Whether your clients are pushed for time or in it for the long haul, Malta has something to suit their needs. Karl Cushing reports
It’s no mystery why Brits account for just under a third of all the tourists on Malta.
For starters, it’s affordable, the locals speak English and the country enjoys a pleasant year-round climate. Plus it’s only three-hours away, with frequent cheap flight services from all over the UK.
Belleair Holidays alone features six airlines, operating from 13 UK airports, while for this summer Cosmos Holidays and Avro has added Air Malta departures from Cardiff, Norwich, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol and Exeter (July 3 - October 23).
Plus, this winter Cosmos will run daily flights from both Gatwick and Manchester and offer all its properties on a ‘flexi-stay’ basis of between three and 42 nights, supporting a fantastic choice of durations.
Malta’s charming capital Valletta makes for a great long weekend option for time-poor clients. There are lots of events to wrap a short stay package around too, from May’s International Fireworks Festival to the free Isle of MTV festival in June.
Clients could easily spend the whole time pootling about the historic streets of Valletta and the ‘three cities’ of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua just across the Grand Harbour (pictured below).
Eating out is great value and the cafes and restaurants in nearby St Julian’s are great for people watching. After dark, young’uns can head to the Paceville area of St Julian’s, Malta’s main nightlife centre.
Gareth Rogers, Thomas Cook product manager for Malta, recommends sending clients looking for entertainment while they dine to the summer folklore night at the Limestone Heritage Park, or for a more low-key option, La Dolce Vita in St Julian’s serves Italian cuisine with beautiful views over Spinola Bay.
If they fancy a short overview of the country, suggest Attraction World’s Three Islands tour aboard the Captain Morgan, which costs £56.
For something a bit special, suggest one of Valletta’s high-end properties such as the Phoenicia, an art deco property just outside Valletta’s ancient city walls, or the Grand Hotel Excelsior, where the stars of the Isle of MTV festival stay.
In Mdina, operators such as Belleair offer short breaks at the Xara Palace, a member of Relais & Châteaux, while Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides recommends the “wow factor” of the five-star InterContinental Hotel at St George’s Bay.
Good bets for spa and wellness packages include Gozo’s tranquil Kempinski St Lawrenz, which offers a range of ayurvedic treatments.
Staying at the higher end, for 2012 Kuoni grew its Malta programme from just two hotels to five - all perfect for short stays. They are the Hilton Malta, The Palace, Kempinski San Lawrenz, Ta ‘Cenc and Hotel Juliani, an intimate four star.
On the budget front, Cosmos offers three-nights stays at properties like the Clover Holiday Complex in Qawra and Hotel Topaz in Bugibba.
Kuoni offers three nights B&B in a superior countryview room at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz from £778pp in August (Friday departures). Price includes Air Malta flights from Gatwick and private resort transfers. kuoni.co.uk 01306 747008
Cosmos offers three nights B&B at the 4D Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa in Mellieha Bay for £299 per adult, based on two sharing a Comfort Village room. Price includes flights departing November 5 2012 from Gatwick and return transfers. cosmos.co.uk 0871 423 8518
A WEEK IN THE SUN
If your clients have a week to play with they could easily tick off all Malta’s main sites, from natural sites such as the Blue Grotto and Azure Window to historic cities such as Gozo’s capital, Victoria (Rabat).
Belleair Holidays’ national sales manager Emma Yorke recommends taking an excursion to ‘the silent city’ of Mdina, whose walled citadel is home to quaint winding streets and historic buildings such as Palazzo Falson.
Of course, your clients may just want to lounge around the pool. Resorts such as Buggiba, on St Paul’s Bay, and Qawra, home to the new Club Salina Wharf apartments, featured by Belleair, offer a good range of family and budget-friendly self catering options.
For families, Olympic’s Lambrianides recommends Qawra’s four-star Seashells Resort at Suncrest, with its Fido Dido kids club, while Cosmos’s best selling all-inclusive is the Seabank Resort in Mellieha.
There are entertainment options to keep the kids occupied, including Mediterraneo Bio Park which is home to dolphins, sea lions and other marine species, a Playmobil FunPark, the Splash and Fun Waterpark with slides and pools, and Popeye Village, a funpark built in the set of the 1980s film.
Belleair Holidays has seven nights self catering in a studio at the Clover Holiday Complex, Qawra, from £294 including transfers, entrance to a Malta attraction, and flights from Gatwick departing October 15. belleair.co.uk/agents 0845 365 3412
Shearings Holidays has a seven-night all-inclusive break in a standard room at the three-star Hotel Plevna in Sliema from £589, including flights and transfers, price valid for departures till the end of October. shearingsagent.com 0844 824 6351
Malta has long been popular with the older market who like to stay for three or four weeks over the winter to make the most of the island’s balmy winter sunshine and good value out-of-season prices.
If your clients are looking for a longer stay then Gozo’s excellent range of self-catering, farmhouse-style properties are a good bet, such as the Ta Frenc farmhouses, Ta Mena Estate and Il Vignetto in Xaghra.
Ideal for families and groups, this relaxing home-from-home concept can be remarkably good value, especially in the quieter winter months. Local farm shops sell an abundance of great local produce and when you tire of cooking there are great local restaurants such as Zeffiro, in Xlendi Bay, and Il Kartel, in Marsalforn.
I was a big fan of The Hamlet, a collection of five lovely stone self-catering farmhouses built using reclaimed stone. The buildings have three or four bedrooms, large terraces with barbeque areas, and everything from maid service to chefs and au pairs can be supplied. As the properties have underground heating and small heated pools they are ideal for the cooler winter months. barongroupmalta.com
Alternatively, suggest extending a client’s trip by bolting on an ex-Malta cruise. Belleair’s new seven-night Med cruise option, sailing from Valletta this summer on Costa Magica leads in at £609pp cruise-only.
Belleair Holidays has 21 nights self-catering at the four star Petra Farmhouse on Gozo from £659pp, based on three sharing. The price, for October 1 - 8 departures, includes flights from Gatwick and car hire. belleair.co.uk 0845 365 3412
Olympic Holidays has 21 nights B&B in a twin room at the Fortina Hotel in Sliema for £656pp in January 2013, including flights from Gatwick and transfers. olympicholidays.com 0844 499 4449
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