I decided to visit Radisson Blu Resort & Spa- Golden Sands (Radisson Golden Sands), so I met its General Manager, Ernest Barry. He welcomed me in his usual cordial manner and led me to his office.
On my way, I saw the faces of many staff members who were attending to different tasks, all of them with a smile. So, when we sat, my obvious first remark referred to the staff’s warmth.
“I am so glad you noticed that,” he said. “I assure you they genuinely enjoy meeting guests and being of service.”
“I invite you to see the praise we receive in our guests’ questionnaire. We regularly refer this information to our staff, who obviously consider this their highlight. Several public questionnaires, such as Tripadvisor, Trivago and Hotels.com, are replete with positive comments. And when the comments are not satisfactory, we follow up and contact the writer to see what went wrong and how to make amends.”
I then looked at Tripadvisor and read a recent review of May 2022 by samkearley. “ …From the moment we arrived, we found the staff extremely friendly, efficient and helpful. Our room on the 7th floor of the Sunrise Tower room was spacious and comfortable, with beautiful views of the pools, Golden Bay and the surrounding cliffs. Breakfasts were plentiful and delicious, and the staff were friendly and attentive. Altogether it was a wonderful holiday in a delightful part of this beautiful island. Thank you all.” And another, by nurseleathers2022, also written in May 2022, states, ‘Every member of the staff was incredibly friendly, helpful, and accommodating. The rooms, restaurants, beach, spa, and pools were immaculate and of very high quality. Everything on the island is very close, so take the opportunity to stay on the Golden Sands beach and enjoy the incredible views and sunsets. Rent a boat and go touring around! We can’t wait to come back. ”
In today’s world, reviews are very effective. “People who have not been here, have to choose on the basis of advertising, and the best advertising is reviews given by persons who have been here themselves.”
My following obvious query was whether the staff who excelled are recognised in any way. Ernest quickly explained that the decision to reward a staff member was a team decision and was not regulated by rigid rules set in stone. “Naturally, we recognise those mentioned and praised often by patrons. Sometimes you get a staff member who takes an original and successful initiative that attracts the patrons’ appreciation and sets out a new trend. For example, we had a brand-new team member from Dubai who noticed anniversary cards in a guest room and, on his initiative, prepared towels in the form of a heart with a personal note of good wishes. The guests were very grateful and appreciative. For us, he did something better, one step ahead from what we normally do.”
I asked Ernest what he considered a prize winner. “Apart from our staff, who I believe are the magnet force in this place, our location is a prize winner. The size of the rooms is very attractive, with direct access to sandy beaches and our restaurants. All these form a fascinating attraction.
“Guests are entertained at sea, in the pool, and on the grounds. It is also very family-oriented. We know that guests come here to relax, to enjoy themselves. They are happy to be here. And we are here to make it a point to exceed their expectations.”
Is the day full? “Yes, it is, but always exciting. No day is the same. You really cannot feel fed up. You can feel tired, but the day’s excitement is always vivid.”
How was the occupancy? “It’s now excellent. Summer is a friendly season for us. Guests and their families can come here and relax in many ways.”
I asked if they had a high rate of return guests. “Quite high! 10%.”
This place is a crowd puller, especially in Summer. Surrounded by sea, sand and countryside, it’s a haven where one can escape the over busy everyday life. Each of its 338 rooms is equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette. There is a superb selection of suites, including six penthouses, two of which can accommodate up to 8 adults. All the suites have large terraces, including, in some of them, a jacuzzi. The latest addition is a set of 9 uniquely designed suites, including one duplex, with direct access to the private beach.
Dining here is a pleasure. There are four on-site restaurants and three on-site bars to meet different whims and gusto.
Those who have Italian cuisine at heart will enjoy Agiolio, which is open for lunch and dinner. Naturally, pizza and pasta cannot be missed…sometimes with an exquisite Maltese twist.
Voted as the best Indian Restaurant in Malta, Essence of India cannot be missed. The main dishes naturally follow the traditional format of curry and rice, but the choice is wide and mouth-watering. If you don’t like curry, you can choose a cut of meat or kebab. There is also a fine selection of desserts to choose from. Indian delights are not to be missed: pistachio ice cream, rice puddings, sweetened carrots.
And what’s more, you can enjoy the surrounding panorama.
For those who prefer a buffet, Flavours offers a delightful experience with its daily breakfast, or better still, a super-breakfast with a large selection of food and treats.
The poolside bar Lagoon serves salads, pasta and several grilled dishes from May to October, whilst the Mokka Lobby Bar & Terrace offers a good cup of coffee and sweets in a relaxed surrounding panorama.
At Pebbles, one enjoys a wide choice of refreshing drinks, ice creams, mixed cocktails and a la carte snacks whilst spending your day at the beach.
Golden Sands also offers excellent conferencing facilities with various spaces for different events. All meeting rooms include audiovisual equipment, free wifi and different menus.
Children can delight themselves with specially organised activities and entertainment. There is also a small pitch for five-a-side football games where parents and their children can play against other families.
Guests can enjoy country walks and reach nearby villages on foot or even visit Mosta Dome and St Paul’s Bay, just 5 kilometres away.
A hot stone massage at Myoka Spa dissolves all anxieties. It offers a vast array of treatments by a professional and talented team who will also share their advice on other body care.
It’s a pampering experience, offering a most enjoyable and relaxing time
I asked to meet some staff and was glad I did so.
Josette Bugeja, Assistant Manager at Agliolio, filled the room with her enthusiasm. “I am always pleased to be at work. The scenic background is always changing. Nature varies in colour; no day is the same. This affects me a lot and keeps me fresh every day of work.”
“Staff is around 20; we are a bustling outlet, but I would not have it any other way. In summer, attendance is high every day; in winter, weekends become very challenging.”
What about the menu? She was quick on the draw. “We have an excellent menu and varied. It’s a casual place and very family-friendly, so patrons can enjoy themselves at ease and dress casually.”
How long has she been working at Golden Sands? “Time flies; already 17 years, but I worked in other restaurants within this hotel.”
And how does she rest and relax after a day’s work? “I read a lot, and I love taking care of plants.”
How would she describe herself? “I am very meticulous and want everything done properly as it should be. I very rarely get angry, but I follow up matters with a serious determination which is more effective than getting angry.”
What gives you the courage to look ahead? “I believe that one should have a positive outlook and behaviour. Positivity charges us with the courage to overcome hurdles with a peaceful mind.”
I then met Mohammed Safwan, a waiter who has been working in Agliolio for five months.
He hails from Dubai, has studied hotel management for four years, and is now completing an internship here with this hotel. He applied and was very glad he was accepted. He finds the place challenging and is always ready to learn. “I intend to grow within the industry, but I believe that starting from the first ranks gives a very sound footing.”
I checked Tripadvisor and was glad to find Safwan’s name praised: “Best service I ever had. Mind-blowing. I have been to dinner yesterday night in Agliolio restaurant. Food was fantastic and also service Person Mr Safwan did a fabulous job in service,”
Another waiter at Agliolio comes from India: Vikul Kumar. He worked with Radisson Blu in India and completed a three-year hotel management course at the University.
“I have come for some time in Malta and will then leave to acquire new experiences in other countries.” Would he take part of this hotel in his heart? “Most certainly! It’s a friendly and exciting experience which will remain for many years in my heart.”
Daniela Said Ebejer Reservation Manager explained that besides bookings, she communicates continuously with clients over the phone, takes care of the allocation of rooms and regularly walks around the hotel to report any damages she would spot.
Asked for something different which happened lately, she referred me to a Maltese couple who were getting married in Malta but wanted to leave for the ceremony from this hotel. “So all the immediate family, some nine persons or ten, slept here and left for the ceremony all dressed up the following morning. After the ceremony, they returned here and relaxed for a couple of days.”
Daniela joined in 2006 as a part-timer, initially as a waitress at Agliolio. She then studied tourism at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) for four years but remained with the company part-time. I worked in the front office, then at the Gran Hotel at Rimini, and subsequently returned as a receptionist.
“I have always loved communicating with guests. It keeps me alive, on my toes, and in love with my job.”
I asked her about her hobbies and was surprised by the answer. “You will not believe it, but my hobby is football. Not following it, but playing football. I am mainly a midfielder, left-wing.
Did she feel a family sense around her? This simple query visibly moved Daniela. “I cannot forget for one second the strong sense of family which exists here. I was hospitalised for some time, and this affected my mood; I had also stopped playing football, but our GM Ernest Berry (who was also a football star in Malta) noticed this. He chatted with me, filled me with courage and made it a point to see me get better.”
Daniela’s face quickly regained peace. “I am now playing football again with Mġarr United Women.”
These stories give colour to a person, the place of work, and the good souls who see the other’s needs and act on them.
Gianluca Gitto is Head of Concierge. A young 27-year-old smart gentleman, he joined this hotel only one month ago. I called him ‘wet paint’.
He is a Sicilian but lived mainly in Milan. So why Malta? He had graduated in Switzerland with an MSc in Hospitality last February and looked around for new experiences. “I sent CV to various places and received a few calls, but Malta’s was the best. So I chose Malta.”
My job as Head of Concierge allows me to practise what I love most: helping others. It gives me a kick. I also enjoy organising activities. With a typical Italian tone and expression, he added that he felt passionate about it.
What hit him most when he arrived here? “I was impressed with the enthusiastic welcome I received as part of a family. I assure you it has made me feel very much at home.”
Married? “Yes, I am. I married Daria five months ago. Naturally, she came to Malta with me.” And where does she work? Gianluca chuckled softly. “She works here at the reception.”
What was his previous work experience? “I worked in Russia, Nigeria, Cyprus, and now Malta. I am accustomed to changing places and moving. In this type of work, change in experience widens the scope, horizons and chances of developing.” I asked him if he wanted to remain in Malta. He smiled: “I love my job, this place, I love Malta. I think my stay will not be short.”
A character who left a deep mark on me was undoubtedly Rocco Gauci. He is a young and handsome 20-year-old and has been working here for a year as Commis Chef.
His grandfather and brother are both chefs, so food and cooking run in the family. He confessed, “Some told me to find a job working on a computer; others told me to avoid working in the kitchen.”
I asked him why. “Can you see my wheelchair? That is why. I have spina bifida.” And he said it with such a smile which completely disarmed me. I was intensely moved.
By his smiling face, I could tell he was very much at ease and satisfied with his decision. I confess I was impressed to the hilt by the determination and positive outlook of a man who was expected by others to be limited. Rocco is larger than life. He is determined and will certainly succeed to excel in the culinary art. I am aware that Ernest Barry took a personal interest.
Rocco is on an internship and is studying for a diploma at ITS. When asked if he intended to remain, he nodded. “Certainly. When I came here, I was accepted without fuss as a friend and colleague, ready to learn and work with others. The teamwork here is impressive. Why should I leave?”
I then met 55-year-old Joseph Camilleri, Chef Tournant.
He has been there for three years but has 27 years of experience in the kitchen. What does he like best? “The different menus and the challenge I have to face every year.”
He tried his luck with another company, but within two weeks, he returned to the fold. This other company required him to cook the same thing repeatedly, every day; it was like a line factory. He could not take it even though the time and the salary were better. “In life, one cannot look only at certain benefits if one is not happy and at ease. I like the challenge of a different menu. I work at the Restaurant Flavours and love that after lunch or dinner, I join the patrons and ask them whether they enjoyed the good food.”
Last but not least, I met with Mark Micallef, Executive sous chef, that is, second in command after the Head Chef. What did he like most about his job? “The challenge of the new day. The next day is always a new experience and challenge. But above all, a different enjoyment. The sense of achievement is second to none in my job.”
He’s been on this job for 17 years and has grown in the ranks.
“To learn, one must be prepared to widen one’s experiences in different foods: Indian, Turkish, Mediterranean et cetera.
Sometimes, it could be a headache to organise functions of two or three hundred persons. The organisation must be spotless, and I am a stickler for perfection. I visualise the result I want to achieve and work towards it assiduously, paying attention to the slightest detail. It is in my character; I cannot escape it. Let me give you an example.
All my life, I wanted to take up engineering, and for several reasons, I did not do that, but these last seven years, I decided to take up servicing high-end bikes. I took this up with utmost dedication and hard work after my long working hours. But that is how I relax. I spend hours, but I feel refreshed. To show you what a stickler I am for precision, can I show you a photo of my workshop?”
I saw it, and I share it with you, dear readers. I am completely bowled over by the precision and tidiness all over this workshop. Everything is in its proper place and catalogued. And as he did in the culinary profession, our friend Mark has also excelled in this field, attracting even international success, running an enterprise called Bike Clinic Malta.
I left the hotel, much pleased with the positive vibes I felt in all hearts all over the place.