In the latest edition of Business Now, Alexander A. Incorvaja, General Manager at Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa, describes the past 18 months as “an incredibly turbulent time for our industry,” in which those involved have had to navigate various adversities, including quasi-lockdowns and ever-changing operational and travel restrictions.

“It seems a distant memory, but earlier in the year, the only way for a guest to eat in the hotel was through room service delivery. And more recently, we had hundreds of guests all coming down to breakfast at similar times, but only able to order from an à la carte menu,” he affirms, referencing the fact that buffets were not permitted for a period of time, and today still need to be assisted by chefs. All this, he continues, “whilst trying to manage our business and cost base, a large proportion of it being human resources. Equally, it was important to ensure that we continued to exceed guests’ expectations in a cleaner and safer environment.”

And unlike many local hotels that took the opportunity of the slowdown in business to renovate or upgrade their product, there was no scope for this for Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa, which had just opened its doors in January 2020, following a 15-month, €30 million renovation

“From a business point of view, we did witness a rather unusual phenomenon, that of locals wanting to take small, frequent breaks away from their daily routines,” reveals Mr Incorvaja, detailing the emergence of a staycation market, which he describes as practically unheard of for an island of our size until the middle of last year. “Hotels therefore adapted their operational model to cater for this market, such as providing earlier check-in times and later check-outs,” he explains.

Bringing things to the present, the General Manager highlights positive signs in the world of travel. “The global pace of recovery accelerated over summer, and this momentum continues deeper into the year. The leisure segment has been and continues to be of significant importance as we navigate through our recovery,” he affirms, adding that, as market dynamics continue to evolve, “we still need to be ready for any bumps along the road, where hotels, particularly five-star properties, rely heavily on corporate travel and the conference and incentive business – two segments that clearly will not be anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels in the first half of next year.”

Divulging his thoughts on long-term effects, Mr Incorvaja states that now more than ever, Malta has become a year-round destination to visit, and not solely for leisure purposes. Having said that, he notes that, “with five-star category hotels usually operating at close to 80 per cent occupancy throughout the year, we would need to have all channels of business return to ‘normal’ levels to achieve these levels. I do not see this happening before 2023 at the earliest.”

However, taking stock of the last 18 months and with more and more guests returning to Malta, he highlights the need to remain focused on offering a quality product, as well as a clean and hygienic environment, while being committed to guest needs, technology and being sustainable. Here, he highlights, “Marriott International recently announced that it is committed to go net-zero by 2050, recognising that the industry has a collective responsibility to protect the world for future generations.”

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