Mr Brian Micallef is a bubbly 42- year-old character. He started working at a young age with a soap factory where he actually completed the whole process of soap making. “I used to smell beautifully and everyone enjoyed my company,” he chuckled. Then at 18 he joined Corinthia.
Why Corinthia? His brother-in-law worked with Corinthia and at that time Marina Hotel was about to open and new hands were required. “I joined and helped until Marina opened within the month. Then I joined Corinthia Saint George immediately.”
What was his first job with Corinthia? “ I was a Public Area Cleaner and remained so for 19 whole years. I was happy since my job only entailed morning duties, so I could work extra in other departments of the hotel, such as a waiter in conferences, bar tender etc. I worked with so many departments, such as extra time in Security and Maintenance, and in summer I also worked as a Pool Boy but I refused to take up any of them full-time since my job entailed only morning hours and I did not want to work till late. I still wanted to have time to enjoy myself in the evening.
“In that way I had different exposures, contacts and friends in every department. I was also in demand since I was a hard worker.
“I have always loved talking to guests. I used to notice that the Concierge Desk was manned by young foreign students, and many guests were asking for information on Malta. My father owned a minibus and I often accompanied him on tours around the island, so I learnt a lot about Malta and accumulated a good amount of information on history, folklore, beautiful spots and directions.
“Then a colleague of mine offered me to join as concierge and I gladly accepted.”
What are the main duties of a concierge? Mr Micallef proudly listed the main ones. “I welcome guests when they arrive and carry their luggage from the taxi after asking them to confirm their luggage. Then I lead them to the Reception Desk. After check-in, I show the guests to their rooms and familiarise them with the lights, air-condition, telephone, TV etc. I invite them to visit me downstairs when they have some time to share with them some information about Malta. I give them a map of the Island and describe the area around the hotel, what is close-by and how they could get to nearby localities. Sometimes I also organise their transport from the airport if they send their flight details , number of guests etc.
“Many love to ask about Malta and request suggestions on what to see; they often ask me for directions how to arrive at a particular place.”
Which are the favourite locations? “Mdina, Hagar Qim Temples, Blue Grotto, the Comino Blue Lagoon…depending on the weather and time of year.
I also inform them of an important time to be present, such as noon for the cannon shooting at Barracca or times of services in churches.
If the guests are a family with kids, I advise them to visit certain localities and venues, such as Esplora, the Aquarium etc. I also advise them on places where they can find shelter if the weather turns rainy.
Did he ever have an ugly experience? His face suddenly changed serious. “It was 2001, and I was still working in the public areas. I was on a lifter, cleaning some very high windows, when the lifter malfunctioned and I fell down a couple of stories. Terrible! I ended in hospital, was in ITU for a couple of days, and it took some 4 months for me to get back to normal. I had a broken jaw, damaged chest, and was badly bruised all over.”
His face then suddenly changed and he sported a wide smile. “ And now a funny experience! One day a guest came who could not speak English at all. He came to Malta for three months to learn English. Using all the signs to make myself understood, I led him to his room and when I was about to leave he told me , “I want woman in room. English.” I felt rather uncomfortable and explained that we did not offer that type of hanky-panky service. He kept insisting, but I did not budge until, after some time and many a sign, I understood that he was actually asking for a woman to give him some English private lessons in his room.”
We queried how essential it was to get to know customers. “It’s all about guests. They are the centre of all our activities. I make it a point to see how I can be of help, so I do my utmost to get to know them.”
Could he offer an example? “One time I got to know this couple with several kids. The lady asked me where to go for shopping. I could see they were on a budget, so I directed them to a good but inexpensive place. They returned all smiles, carrying several shopping bags, and thanked me for the advice. If someone asks for a restaurant, I suggest a place which I feel would fit their taste and …their pocket.”
Surely they must feel grateful. Mr Micallef’s face shone. “I always feel so proud when they mention my name in the Hotel’s questionnaire.”
He stopped suddenly and looked at me in the eyes. “I want to give a good name to Corinthia. It has always been an excellent employer. I spend more time at Corinthia than at home.”
What about management? “Believe me, management has always been warm and very accommodating. I have a 5-year-old son and my wife works. My manager, Mr Chris Curmi, has always been extremely helpful and sees that my roster does not negatively affect my requirements. The General Manager, Mr Stuart Chappell, is also such a warm- hearted gentleman. He is always very close to all the staff. I can only offer my best.”
And his family? “My 5-year-old boy is named Leon. Excellent boy! I have just been to Parents Day and received glowing comments about him. He speaks three languages: Russian, Maltese and English, and knows the three alphabets. My wife, Irina, is Russian and is an excellent wife and mother.”
And what really relaxes him? “I love football and am a great fan of Bayern Munich. I sit on the committee of the Bayern Munich Club in Malta, and we organise several activities. I feel I am in Heaven when I travel to see them playing.
Then I have a garage where I relax sometimes. I have a small kitchenette, a TV and a play station with some tools there. Sometimes, a few friends join me for a good meal which I prepare for them.”
It seems clear that he is a satisfied person. “I have a wonderful family and a job I love. My father used to tell me to always be proud of my job. And I am.”