Malta Diary. Corinthia Hotel Group – growing, growing, grown!
When the Corinthia Group of Companies run by the Pisani family bought out and incorporated the Island Hotels Group run by the Zahra family in January of this year, it became the largest private investment entity in the Maltese islands.
Now, Corinthia has shown its intention to go one step further, that of building a Six Star hotel – the first in Malta – on the sites currently occupied by the San Gorg Corinthia and the Corinthia Marina and the Radisson Blu hotels in the St Julian’s area of Malta.
The Group Chairman and one of the original founders Alfred Pisani announced three weeks ago that this is a four-year project with a €400 million euro investment and will create 600 jobs.
Describing the current hotels as being “sprawling buildings”, the new planned hotel will have fewer rooms but the new rooms would be double the current size and many new guest facilities will be included to make the new hotel the ultimate in hotel luxury.
Founded by the Pisani family in 1962 when tourism and hotels were just a pipe dream as Malta was still regarded as a “military fort” and the islands were still a British colony, the Corinthia Group has grown and grown.
Based in Malta as Corinthia Hotels International Limited (CHI Limited) there are four companies in the Group that trade as CHI Hotels & Resorts, hotel management companies that own a number of hotels in Malta, Africa and the Middle East and provide technical assistance and management services to other hotel owners worldwide. The company also runs several top class restaurants and has its own Spa division.
The beginnings in 1962 were humble enough but spurred by the foresight and ambitions of the Pisani family, the group has today entrenched itself as one of Europe’s most substantial hotel groups and with greater ambitions to further internationalise.
The first step was the Corinthia Palace Hotel in the quite central Malta village of Balzan when a crumbling and dated building owned by the Pisani family was converted into a luxury restaurant and then a deluxe hotel which in 1968 was inaugurated by no less than Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh although by that time Malta had become independent.
This early venture raised eyebrows because on such a small island surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea it was then inconceivable that a hotel establishment would not actually be at the sea’s edge when all the touristic Malta advertising at the time was purely based on clear blue sea and endless sunshine.
However, the serene Balzan location, its proximity to the equally serene ambiance of San Anton Gardens and the then Governor General’s permanent residence and now the Malta President’s, together with the efficiency of service proved to be a winning combination, backed by a hotel shuttle service to Valletta, seaside locations and of course swimming pools.
The hotel soon became a favoured conference centre and geared itself to distinctly classy wedding receptions.
Today, the Group runs Corinthia Hotels in London, St Petersburg, Budapest, Prague, Lisbon, Khartoum, Tripoli and Malta. The Tripoli Hotel is currently closed after some months back it came under attack in the current Libyan civil war when a group of terrorists attacked a group of US diplomats staying at the hotel. It also has a Ramada Plaza Hotel in Tunis and runs other independent hotels in Malta and Prague.
Chairman Alfred Pisani says the cornerstones of this extensive growth are that of giving an honest and cost-effective service underlined by efficiency and luxury and that of selecting hotels in gateway cities. This is what he terms to be the “Spirit of Corinthia”, achieved by passion and ambition.
In a recent introduction to the Group’s operations, Pisani wrote:
“Our mission is to provide our guests with a Craftsmanship of Care. In a world of mass produced experiences, we offer our guests made-to-measure comfort. We believe the attention to detail that elevates a craftsman to excellence can similarly elevate the experience of visiting one of our hotels, wherever it is”.
So, what is actually a Six Star Hotel? Well, there is no such international qualification as these only reach Five Star requirements. However, many leading hotels in places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi rate themselves in the Six Star category, which may include a shuttle Rolls Royce service to the airport and various localities and the ultimate in luxury.
However, leading hoteliers also specify that luxury is not the sole factor that determines Six Star. Equally important and essential factors are discreet personal recognition at all times, discreet but highly efficient security, excellent and continual communication between the hotel manager and the youngest member of staff, updated technology, intensive training of staff and most importantly the general attitude of staff towards guests. There will be no waiting around in queues to check-in or check-out and technology will not just be there but will be easily useable.
A spokesperson for the Malta Tourism Authority welcomed the investment and pointed out whilst scores of mega super yachts regularly came to Malta for maintenance and repairs they were rarely accompanied by their owners. The new Six Star facility would encourage such mega-rich to visit Malta.
Rates will of course be sky high and well above the average pocket which, of course immediately rules me out and keeps me confined to my normal Three Star bed and breakfast!