Twenty-one-year-old Marina Hotel receptionist Sofia Tátá hails from Portugal. She’s a newcomer in the Malta scene but has been overwhelmed with what she has found here.
‘I came to Malta first in 2022 for a six-month internship at the Marina Hotel. I had no idea of coming here. I was at the time with the Diocesan Museum of Santarém, situated in my hometown, for a school internship and was working as well at the Front Desk, selling tickets and products from the store, answering in-house and outside phone calls, doing guided tours when needed and performing animation activities. I was also helping out with volunteer work in a nursing home for cancer patients. Then, my school informed me about a chance to work in Malta for six months. I was given about a month’s notice, so I had to respond quickly. I had a year’s contract and was halfway through, but I had no second thoughts. I accepted.’
You mean you just left. ‘I know it seems so mad, but believe me, I was just bowled over and wanted to leave for Malta. I’m very grateful that the whole team helped me sort out everything very fast so that I could come.‘
She stopped for a while and then added in her soft voice: ‘I was also training for my driver’s license, which was already paid in full. But I didn’t look back; I lost it and dropped everything to come.’
Was Sofia let down when she arrived? ‘No, far from it. At first, I thought I had let down Marina Hotel. You see, I was far from fluent in English at the time. Francesca, who interviewed me, was patient and so warm. I could hardly speak both with the excitement and my poor English. I felt over the moon when I was accepted.
‘I did well during my six-month stay, and the Front Manager told me he looked forward to seeing me back in Malta. I was thrilled to hear that, so I carried a strong determination to return when I left. In April 2023, I came here again barely a year ago, and I don’t regret it at all.’
Sofia is now enjoying her work at the Marina reception, busy with check-ins, check-outs, emails, answering in-house and outside phone calls, booking taxis, helping guests with whatever they need, such as booking a table at a restaurant, tracing lost luggage, manage to get their pick-up time on departure date and book their taxi. ‘I could point out many more examples, but I would say, overall, I just ensure that guests are not burdened with problems during their stay with us. They are on holiday to rest and enjoy themselves, so I try my best for their best. I go a step further than my duties. That’s how we provide an excellent customer service.’
I asked Sofia about the requisites for a good receptionist. She barely took a second to respond. ‘Being a good receptionist requires interpersonal, organisational and communication skills. One also needs to be a multitasking person, especially on busy days. If you’re doing something else and a guest comes to the desk, you have to stop what you’re doing and give all your attention to the guest and never forget what you were doing previously. I also feel that one should be able to remain calm during difficult situations and in a hectic environment. If you start stressing out, it will be even worse. Having good problem-solving skills and working well with colleagues and other staff members helps to make your day easier and better. And finally, I find it important to keep a warm smile to welcome and serve customers and enjoy your colleagues’ company.‘
Sofia seemed set in Malta. She explained how she is very much at home here and loves going out with friends. She enjoys singing, seeing new places, listening to music and watching movies. “One of the goals that I set for this year was to be able to do something in the music world since it’s the thing that I’m really passionate about.” She’s in love with the Maltese sunset, especially whilst relaxing at a beach.
Any recipes from back home? ‘I love cooking too and always look out for recipes, especially Portuguese food. But all along, I sing and sing. I have always loved singing since I was very young. I feel very much at home here. I do miss seeing my parents and my dog, Bibas. I just dream of showing them Malta one day, at least to my mom and grandma. My father will not come because he’s scared of airplanes.’
What name is Bibas? Is it Portuguese? Sofia laughed hard at that. ‘I was obsessed with Justin Bieber, so Bibas is the most similar name we came with.’
I could not resist informing her that the Portuguese participated actively in different moments of Malta’s history. There were several Portuguese knights heroes in the 1565 Great Siege of Malta, such as Mesquita and de Sousa. We had some powerful Portuguese Grand Masters who almost continuously reigned over Malta from 1722 to 1773, namely De Vilhena and Pinto. And, what is less known is that when the Maltese rose against the occupying French in 1798-1800, the Portuguese, led by Marquis de Niza, first assisted the Maltese both from land and blockading at sea. The Maltese flag shared its honour with the Portuguese flag for a while.
Sofia also seemed very set and satisfied with her job. ‘I really like the hospitality sector. I believe I have the requisite skills, and I’m very confident I will have a great career in the hospitality world.‘