Mediterranean Incentives Malta: Small but perfectly formed

New on the block

Over the past three years, P&MM has hosted six groups in Malta and, according to client services director Chris Clarke, it is a destination that easily exceeds expectations. "There are some great properties there now," he says. "People who went there on their holidays ten or 15 years ago would probably not have experienced anything like the standard it offers today."

Among the five-star resorts to have opened recently are the 227-room Le Meridien St Julian's, which hosted the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of State a month after opening in October 2005, and the 337-room Radisson SAS Golden Sands Resort and Spa in the north of the island.

The Corinthia San Gorg in St George's Bay completed a £5m refurbishment in May last year, while the Kempinksi St Lawrenz in Gozo completed a £4m refurbishment this year.

Incentive ideas

"Malta may not have the 'wow' factor that many other places in the Mediterranean do, but I think people sometimes lose sight of what you're really trying to do with an incentive, which is give people the opportunity to do something they couldn't organise themselves," says Clarke.

P&MM regularly works with DMC Alpine Sterling, whose director Warren Zahra suggests a cultural programme. This includes a visit to the Hagar Qim Temples, Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishing village in the south of the island, or Qrendi, where groups can listen to a choir recital in the parish church.

As a twist to the traditional cruises on Turkish gullets sailing vessels, DMC EC Meetings director Mark Gatt suggests a battle of the seas. The group is divided into knights and pirates and sail to the island of Comino.

Each delegate is armed with water pistols with a 40ft range, and each vessel is equipped with water cannons. The winning team is the one that "sinks" its opponent by destroying a number of soluble targets on the other ship.

Places to party

Palazzo Parisio is a Maltese Palace built in 1733 that can host receptions for up to 400 people in the grounds and 110 people in the ballroom. Other Maltese noble houses include Casa Bernard and Casa Rocca Piccola. The Bacchus is a venue set within the fortifications of Mdina, also known as the Silent City. The lower chambers house a restaurant, and a marquee can be added, creating room for 1,000 guests.

Alpine's Zahra suggests restaurants such as Ambrosia, Casa Bernard and Zest, or, for a more traditional feel, gala dinner groups could hire Razzat l-Abjad, a 200 year-old farmhouse, where the reception area is cut into the rock and forms part of the original stables.

Despite its uninspiring name, says Line Up Communications' head of logistics, Julie Page, the Mediterranean Conference Centre is a stunning venue for a dinner. She recently used the former hospital, built in the 1500s, to host a gala dinner and chose entertainment that reflected the different cultures that have left their mark on Malta over the years.

Coming soon

The Grand Hotel Excelsior, overlooking the Marsamxett Harbour in Valetta, is a five-star resort hotel. A soft opening is due later this month, with a grand opening scheduled for March next year. The hotel will have 431 rooms and suites, spa and meeting facilities. Assistant manager Marc Pinter says the hotel has an advantage over Malta's other resorts because of its close location to the airport, the Mediterranean Conference Centre and the capital's commercial heart.

Recent clients

Packard Bell, Sanyo and Cadbury have all hosted events in Malta.

Verdict

Line Up Communications' Julie Page says she would have no qualms in recommending Malta as an incentive destination, especially for groups that are new to incentives. "The key thing for Malta that helps it win against other European destinations is that it offers real value for money," she says.

"I took a group there in 2005 and it cost less than if they had stayed in the UK. There are good flights from the UK's regional airports and nowhere on the island is more than 20 minutes away. People are always surprised how it has reinvented itself, but it still has charm."

MALTA DIRECTORY
Malta Tourist Office Unit C Parkhouse, 14 Northfields, London SW18 1DD
Contact: Marie Anne Barthet Brown
Web: www.visitmalta.com
Tel: 020 8877 6993
Email: marieanne@visitmaltauk.com

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