In 2022, Corinthia Group celebrated 60 years operating at the vanguard of the local hospitality industry. Since its humble beginnings, the brand has gone from strength to strength owning, developing and managing a plethora of highly distinguished properties in some of the world’s most luxurious city and coastal destinations.
It takes a certain kind of stamina, mindset and work ethic to successfully oversee a multinational hotel operation spanning 23 properties (and counting). For Corinthia Group CEO Simon Naudi this typically translates into whirlwind weeks of meetings, emails and flights to all corners of the world. The challenges of the job are seemingly also its biggest perk, with Simon stating that encountering so many people from all walks of life and conducting business in diverse cultures remain the most rewarding aspects of his role.
Joining Corinthia back in 1997, Simon had the opportunity to work in various facets of the group, most notably as the right-hand man to Founder and Chairman Alfred Pisani for many years. He took on numerous challenges, leading the company’s international hotel and real estate acquisitions and developments, before also being tasked with the responsibility of handling the brand and hotel operations in 2014.
“I feel a great responsibility as CEO to build on the tremendous success of the company’s 60-year legacy and to take our brand to all parts of the globe as a luxury hotel and real estate operator, developer and investor,” he says. “My varied background with the company has ensured my evolution has been that much more meaningful and effective. We have enjoyed many success stories along the way, and all are the result of hard work, tenacity and, above all, teamwork.”
Among Corinthia’s many successes is its rapid and ever-growing expansion into new global territories. The group’s London property, which is located just steps from Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, is arguably the jewel in its crown, with a reputation for hosting some of the world’s most celebrated artists and celebrities.
That said, the group also boasts many other well-established hotel properties located in highly sought-after city destinations such as Prague, St Petersburg, Lisbon and Budapest, among others. In 2022, the group opened a new Corinthia Yacht Club and Golf Club on the Pearl in Qatar, coinciding with the World Cup. The yacht club is the first of a series of projects including a hotel, beach club, residential villas and apartments being developed with the hotelier’s partners in Doha. Even more is to come with announcements for a constellation of new properties set to launch in New York, Rome, Brussels, Saudi Arabia and Bucharest.
“Our new projects are taking us into some of the world’s foremost destinations. In some, such as in Brussels, we are the owners and developers. In others, as with Rome and New York, we are developers and operators on behalf of partner investors. Truly, Corinthia as a brand is consolidating its place among the world’s best in highly visible cities and resorts,” he states.
As a home-grown hotel brand that’s done well overseas, Simon also recognises that Corinthia carries the torch for Maltese hospitality on the international stage.
“We are proud of our Maltese roots. The Maltese flag flying above our global properties is a source of pride for us – and should be for every Maltese person. It also gives us tremendous pleasure when our younger Maltese colleagues take up the challenge to relocate overseas and adopt management roles alongside our international teams,” he says with genuine pride.
The fact that Corinthia has continued to plough forward with new developments in the face of two years of halted operations due to the pandemic is testament to the group’s strength and robustness. 2022 also saw the business contend with inflation, interest rate hikes, spiralling energy costs and more challenges. Simon puts this resilience down to a hands-on senior team that acts with foresight to identify strategies for the medium and long term in terms of geography, diversification and positioning.
“Today, we are a leaner business certainly, and perhaps more focused than ever before. The difficulties of the pandemic have presented some benefits in that we’ve learnt to operate more efficiently. This we will retain.”
By many accounts, the local hospitality sector bounced back to pre-pandemic levels over the course of the last year. However, Simon advises prudence, explaining that the local industry should adequately address a medium- to long-term strategy to better future-proof its hospitality product: “Our Chairman Alfred Pisani has been very vocal about the need to attract high-end tourism to Malta, rather than mass market. We have the attractions, location and climate to make ours a unique destination, and we should build our tourism around our strongest assets rather than compete by offering cheaper prices than other Mediterranean resorts. In any case, there is a finite number of tourists the country can accommodate, as was shown by the recent MHRA report.”
To this end, Corinthia is also putting its own words into action through the development of the all-new Corinthia Oasis in Mellieha, which marks the group’s first major Malta development in some time. This Mediterranean-style, 162-key resort hotel is set to offer a suite-led mix over two distinct garden zones, one housing the low-rise hotel itself and another featuring highly luxurious water and garden suites complete with private decks opening onto a sprawling pool. The hotel is envisioned to become the island’s most extensive wellness facility along with a host of outdoor sports and leisure experiences that will be tailored to guest requirements.
“We are very much looking forward to creating a top resort at the Oasis, matching any of the finest in the Mediterranean, with a low-rise, highly landscaped development that draws its inspiration from all that is great about our islands. Offering bespoke, locally inspired hospitality experiences will continue to be the hallmark of luxury tourism and travel in Malta,” he says.
As the global hospitality industry continues to recover and evolve post-pandemic, 2023 will see Corinthia remain focused on completing its own recovery in its hotel portfolio, while looking ahead to the launch of new hotels on three continents.
“It’s a tall order to balance both fronts but we’re very much fired up to make this a success. Over the course of 2023, we will make it our priority to consolidate our position as a globally recognised hotel brand,” he concludes.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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