The small but perfectly formed Mediterranean island archipelago of Malta is an increasingly popular choice for luxury events, so we caught up with Mark Gatt, managing director at inVOYAGE 2019 partner EC Meetings, to find out why…
With Malta such a hot destination right now – are you seeing an increase in business?
The past two years were unprecedented mainly characterised by Malta’s EU presidency in 2017 and Valletta being European Capital of Culture in 2018. In 2019, we are seeing the business stabilise which in my view is a positive after a number of growth years. We are witnessing healthier competition with suppliers across the board which is resulting in better value for money for the end client.
What’s your brand promise/USP?
ECMeetings was founded in 2001 with a vision and strategic plan to set high standards in the destination management sector. We feel that we have managed not only to reach this target but also improve upon it so much so that we are now taking the brand to other destinations.
Our USP is definitely our people – I am lucky to be surrounded by people who are passionate about our industry and from whom I get to learn and driven every day. For us the more challenging the event the more excited we get, we love coming up with solutions otherwise it would be boring wouldn’t it?
What’s trending in 2019?
This year we saw a shift from the large sales kicks offs that typically take place in the first quarter to a number of smaller incentives in the second and third quarter. Budgets have increased slightly, and clients are more than ever after those money can’t buy experiences. Having said that we have recently been working on more sustainable programs and have witnessed a great interest from our clients.
What does luxury mean to you?
Waking up in the morning to the sound of nature, preferably the sea. A healthy breakfast and a good espresso. The rest is all about personalisation – it’s great to feel that thought has been put into one’s visit. My family and I love to visit this small B&B on the sister island of Gozo. The owner there goes out of her way to always exceed our expectations. When I once told her one of our children was lactose intolerant, I could see her registering it – from that day on she made sure the bedside chocolate was dairy free as well as lactose free pancakes for breakfast.
What’s new/exciting in Malta?
As mentioned already we have given considerable thought to sustainable experiences and have come up with what I believe are some great options. The focus here is on making the experience local.
Malta has experienced a lot of investment on the accommodation front – a number of beautiful boutique hotels have opened in Valletta making it a perfect opportunity for group sizes under 40 pax. St. Julians has continued to grow for the larger sized meetings with a Marriott opening in the coming months. From a venue perspective we are spoilt for choice. Recently a number of historical forts have been restored and opened up to events which is a big plus especially for the larger group sizes.
What are your favourite hidden gem venues in Malta?
If you come over to Malta, I will happily take you there but if I tell you and lots of people get to know about it will stop being a hidden gem!
Name your top three experiences for groups?
Sea related activities – we boast some of the cleanest seas in the Mediterranean and being an archipelago of 3 islands it is easy to island hop. One of my favourites is a ‘race’ around the islands using different modes of sea transportation: rowing, sailing and speedboats amongst others.
Gozo – when it comes to offering something authentic the sister island of Gozo has it all. The transfer from Malta to Gozo is a 30-minute speedboat ride – once there we give them the task to prepare their own lunch with a lot of local interaction, from bread baking, to salt picking and also to milking the sheep that gives us the cheese Gozo is renowned for.
The capital – a visit to Malta without visiting Valletta would be a shame. We have created a number of activities surrounding our capital. Here we like to work around the client’s profile and customisation is a must in the activities we offer so whether the client is after a relaxed stroll or packed activity with maybe some adrenaline we can surely tailor make it to the client’s needs.
Why are you attending inVOYAGE 2019?
To meeting like-minded professionals from whom I can learn. It is great to see what other destinations are doing, what is trending and what clients are looking for. I always come back to the office with a renewed passion to improve on the way we do things.