As we enter the fourth quarter of 2018, I am delighted to share my thoughts on what are exciting times for our Company. This past summer saw an important milestone of our journey – the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of our first hotel, the Corinthia Palace. You can imagine what a tremendous experience it is to have seen the evolution of this company – from its humble beginnings to where we stand today.
In July, I was delighted to have attended the annual meeting of Corinthia’s senior leaders, this year in Lisbon. These occasions provide a forum to discuss where we are, and where we are going, to reflect on what lessons we can learn from the past, to position us best for the future. Corinthia’s journey began in the early 1960s. The world was a different place back then, and so was the global hospitality industry. In those years, tourism in the Mediterranean was in its infancy, nowhere more so, than in tiny Malta. The creation of Corinthia’s first hotel in 1968 – the Corinthia Palace – was an entrepreneurial product of its time – conceived shortly after Malta became an independent nation, and energised by the spirit of that age – the decade that saw unprecedented cultural change, and the beginning of global tourism and leisure travel.
When I began this odyssey, other than to create a fine hotel, I had no further destination in sight, no inkling that half a century later the Corinthia name – and what it stands for – would be so highly respected in so many countries. Today International Hotel Investments plc has an issued capital of €615 million and an asset valuation of €1.6 billion. We own or operate 21 hotels on three continents – 13 of which are Corinthia-branded hotels, whilst a further four are under development.
Last year, our hotels once again reported improved performance, with adjusted EBITDA across the IHI Group, increasing to over €61 million, from €53 million the previous year. This represents a year on year increase of 16 per cent, when consolidating all the Group’s businesses. These figures represent a remarkable achievement, and show just how far we have come. At this year’s AGM, I was proud to announce to our shareholders that our Company in 2017 registered a net profit after tax of €14.9 million, a record performance in the 18-year history of IHI.
In August, IHI presented its Group Half-Yearly Report for 2018, and once again I was delighted to note the solid basis of our financial position, and the continuing healthy revenues of our hotels. The half-year figures show every indication that 2018 will be as successful, if not more so, than our record-breaking performance in 2017. Throughout this year, as I have reflected on the past half century, each decade brought to mind a different layer of the Corinthia story in which our Company’s foundations have been laid. In many respects, the first phase, particularly the 1970s and 1980s, was a time of impulsive experimentation.
In those decades a first generation of Corinthians – working with absolute determination, committed to the exacting standards we had set from the start, were the pioneers for what we have today. Our activities in the two decades following the opening of the Corinthia Palace in 1968, saw three more hotels open in Malta, and ushered in the period that saw our first steps into international markets.
“In those decades a first generation of Corinthians – working with absolute determination, committed to the exacting standards we had set from the start, were the pioneers for what we have today.”
The 1970s and 1980s saw us construct and open five hotels in Turkey, one in Tunisia, and establish a major catering operation in Libya, serving some 25,000 meals a day. It was a vital chapter in our development, for this initiative would almost single-handedly fuel our Company’s capacity for growth in the 1990s and beyond.
In the 1990s acquisitions in Budapest and Prague saw Corinthia establish its first footprint in mainland Europe. This was followed by Lisbon, St Petersburg and Tripoli in the early 2000s. Later Khartoum opened, and of course, in 2011, London. Today the story continues: two new landmark hotels in Brussels and Dubai will join the fold in 2020, whilst the hotel in Bucharest is set to open later next year. Doha is scheduled for completion in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Meanwhile our portfolio of managed properties continues to expand, with third-party owners keener than ever for Corinthia to operate their properties to our exacting standards. Through our development arm Corinthia Developments International (CDI), we are continually exploring the viability of new Corinthia properties – in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Asia. In Malta, equally ambitious plans are underway: to upgrade our Corinthia Hotel at St George’s Bay to six-star standard, and to develop 80,000 square metres of land in the north of the island.
Whilst up to 2004, we had the advantage of our industrial catering operations to fund our hotel investments, today it is essential, with our visibility and recognition internationally, we set up our own investment fund to support our further growth in owning new hotels, and I have asked management to give this the highest priority.
“Corinthia’s purpose from its earliest days has been the empowerment of the individual – to help our employees achieve their fullest potential, and in doing so to enrich their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of our customers.”
As we enter the final quarter of 2018, we can already look back on many exciting achievements and new projects set in train. We are known for our trophy properties and award-winning services, but let us not forget that our people – our colleagues – are undoubtedly our most important asset. Corinthia’s purpose from its earliest days has been the empowerment of the individual – to help our employees achieve their fullest potential, and in doing so to enrich their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of our customers.
Corinthia began as a family business, and while it has grown into something rather different, we still retain all the precious values of a family: the caring for one another, the personal support and the sharing of knowledge between its members. We listen to, and inspire each other, to bring out the best in one another – as professionals, and more importantly, as human beings.
The Corinthia brand that exists today is a product of the efforts made over half a century to deliver excellence, with a human face, in every facet of our work. To date, that philosophy has been expressed most articulately by a term coined to describe how we go about our business, our ‘Craftsmanship of Care’. This phrase has been underpinned by a concept: ‘the Spirit of Corinthia’, our commitment to the welfare of all our people, and to all those with whom we interact. How we continue to articulate the Corinthia brand in the future, and the values that lie at the heart of our work, is of course crucial.
The phrase Craftsmanship of Care has served us particularly well. This memorable phrase has encapsulated our devotion to creativity and precision, and the passionate artistry that defines our purpose. But now is the time to deepen further the way we speak about what we do. To do this, we look to our roots – our fundamental motivation as hoteliers and as employers – a motivation that is enshrined in the Spirit of Corinthia.
It is quite simple: Our purpose is to inspire – to improve each others’ lives and the lives of our guests. This has always been our resolve. And with this in mind, autumn 2018 will see us begin to incorporate a new and vital phrase to underpin Corinthia’s marketing communications. And that phrase is ‘Uplifting Lives’. It applies equally to our role as an employer, committed to the welfare and development of our workforce, as it does to our core purpose, as a provider of bespoke luxury hospitality. Over the next year, our marketing and HR teams will help articulate further how the Uplifting Lives concept is sewn into our communications.
“Our purpose is to inspire – to improve each others’ lives and the lives of our guests. This has always been our resolve.”
Finally, let me say, how delighted I am that this autumn edition of Insider+ provides yet more insights into what we do and how we do it – our purpose, and our achievements – as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead. They are stories that range from the ‘big picture’ of our Group’s financial performance, to that of a young hotel employee excelling in her work.
Through our every action we define the Spirit of Corinthia. It is the bond that unites us and which underpins our resolve to share our knowledge and to empower each other. I continue to implore our people – from the most junior recruit to our most senior managers – to live by this motto, to work to perfection and to care for one another, for I have no doubt that in the process we create a positive energy that helps all those whose lives we touch.