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Malta’s Moment

Malta is having a moment. While it may come as a surprise to some that this small but perfectly formed Mediterranean archipelago is one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2018, event planners in the know are already wowing meeting and incentive groups with Malta’s many charms.

Named by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the must-see destinations of the year, Malta’s golden-hued capital Valetta – one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the island – is European Capital of Culture for 2018.

To prepare for its moment in the limelight, Valletta’s city gate was recently remodelled by architect Renzo Piano, who was also responsible for Malta’s first purpose-built parliament building, located within the city walls alongside a new open-air theatre.

Meanwhile, a number of new boutique hotel openings are complementing the established bigger hotel brands such as Westin, Hilton, Intercontinental and Marriott, many of which have recently or are currently undergoing refurbisments.

Hotel update
January saw the debut of a new boutique Design Hotel – the all-suite Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour. Originally built in 1554, the landmark structure in the fortified city of Senglea that now houses the hotel’s expansive 21 suites – is home to high-vaulted ceilings; chalk-white walls, limestone, and slate; and an amazing, large rooftop with views of the magnificent harbour and surrounding marina that is perfect for events and receptions.

Due to open later this year is Iniala Harbour House, a harbour front boutique hotel that will feature 24 rooms spread across four grand palazzos, including two townhouses, a former bank and dynamite-storage vaults. The second property from British entrepreneur Mark Weingard will also feature a rooftop restaurant and bar with views stretching from the city’s fortified walls to the Grand Harbour and a spa in the vaults.

2018 will also see the opening of the Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa, following a rebrand of the Le Meridien St Julians Hotel & Spa, which is currently closed for refurbishment, with a planned increase in the number of executive suites and the addition of two new floors.

Looking further ahead, Hard Rock International’s third European resort is set to open in Malta in 2020. Offering 370 rooms and located in St George’s Bay, St Julian’s, the property will feature a rooftop lounge and 3,400m2 of event space.

Inspiring incentives
In the past, Malta has often been pitched as more of meetings destination than incentives, but there is a plethora of enticing experiences to suit incentive groups with a range of tastes.

With 7,000 years of history, the Maltese Islands are steeped in culture and heritage. There are so many areas of heritage and culture to be explored – the 16th century masterpiece Grandmasters’ Palace, the “Sacra Infermeria”, which is now a fully equipped conference centre, the St. James Centre for Creativity – a superbly restored fortification where contemporary works of art are exhibited against the original rough-textured walls and rediscovered spaces.

With Valetta the designated Capital of Culture, there’s never been a better time for visitors to soak up the islands’ history and culture. The Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme will see a collection of over 140 projects and 400 events taking place throughout the European Capital of Culture year. Valletta 2018 has invested strongly in a programme that sees the involvement of around 1000 local and international artists, curators, artist collectives, performers, workshop leaders, writers, designers, choirs and film-makers.

Food is also big in Malta, and getting to grips with the country’s gastronomy makes for a fun and interactive itinerary, whether it’s joining forces to bake traditional Maltese bread, heading to a local farm for a cheese-making experience or wine tasting at one of the island’s beautiful estates.

And heading out onto the water is a must. Groups can charter a yacht for the day and head out into the Med for peaceful sunbathing and a dip in the sea with wine and refreshments or compete in a sailing regatta.


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