Growth in individual travel makes it difficult for MICE sector to expand, says events manager

The island's Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) sector increasingly competes for hotel rooms and facilities with other segments of Malta’s booming tourism industry, Kenneth Baldacchino, Managing Director of Event Solutions Malta, tells MaltaProfile.

Event Solutions Malta is a destination management company that offers group packages as well as individualised programmes. It also books locations for team-building activities and organises events for corporate and high-end companies. The company provides services for Leisure, Cultural, Religious, Educational & Sports Groups, as well as for individual travellers who would like to discover Malta, Gozo and Comino on their own and at their own pace.

Can you give us an overview of your company and a profile of your clients?

Event Solutions Malta (ESM) was established in January 1998. We view ourselves as a one-stop-shop for all incoming tourism as we provide many services. We have a small team of eight staff members, who are mostly Maltese. There was a time when we were more international however, it is always good to have a mix of locals and foreigners. A company like ours needs international as well as a local knowledge, because we need to know what we promote, which is Malta. In terms of clients, the majority of them are from Austria and Switzerland, but we also have people from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Estonia, and France. Overwhelmingly, our clients are German speaking and many members of our staff speak German. Our clients’ profile has changed over the years, previously 85% of them were leisure individuals. Nowadays, this is not the case, due to the rise of the internet. We have shifted our focus to special interest groups, who are specifically interested in culture, outdoor activities, incentives, and conferences. We have vast experience, which stands us in good stead. We are very well known locally, for providing an efficient and reliable service.

What’s your future vision for ESM and how do you plan to grow your business?

In the last few years we shifted our focus more onto groups, rather than individuals, who prefer to book their journeys directly online. Consequently, my future vision for Event Solutions Malta includes enhancing and introducing niche markets such as culture, sport, and outdoor activities. Malta has a lot to offer in terms of these activities, having perfect locations for tracking, biking and kayaking. We will continue to focus on attracting corporate clients and other niche markets such as religious, weddings and LGBT communities. We always plan to grow our company, because if you do not focus on growing, you end up recessing.

What makes Malta so attractive to tourists?

I think the special thing we have here is our culture. However, we have been seeing an increment in ‘Active Tourism’. We are focusing on promoting Malta in a way that lets people know that such activities can actually be done on the island, despite its dimensions. In terms of activities, we have already attracted two large professional companies from Austria and UK. At the moment it seems that there are few companies in Malta who organise active tourism. It is very difficult and you have to focus on every single detail, looking at your targets and being sure that every client is given the correct programme.

Why should companies choose Malta for their meetings, and what makes Malta stand out as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events in Malta (MICE) destination?

Malta is conveniently situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, being a bridge between Europe and Africa. It is also connected via daily and regular flights with all major airports in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The island is rich in history and culture, offering fascinating buildings and monuments, and is a safe country where locals fluently speak Maltese, English and Italian. When tourists want to have fun and do something special, they can enjoy an excellent climate, crystal clear seas, and picturesque beaches, making it an ideal destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and events. Malta also offers a wide range of accommodation including comfortable business hotels, with fully equipped business centres and state-of-the-art meeting and conference facilities.

In terms of MICE and event companies, what are your expectations for Malta in the coming years?

I think that the MICE sector in Malta has reached a stable level and cannot grow very much in the future. In the next few years we will do our best to sustain what we have. Nevertheless, at the moment Malta is very popular with individual tourists, thanks to the numerous and frequent flights coming and going from Malta, which is considered a safe country in the Mediterranean. Individual tourism presents a limit to the number of rooms that hotels can offer to incentives and conferences clients, constituting a limitation in the MICE sector.

What new trends and challenges are influencing your sector at the moment?

Creativity is the most important aspect in our industry at the moment. We always have to offer something new to our regular clients, to show them Malta in different ways. We also need to be up-to-date with the latest state-of-the-art technologies. In addition, people want to have the best product at the lowest possible cost. People now prefer to book trips online themselves, in order to cut costs. However, for some excursions this can be difficult, therefore we are here to provide that service. In terms of challenges, many companies’ now have new and limited budgets as a consequence of the recession, meaning they have less to spend when organising incentives. In addition to this, there are a lot of new EU restrictions, especially with regards to pharmaceutical clients, including the choice of hotels and first class flights. These new budgets and restrictions have a relevant effect on our sector and we have to adapt as fast as possible, shifting to new realities.

In relation to the challenges you face, do you think there is anything the government should be doing to help you?

In my opinion, the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) is doing a great job in promoting Malta as an appealing tourism destination. Of course, they can always do more, especially when it comes to making Malta a clean and pleasant place to come to. What any government can do is to keep Malta as a safe place and looking good. If we focus too much on commercialising and developing the island, there is a risk of forgetting the importance of the environment, which is vital in sustaining tourism. Things have a changed a lot for Malta in recent years, in terms of its popularity, everyone knows about Malta now.

Following a stint with Air Malta between 1981 and 1984, Kenneth Baldacchino joined his father – the late Joe Baldacchino, himself a pioneer in incoming tourism from Germany and central Europe - at Inter Travel Ltd. Kenneth held various positions with this company ending as Managing Director. In 1998 he moved on and co-founded Vacations Malta Ltd, which he still runs until today. Due to market changes and changes in the company’s focus, in 2009 Kenneth launched a new brand – Event Solutions Malta to run in parallel with Vacations Malta. These two brands then amalgamated into one in 2014, hence the present brand Event Solutions Malta by Vacations Malta ltd.



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