Sparkling Malta

Malta might not spring to mind when choosing your next meeting destination, but this fascinating archipelago in the Mediterranean deserves your serious attention. Sally Trelford reports…

Flying in over Malta, it looks like a cartoon island floating in the middle of the Mediterranean. In the sparkling sunshine, it appears so small and flat, it is difficult to believe it can contain 8,000 years of history and so much life. But it does.

Malta has been going through some huge changes recently, and in the last five years in particular. Government initiatives to attract businesses to the country have resulted in many i-gaming and software companies setting up and bringing high-paying employment with them. Other sectors too are doing well, including finance, manufacturing and construction.

Huge levels of investment in the islands’ main association sector meeting venues mean standards are higher than ever while still offering excellent value. Many properties are located in the St Julians area, which is just 20 minutes from the international airport, bustling with bars, cafes and restaurants and a short ride into the magnificent capital Valletta.

The Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa opens this summer with capacity to accommodate up to 650 in its largest event space.  The island’s first Marriott hotel, it was formerly the Le Meridien St Julian’s Hotel & Spa and the rebranding follows the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. With a large refurbishment budget, the sleek new hotel will have 301 rooms close to Balluta’s sandy beach and seaside cafes, while the bright lights of St Julians are a stroll away.

The Spinola Bay in St.Julian’s

The Hilton Malta is an excellent property for large events. Also situated in St Julians, its next door Conference Centre can accommodate up to 1,330 delegates.

The Inter-Continental Malta has six restaurants and six bars, 481 bedrooms and is also very popular for large events. Its Arena Conference Centre has 24 meeting rooms and can accommodate up to 1,700 delegates.

The five-star Westin Dragonara Resort is a lovely property perched on a peninsular. It offers a recently refurbished Conference Centre and attractive outdoor spaces that can be used for large receptions and dinners. The four-star Dolmen Resort Hotel is also perched on the water’s edge but in the north of the island. It offers 488 bedrooms and the Oracle Conference Centre, which can seat up to 1,200 in its largest room.

But it is the Mediterranean Conference Centre that is the island’s meeting jewel. Created from the restoration of the Holy Infirmary of the Order of the Knights of St John, it is situated in the island’s 16th century capital Valletta, a Unesco World Heritage City.

Experienced at hosting high profile events, the MCC is a member of Historic Conference Centres of Europe. It offers a main auditorium seating 1,400, the elegant banqueting hall La Valette can cater for up to 900 and there are many other smaller meeting spaces. The Sacra Infermeria Hall is believed to be one of the longest meeting halls in Europe at 155m long and can seat 1,400 at dinner and up to 4,000 at a banquet. In total the MCC offers 7,000 sqm of space.

If it’s been a little while since you’ve considered Malta for your event, do take a look. With its new superyachts and gin bars there is more than ever to keep delegates happy while networking. But the old charms are perhaps shining more brilliantly than ever as the beautiful light hits the limestone of tidied up Valetta and glistens. You can have your gala dinner set against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the Ggantija Temples, believed to be the oldest free-standing megalithic structures in the world, on the rural island of Gozo, or takeover the Popeye Village, film set of the 1980 musical.

These compact, sunny, English-speaking islands really do offer everything an event organiser could want: experienced and high quality local suppliers, engaged venues, short transfer times, plenty of international flights including a pro-active national carrier Air Malta, seriously engaging history and heritage and it feels very safe to wander around.

And if you’re still not convinced that Malta offers more than a great value holiday destination, these are a few of the recent and forthcoming events taking place at the University of Malta: 8th International Community, Work and Family Conference (May 2019) organised by the Centre for Labour Studies in collaboration with the Academic Journal Taylor Frances; PATT Conference (3 – 6 June, 2019) organised by the Faculty of Education in collaboration with Society for Pupils Attitudes Towards Technology; International Offshore Wind Technical Conference (3 – 6 November 2019) organised by the Faculty of Engineering in collaboration with American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the  ECQI Conference (5 – 7 February 2020), organised by the Faculty for Social Wellbeing in collaboration with  the European Network Qualitative Inquiry.

Conventions Malta has recently launched an excellent new website full of useful information and offers lots of support to international association event organisers including an incentive scheme that can include help with speakers, welcome ceremonies, links to the university and transport.