It took just over 3 hours to go from a snowy Heathrow Airport in London to land in Malta and be greeted by blue sky and a very comfortable 15 degrees. Waiting for me were Brian Cassar, Business Development Executive and newly appointed CEO Pierre Fenech of the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC). For them, this was chilly and they were looking forward to the spring!
As this was my first time in Malta, everything was new and my two hosts wasted no time in taking me to the capital Valetta, a UNESCO World Heritage City, and the MCC. As we whizzed through four centuries of civilisation, you cannot be anything other than amazed at the prospect of being a delegate or guest at an event in Malta.
MCC is set within the stunning harbour fortifications built by the Order of the Knights of St John some 400 years ago. The actual building was their Sacra Infermeria or Holy Infirmary and was converted into the conference centre we see today in 1979. Now, when you have a green field site, building a conference centre is relatively easy, but conversion of a historic and protected building throws up a few more challenges. How do you get WIFI through 4 meter thick walls? How can we reuse the alcoves set behind where nobles recovered from wounds in the crusades? How do you add modern conference AV technology in a way that looks like it was designed to be there when the Knights built the infirmary? All these and many more have been overcome and finished to a level which would put many 5 star hotel conference centres to shame.
So let me take you on a short tour...
Sacra Infermeria Hall or in my words the living room
1,700 square meters of space and a dramatic length of 155m makes this 16th century hall a feat of engineering of its day! Walking in from one end and looking towards the other end your imagination for events goes from the obvious exhibitions and expositions to the not so obvious capacity to cater for a banquet of 1,400 seated!
La Valette Hall or as I like to call it the dining room
The conversion of the Holy Infirmary's Great Magazine Ward into a gala dinner banqueting hall is truly special and needs to be seen. During my visit, it was set for 700 and took my breath away when I walked into the room. Don't be fooled as many are into thinking that by using the La Valette Hall that coming down and into this hall that the 'Wow!' factor will be diminished - it simply won't!
Republic Hall or the TV room
Where once there was a courtyard for our Knights to walk and get air, today there is an auditorium/theatre for up to 1,400 delegates. Modern staging and lighting are a given, but when you add special services like simultaneous translation, you can understand why events like the Commonwealth's Heads of Government meetings take place here.
A space for meetings of all sizes
Want a wonderful executive meeting or incentive dinner? Then the La Cassiere hall is for you. Need more space, but perhaps with a modern eclectic setting? Then perhaps the Vassali or David Bruce Halls are for you.
Why Malta and Valletta?
Battlements, courtyards, palaces, cathedrals and the harbour all reflect Malta's past, but also contain Malta's present and future with modern industry like aerospace, pharmaceuticals and online businesses calling this nation of 424,000 people home. As you would expect in any capital city, bars, restaurants and cultural venues are in abundance, but again the setting makes them more special and the quality of service and product was first class.
Over the past 20 years Malta has established itself as the destination of choice for discerning M.I.C.E visitors. There are hundreds of reasons why a conference, event or incentive in Malta makes most sense.
Malta - Made for meetings
10 Reasons why
- Accessibility - With a short flight time of just three hours and daily flights from major UK and other European gateways, travelling to Malta is easy enough to fit into busy diaries.
- Short transfers - The island's small size plays to organisers' advantage as transfer times are kept to a minimum (typically 25 minutes) allowing for more quality programme time.
- Climate - With almost 300 days of sunshine a year and mild temperatures throughout autumn and winter, the Mediterranean island is the perfect antidote to Northern European weather. Al fresco lunch in November? No problem.
- Language - English is one of Malta's official languages, alongside Maltese.
- Value for money - Malta is very competitively priced compared to its European neighbours and the VAT refund for foreign companies is certainly a plus point.
- Experience - Malta's legendary hospitality has been honed over centuries of hosting different civilisations. In recent years Malta has established itself as the destination of choice for conferences, events and incentives of all sizes. Local Quality Assured DMCs have decades of experience in producing innovative and often award-winning programmes.
- Excellent hotels - Malta has over 3,500 rooms in 15 five-star hotels ranging from international chains to boutique properties. All hotels have in-house conference facilities and dedicated M.I.C.E teams. Most are within walking distance of each other and can easily accommodate a large group across several properties. The 40-plus four-star hotels provide an additional 14,000 beds.
- First class conference facilities - Malta has a selection of world-class conference centres that have hosted numerous international events. These venues all boast cutting edge technology and can accommodate from around 2,000 to over 5,000 delegates.
- Unique locations - The island's unique landscape and rich heritage provide a grand backdrop for memorable events, be it dinner al fresco in a village square or drinks on a floating barge in Grand Harbour, a seaside lunch in the shadow of Gozo's Azure Window, or a black-tie reception in a Baroque Palazzo. The creativity of local DMCs knows no bounds as they regularly come up with new locations for their clients's events.
- EU membership - As a European Union member and signatory to the Schengen Agreement, Malta has relaxed border controls for EU passport holders. The unit of currency is the Euro.