979 6629 E: W :


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

T: 2700 8080 / 2149 8860 F: 2149 4698 E: W:

Eagle K-wear Co. Ltd Notabile Road, Mriehel Birkirkara BKR 3000

T: 2144 2329 F: 2144 5575 E: W:

Ozosystem Services Ltd No 6, Ozosystem Head Offices, Triq l-Iskultur, Qormi Telephone: 21472552 Mobile: 79771277 Email: Website:

February/March 2015


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.


February/March 2015

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

La Rive

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, well-lit 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 get-away 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 La Rive 33-34, Tigné Seafront, Sliema Tel: 2131 8323, 9944 5102 email:

The Villa

Situated in the heart of St. Julian’s, the Villa is a 19th century property with fantastic sea views and fully converted to offer you the best facilities to suit any occasion. In this sense, The Villa is unique as it is a truly multifunctional venue in the heart of Malta’s tourist and business center with added facilities to complement its ideal seaside location.

The Villa is the perfect venue for a conference banquet or corporate event. With a total of 5 different areas to choose from, both indoors and out, there is a room to suit any occasion. Over the years we have established a reputation for delivering beyond expectation the Villa will make it happen every time Enjoying both indoors and out, The Villa can guarantee that your plans will be executed irrespective of the weather conditions. Whatever your choice the Villa is yours to enjoy!! The Villa, Main Street, Balluta Bay, St.Julian's STJ 1017 Malta Tel: 2311 2273, 7945 1513 email:

February/March 2015


Professional Dryer Professional Washer Extractor

FEATURES DRYERS • Stainless steel look • Stainless steel drum and tub • Large door opening (Ø45 cm) OPTIONS DRYERS


• • • •

External coin meter Condense unit (DAMC) Marine voltages available Heat pump heating (DAM6HP)

FEATURES WASHER EXTRACTORS • Stainless steel look • Stainless steel drum and tub • Easy to use timer, mop, and medical programmes • Soap hopper at the front • Matching dryer available – space saving when placed on top



Various larger model available





External coin meter Drain valve Liquid soap pumps Marine voltages available

Xtreme inovation energy saving HEAT PUMP VERSION • • • •

• • •

New heat pump dryer has 50% saving in energy consumption (0,24 kW/kg) The heat pump use the air in the drum in one internal re-circulating air circuit and no external air is taken in. The air is heated in the condenser then it runs through the drum and at >40ºC (Low) or 40ºC (Normal), transporting moist air out of the drum When the moist air comes back to the evaporator it is cooled down and condenses into water drops and is evacuated through the attached exhaustion pipe or gathered in the condenser tank The air then continues back through the condenser and dry warm air runs through the drum The compressor drives the refrigerant which has the capacity to condense moist air at quite low temperatures (30ºC). Thanks to the refrigerants capacity the evaporator can have a ”cold” part where moist air is condensing and becomes ”dry” and at the same time it use the temperature difference to ”pump up” the temperature in the warm area in the condenser. The energy that is cooled away inside the evaporator is re-used to heat the same air inside the condenser therefore much more efficient than Condenser and Vented dryers



Evaporator Condenser (Heating) (Condensation)


SPECIFICATIONS - DRYER DAM6 Drum volume Capacity Vent types

Electrical heating

112 litres max 7 kg Vented: DAM6 Condense: DAMC6 Heat Pump: DAM6 HP 3 kW (DAM6) 2,5 kW (DAMC6) 1,3 kW (DAM6 HP)

60 litres

Drum volume Capacity

max 6.5 kg

Spin speed

1400 rpm

G Factor


Electrical heating

3 kW


Drain or Pump

Clients direct

22 79 22 22

Tourism? We have a clear picture At Deloitte, we know you need more than a functional solution to your business problems, you need real industry insight - a clear picture. Making informed decisions is key to the effective management of all business organisations. With close to 20 years of experience in analysing performance, costs, trends, and general market information of the tourism industry, the Deloitte Malta firm is well established to provide advisory services and business solutions to operators in this sector. To learn more please contact David Bonett at

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. Please see for a more detailed description of DTTL and its member firms. Deloitte Malta refers to a civil partnership, constituted between limited liability companies, and its affiliated operating entities; Deloitte Services Limited, Deloitte Legal, Deloitte Technology Solutions Limited and Deloitte Audit Limited. The latter is authorised to provide audit services in Malta in terms of the Accountancy Profession Act. A list of the corporate partners, as well as the principals authorised to sign reports on behalf of the firm, is available at © 2015. For information, contact Deloitte Malta.


INSIDER, Malta's Hospitality Publication


INSIDER, Malta's Hospitality Publication