29 MAY 2002
David Lindsay speaks to Bay Street director Paul Camilleri, Bay Street Hotel general manager Tony Coliero and Bay Street strategic director Silvio De Bono about the way in which the commercial complex is intertwined with the hotel and the special initiatives in niche tourism markets
The Bay Street Hotel Complex has now passed through its teething problems and is looking toward the future as it unfolds its three-tiered management plan.
The three-fold plan, according to Bay Street strategic director Silvio De Bono, consists of increased accountability for each staff member, giving the hotel a different dimension by incorporating retail and crafts with the hotel and by selling the hotel as an extension to the St Georges Bay area.
As Mr De Bono explains, "Extensive staff training was carried out to make all concerned aware of their duties and responsibilities and furthermore to ensure that the measures set for each and every employee are being achieved.
"When we took over the hotel as part of the complex, my job was to carry out an analysis. Through the analysis we had identified that in order to manage this hotel, which is rather different from each and every other hotel in Malta, every person must be totally accountable for a process rather than a job.
"The logistics of this hotel demand that whoever is doing a job, must be able to do so from beginning to end without being interrupted and without passing on the buck to another person.
"Within this respect, one of our main strategies was that every person working within the hotel has been specifically trained to carry out an entire process, including maintaining quality standards.
"That is because this is what I would describe as an open hotel. In fact, the complex itself is a tourist complex and all the other shops form part of the hotel.
"As such, the hotel has a responsibility to ensure that each and every outlet forms part of, not an addition to, the hotel.
Bay Street director Paul Camilleri stresses, "We had to ensure they know they form part of the hotel. In keeping with that, we set up a package between the hotel and the shops, and now the shops are selling the rooms, as well as though they are sales points for the hotel.
"As such, shops can give their clients the possibility to visit the hotel for a better price and it has been working out well.
"In fact, there are a lot of Maltese deciding more and more to stay at Bay Street and apart from promoting weekend breaks, the shops themselves are using the weekend breaks to promote their shops.
In counteracting the negative after effects of the events of 11 September, the Bay Street Hotel has begun reaching out to niche markets. As Mr De Bono explains, "As we all know, especially after 11 September, there has been a certain amount of indecision within the tourism industry, which was amongst those industries that suffered the most.
Contracting with different travel agents and operators is an everyday agenda but the way we have chosen to do business is totally different. We try to identify particular market needs and to consequently go for niche markets. If a travel agent has a particular need, we are ensuring that we meet that need.
"As such, we are trying to be differ from the others. Its not easy to be different as ultimately, being different is not what matters, it is the bottom line. Trying to be different and sacrificing the bottom line at the end of the day would be pointless.
"So what we are trying to ensure is that we are different and that we still meet the bottom line and I think that gradually we are achieving that goal.
"While the Maltese market is a niche market, the Gozitan market is another niche market that we have managed to develop at the hotel and our alignment with Calypso Radio has also helped in this latter respect.
"We are continuously identifying such niche markets that will make the hotel even more popular and, together with Calypso Radio, we are organising a 60s night at the Artisan Market and with the station we expect to venture into other eras of music as well."
Meanwhile, the second part of the hotels strategy centres around traditional crafts, and particularly the complexs Artisan Market, which is part and parcel of the whole Bay Street concept.
According to Mr De Bono, "It [the Artisan Market] offers this hotel a totally different concept that no other hotel can offer. In fact, what we are doing is building on what was carried out during the initial stages of the project - building on the idea of getting daily people working here with traditional crafts.
"Over the weekends we have a good deal of crafts being displayed and by creating such a scene, we are also attracting tourists from outside the hotel and getting them over here and giving them a feel of Maltese traditional crafts.
"This product is not found anywhere else. In fact, the only place where people offer the same product is at Ta Qali, where there is no hotel.
"But at Bay Street the directors and shareholders have invested a good deal of money in a unique product for Malta. In fact, they have sacrificed a large piece of the hotel so that they actually promote these crafts, which are very much loved by tourists.
Mr Camilleri elaborates, "The concept was of open space, through which, in theory, we first thought we would be losing out on thousands of square metres of open space.
"This has played a great part in the success of the building, as it has left open spaces for the various activities we hold here.
"What we are thinking of now is to enhance our web site for the Artisan Market and the hotel so we will be giving a service to the tourist industry that no other hotel has offered.
"Our plans are, and we are working hard on this through national organisations, to get people working here every day with a portal with web cams doing traditional Maltese crafts live on the Internet.
"We are offering what every other hotel can offer, but that something extra as well, in which tourists can actively participate, as opposed to the traditional type of animation. This is a very important step in what we are trying to do in being innovative and different.
"If you consider that in a normal hotel clients, after breakfast, leave the hotel for the beach or other activities, here you find that people spend a lot of time in the complex.
"Last summer, which was our first open here, we were trying to anticipate what tourists would want to do. However, if you came here in the middle of summer in the middle of the day, you would find the place full of tourists. Theres the shade, you sit on a bench, youre both inside and outside at the same time.
Mr De Bono adds, "There is activity taking place all the time. In fact being here is an activity in itself. With all the different things happening there is a continuous sense of activity and by just being here you are actually participating, even if you are merely watching or listening. This interactivity provides a warm feeling not found anywhere else and makes the place very easy to fall in love with.
When asked to reply to the general perception that the Bay Street Hotel plays second fiddle to the complex, Mr Camilleri responds, "They are, in fact, integrated with each other. The concept from the outset was to offer leisure, entertainment and accommodation and to combine the three into one package. As part of the leisure element, we took care in choosing the retail outlets in that they need to be as interactive as possible so that the type of retail on offer is as least monotonous and as lively as possible.
Special initiatives and niche markets scheduled for this summer, Mr Coliero explains, include pilgrimages, specialised packages for health, business and conferences, diving, cultural and English language learning packages.
"We are also offering the facilities for these packages. What we are doing is offering a sample programme, and then we can work it out between us and the tour operator or handling agent.
"We also recently started a health programme in conjunction with our health centre on the fourth floor and very soon we plan to introduce the new aspect of holistic tourism.
"The idea," Mr Camilleri explains, "is not to by-step the operator, but to generate added interest. We have prepared some 15 different programmes in order to create the interest among tour operators to take up the programmes within their own excursion programmes.
Looking ahead, Mr Coliero expects that summer occupancy will definitely close at 90 per cent, and explains that the 101 room hotel has already had to stop sales for July.
However, Mr Camilleri is adamant that other large developments taking place in the St Georges Bay area, including the opening of Inter-Continental Hotel, are welcomed as they are expected to augment business at Bay Street as well.
"We were extremely careful with Bay Street not to duplicate other businesses in the area," Mr Camilleri explains, "The idea from the outset was to create a destination, and the destination was St Georges Bay. We knew of the synergies with the cinemas, the bowling alley, ice skating rink and other leisure establishments in the vicinity and we wanted to compliment the area as a whole to create a whole destination.
"All the individual parts put together make a whole destination product. Given that, our idea was never to compete with such businesses that compliment each other."