This year the Preluna Hotel and Spa turned forty. I met up with the CEO and Managing Director of this establishment, Joe Preca, to reminisce over the landmark hotel’s eventful years and to learn about the changes and opportunities that provide the basis for a sound strategy for any successful enterprise today
JZ: This anniversary is special because it marks a remarkable era for the Preluna, having overcome the up’s and downs of the past that this industry has been through ranging from terrorism, market forces and change in trends. How do you see these factors as having been instrumental in the development of the Preluna’s strategic objectives and goals?
JP: “Tourism has had different phases since the late sixties, from the investment in luxury hotels to the search for a discerning client looking for quality,and this was facilitated during those pioneering years because Malta and Gozo were in the sterling area, which meant that the restriction on the amount of money allowed outside the UK and those countries using the sterling currency was limited by an imposition from the UK Government. This imposition certainly helped encourage the loyalty factor of visitors from the UK to Malta.
“In 1972, after the OPEC meeting, which culminated in the first recent increase in oil prices, the UK Government removed currency restrictions on its citizens and this gave us a lot of volatility in the tourism industry which meant we had to do much more promotion. Individual hoteliers used to promote themselves.
“With the introduction of “mass tourism” after 1972 and the dawn of the tour operator business to the islands, through package tours and charter flights, luxury hotels were outpriced by the market. The Preluna and one other hotel were the only
four star establishments which were seen as lucrative for this market. Adaptation to the times was an important factor for the success.
“Change in the tourism industry came with the advent of internet and IT travel and the introduction of websites and direct bookings in real time. This gave us more freedom to determine our future.” JZ. During the activity to mark this event, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi referred to the anniversary as the start of a new life at forty. Would you like to consider this moment as the start of a new life for Preluna or, rather, the continuation of a success story? JP: “It is in the interest of the Company for changes to be done gradually.” JZ. Presently, the global economic crisis is causing serious problems for the tourism industry worldwide and, naturally, even in Malta. What do you consider as the best opportunities to weather the storm of recession? JP: “Before the 2008 crisis there was a good mix of TO and online markets and this resulted in some good years such as 2007 and 2008. After October 2008, the demand for holidays was reduced. The fact that we are in Eurozone makes up for this loss.
“To make ourselves more competitive we had to reduce our rates online using yield management principles due to competition.
“Quantitative data for tourism is not sufficient to establish policies and strategies – revenue is an important factor here.” JZ. Many are predicting a shift in tourism trends. How is the Preluna preparing for that shift in trends? JP: “A continuous and intelligent refurbishment programme needs to be adopted to keep the hotel up to standard; the greatest attraction for a visitor to Malta is the country not the hotel, so the hotel should always be above his expectations.
“With a completely new Management that has replaced the more experienced and mature team – there is the advantage of being able to consult with that mature “team. This consultation will lead to better and more successful informed decisions for the future.”