I was impressed with the size, versatility, professionalism and management prowess of Malta Fairs & Conventions Centre (MFCC).
MFCC, an associated company within the Corinthia Group, is Malta’s largest international conference and exhibition venue, but with a big difference: you can create your own scenario to fit your particular event.
Its indoor and outdoor area covers 22,000m2 of available space. That’s the size of three football pitches side by side. CEO, Anita Mifsud, who is ever so charming, hands-on and professional, went straight to the point: “We can handle anything from large multi-faceted events to small intimate meetings.”
And that was no sales talk!
Anita’s professionalism manifests itself immediately. I was eager to know more about her academical preparation and was impressed with the result. She is an engineer by profession, having studied Quality Engineering at University of Malta. She then completed a course leading to Masters in Business Administration at Henley College and studied Six Sigma at Cranfield University. (Six Sigma is a process that makes use of statistics and data analysis to analyse and reduce errors or defects.) Always eager to advance her studies, she completed a Degree Events and Exhibition Management at Dubai Trade Centre and, during Covid, started a course leading to MSc in Hospitality Management at IDEA Leadership and Management Institute.
She has also a chequered work history, having been previously engaged in the automotive manufacturing for over 20 years and worked for prestigious car makers, such as Ford, General Motors, McLaren, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Alfa Romeo, and others.
She then developed a passion for the events industry. During her travels, she decided to diversify and further her knowledge and studies in that field in Dubai, where she then worked with various promoters and event organisers within the Dubai Trade Centre. She eventually returned to Malta.
In her last six years with MFCC, Anita Mifsud has generated great enthusiasm and determination to take MFCC forward to its next important milestone: making it a state-of-the-art convention centre which will place Malta on the forefront in the events industry.
I was eager to learn from Anita how an event takes shape. A client comes up with an event proposal. Then? “We immerse ourselves in the project, and our first step is the design. We give shape to the concept. We have a technical drawing section as part of our design team that produces a very detailed architectural drawing for carpentry or metallurgy to ensure accurate and unambiguous completion. After the client’s approval, implementation follows. And you know what? We are so confident of our knowledge, experience and professionalism that we do not charge for our floor-plan settings or stand designs. We know our prospective client would endorse our proposal.”
How does MFCC integrate with the Corinthia Group? “There is synergy between MFCC and Corinthia. As an integral partner within the Corinthia Group, our venue can offer rooms across all Corinthia properties in Malta and bespoke catering services through Corinthia Caterers.”
Could she elaborate on what MFCC offers? “One event venue we offer is the Petite Marquee, which has about 375 sqm indoor area and a covered outdoor foyer of 150 sqm. This permanent structure which leads to the Tensile Fabric Structure (TFS), is stylish yet cosy and trendy and can accommodate many different themes. Since it has separate restrooms, the Petite Marquee can be used, say, for a wedding reception hall, conference area, restaurant or meeting hall, amongst other possible uses.”
I enquired about the TFS or Tension Fabric Structure. Anita explained that this fabric structure is about 170 metres long, 50 metres wide, and 17 metres high. It can accommodate 13,000 people seated or 25,000 standing. It has no columns or support structures, so there are no obstructing features. That makes it ideal for conventions which require a flexible option, say, for example, a conference ambience during the day, but adapted to a gala dinner or concert venue in the evening.
Reassuring me, Anita emphasised that “TFS is a temporary structure, but it’s the result of some of the UK’s leading semi-permanent structure designers’ research and is built in line with permanent building regulations.”
The fabric is tensioned horizontally and vertically to produce one harmonious taut finish with black PVC inside and silver finish outside. “So this is no ordinary temporary building. It is designed to withstand many years of usage, unlike any other temporary building, ” Anita added reassuringly.
What would be the benefits of such a venue? Anita went through some of them. “It’s ideal for huge-scale events; it’s not affected by wind movements and is high enough to display advertising graphics. Important: it conforms to British, European, and American building regulations for stability and fire safety and can also accommodate mezzanine floors if needed. It contains a secondary membrane to improve sound and heat insulation further. These are some of the main benefits that come easily to my mind.”
So, the TFS offers what one may call a blank sheet for an event organiser to create an exciting reality. “Correct. And it is located in the central part of Malta with a 200 car park allotment within the venue if the outdoor area is not used plus a further 700 car park by the North entrance to your venue.” Wow, that’s ideal!
I noticed three load-bearing steel structural arches. “ They can take a load of 35 tonnes each,” explained Anita. “And they can be moved along most of the venue’s length, so that one can play around with the placing of the stage, design stands etc. without compromising structural stability.”
Mentioning stages, I enquired about the different stages available. “All sorts of stages and platforms. Literally, from raised platforms for announcement speeches to elaborate multi-levelled television screening. And we boast of professional selected partners within the audiovisual business which join us to offer an out-and-out service.”
We fleetingly hinted the various uses of MFCC facilities. Could she briefly go through them?
“Certainly. First, we can mention Fairs and Exhibitions. MFCC is Malta’s largest exhibition centre. It can be utilised to the maximum by one venue, or it can be divided into different halls and theatres according to needs and requirements. Let’s not forget that we offer flexibility with easy access for all exhibitors through separate bespoke entrances to stands with catering and bar facilities. Customers may also rent hoisting machinery.
We organise several Fairs yearly. The largest is The Malta Trade Fair, which uses both indoor and outdoor areas. The annual SiGMA iGaming show is also held here. We also host the biennial Malta Catering Expo, formerly known as Vivanda. This exciting event sees over 200 chefs competing for the highest culinary awards.
The four-day Home and Interiors Show attracts a sizeable public, whilst AMITEX, a travel-related show in collaboration with AirMalta, attracts all significant players within the travel industry to participate and promote their destinations.
Outside our precincts, we organise the Valletta Military Tattoo, held in St. George’s Square, Valletta, fronting the President’s Palace, where foreign military marching bands and the Maltese Armed Forces, Police, and Maltese Scouts entertain an audience of over 2000. We also fly the MFCC flag internationally with the yearly setting up of our bespoke curved arch stage structure in Cork, Ireland, for the Live at the Marquee concerts held every June.”
I assumed that MFCC’s vast experience could also prove to be a great asset for guiding clients on various aspects. “Undoubtedly! Our clients can certainly benefit from our advice and suggestions on best practices, checklists, permits needed, choice of audiovisual partners, printing requirements, health and security measures, and so many different points.”
And what about weddings? “Naturally, that is another favourite use, particularly the Petite Marquee. We also have a wide range of gazebos and marquees. But we can also offer design and set-up in any other property within the Corinthia Group, naturally offering the excellent service of Corinthia Caterers.”
From what I gathered, professional management of execution, delivery and installation seems to be essential. “Spot on! Often we need to manufacture custom-built stands or stage props etc. Timely professional execution is critical, but we must also deliver and install within a tight time framework.”
Are you faced with short deadlines? “Tight deadlines are a common occurrence, especially since re-use of the same space could be required for other venues. Tight turnaround times require our Logistics and Operations department to ensure smooth, efficient and effective work. We are well-equipped with delivery vehicles, fork lifters, cherry pickers and palletisers. And may I add that all our regularly trained crew are duly licensed to operate them.”
I could not resist asking how MFCC fared during 2022. Anita’s face shone. “ It was an excellent year, with over 300,000 visitors walking through our gates for an amazingly wide variety of events. We’ve had live and recorded television shows, such as X-Factor, Eurovision Song for Malta and Mużika Mużika. We’ve had concerts, such as Modern Talking, and sporting events, such as International Karate Championship and Golden Buckle Tournament with some 200 racehorses performing speed competitions. We had theatre shows such as LOL Surprise, MPO’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Bla Kondixin.
Conferences did not abate. We’ve had Public Service Week, Galaverse Malta, SiGMA Malta. Naturally, we’ve accommodated our fair share of fairs and exhibitions, such as Malta Trade Fair, AgriMalta, Frank’s Beauty Festival, Weddings and Home Fair, Comicon and National Book Festival. Examinations were also held here for ACCA winter sessions, whilst the charity Rockestra event was another great success. And that’s not mentioning outside services.”
And next year? Anita beamed. “Even grander!”