Adrian Attard took on the reins of the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa in July. Adrian talks to Insider+ about passion and leadership, and being at the helm of the property at the heart of the Corinthia story.
Your relationship to Corinthia Palace Hotel goes back a long way, tell us about that.
My father worked for Air Malta and in 1984 our family moved to the UK. After we sold our house in Malta, we would return every few months to visit family, so we would stay in hotels – our favourite was definitely the Corinthia Palace. It was there where I caught the hospitality bug and a passion for the industry emerged. On finishing high school the family moved back to Malta and I needed to find a summer job. Our new home was in Attard so the Palace was the perfect employer. It had just undergone a major refurbishment and was by far the best hotel on the island. I remember feeling so honoured that as a pool boy, I was part of their team of professionals. After that I decided to continue my studies at the Institute of Tourism Studies, but the Palace’s GM at the time Tony Gatt, asked me to stay on the books, and work during the holidays. I committed to a two-year contract after I graduated and rest I guess is history.
How have you seen the Hotel grow over the years?
Today the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa is an icon of Maltese hospitality, in the sense that it’s an institution built on great values, telling a story of tradition, hard work and perseverance. From my early days back in 1993, it was the feeling of belonging, a feeling of family, where despite the banter and the jokes, you knew that you were valued and that with whatever job you did, you were contributing towards creating a special experience for guests, creating memories that they would take away with them that last a lifetime. For employees, the Palace has always been a great school for life, a fabulous example of real family values where you are encouraged to learn, to grow, and to better yourself.
“Modern hospitality is about moments. It’s the smile of the doorman, the chat with the waiter at breakfast, the questions that break the ice when checking in at front desk, or the initial taste of a beautifully prepared dessert.”
Our upbringing shapes us. Tell us about your influences.
My father instilled in us from a young age, an understanding that in life you don’t get handouts. “Your success is proportional to the effort you put into the tasks that you do”, he used to say. Hard work, honesty and integrity were what we as children always saw in him. His example is what I try and live by today. My mother on the other hand brought understanding and appreciation. While my father travelled on business, my mother made sure we had a wonderful life and appreciated the opportunities being given to us. It is probably these factors that make me so positive in all situations, sometimes frustrating my colleagues and family by my “glass half-full” attitude!
“From my early days back in 1993, it was the feeling of belonging, a feeling of family, where despite the banter and the jokes, you knew that you were valued…”
You have taken on the reins of arguably Corinthia’s most iconic hotel because of its unique heritage. Tell us about your feelings on being appointed to the post of GM.
When I was a pool boy discussing with the GM at the time, where I saw my career going, I remember telling him that one day I would like to sit in his chair. When Corinthia’s management spoke to me about the post earlier this year, of course that conversation came to my mind. The Corinthia Palace is a jewel of a property and I feel blessed and honoured by this opportunity.
“We as a team here at the Palace are the guardians of the Group’s founding hotel, the place from where the journey began, the inspiration behind the vision and the testing ground for all that has come in the last fifty years. There is a responsibility that comes with this, to be the very best that we can be, in the manner that embodies the true values of Corinthia.”
Describe some of the challenges and opportunities ahead for the Hotel
We’re only as good as the experience we create for our guests. That can only be achieved if every colleague is focused on delivering to their very best ability. This seems common sense, but I believe it is the role of every GM to put this concept centre stage. The challenges and opportunities for us as a hotel lie in the detail. We are undergoing a major refurbishment, so this classy fifty year old ‘lady’ is returning to the forefront of local hospitality as the most elegant hotel in Malta. My ambition is to ensure that with the upgrade in facilities, comes a level of service that matches the quality feel of the product. The most beautiful hotels are only buildings if the staff who work there are not bringing their ‘A game’ with them every day. It’s my intention to ensure that we are all bringing our A game. That means every part of the process needs to be looked into and refined, to ensure that complete guest engagement is achieved, and that we’re able to create something special.
The Hotel will complete a major refurbishment in early 2019. Tell us about what the upgrade entails, and what guests will notice.
This project has covered many areas. Initially the works were to address the façade, the apertures – changing all the windows and balcony doors, and to run a soft upgrade of the guest rooms. These areas have now been completed. As works progressed, other possibilities for improvements were identified and tackled. We have created a new Executive Lounge, introduced Executive Rooms, and made many back-of-house improvements, all to prepare the Hotel for the next chapter in its success story. Upgrading the gym and refurbishment of the spa are two projects that were added to the list. And once complete, early in 2019, these will herald a new phase in the hotel’s development. Another key project that I am very excited to see completed is the upgrading of the lobby.
The Corinthia Palace is a pioneer of the luxury hotel industry in Malta. Under your watch, how do you intend to build on this legacy?
This chapter in the story of the Corinthia Palace will be defined by the way we create a sense of engagement and connection. Whether it is within the team, or with guests, the resounding feeling I want us to deliver, is that you have connected with people when you come here, people who have a genuine desire to craft experiences that create positive memories that last a lifetime.
“This chapter in the story of the Corinthia Palace will be defined by the way we create a sense of engagement and connection.”
Modern hospitality is about moments. It’s the smile of the doorman, the chat with the waiter at breakfast, the questions that break the ice when checking in at front desk, or the initial taste of a beautifully prepared dessert. These have been the hallmarks of the Palace for fifty years, and I intend to build on those time-honoured experiences, and add to them. When you come here you go away with something special – a wonderful memory that makes you smile.