No business like… show business
There’s no business like… show business! And as Valletta looks forward to its transformation as European Capital of Culture in 2018, Jo Caruana examines what this could mean for the capital’s business community – and beyond.
Culture is big business. And as Valletta journeys towards its position as European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in 2018, business owners will be eager to see how the city’s new role could translate into increased sales and opportunities for them. So, is this on the cards?
“V18 really is going to be an opportunity to showcase Valletta, and other localities, like no other,” says the city’s mayor, Alexiei Dingli. Based on the results obtained by other Capitals of Culture, we estimate that the number of people visiting the city that year will rise by 12 per cent. Thus businesses will definitely benefit from this increase.
“On top of that, activities aren’t just planned for 2018 but will build up gradually year on year. With more activities on the go, we’re sure that more people will be encouraged to visit the capital, whether to shop, enjoy a meal or to visit a cultural activity.
And beyond 2018? We hope the legacy will live on too and I believe Valletta will feel the difference. Having said that, we can’t discount the substantial investment that is being made by the Government, as well as private entities, in the run up to this special event.”
Investment will be directed towards a variety of projects, including the restoration of several historic and cultural buildings, as well as ones that are being built from scratch. There will also be embellishment works, cultural investment, education, marketing and more.
“Yes, organising the European Capital of Culture requires quite some expenditure,” says David Felice, chairman of the V18 Foundation. “Yet, it is well-documented that, if well-planned, the economic return on investment is worth the initial expenditure.”
In fact, Mr Felice explains that a number of studies have been carried out to analyse the economic impacts left by a ECoC in the host city.
“What has been found is that the private sector and the community of entrepreneurs need to be involved in the process early on. This has to happen while the project is still being defined, rather than as a late attempt to source additional funds to support the realisation of a project that was evolved on the basis of an agenda developed by others.
“Within the walls of Valletta, the business community is almost as residential in its presence as the residents themselves, and this has played a vital role in keeping the city alive over the decades. Today businesses can invest, promote themselves, promote the ECoC and, thus, promote Valletta. We know that businesses, and especially small businesses, need to be guided, and the support is out there.”
Of course, all this investment is aimed at making Malta more attractive. “And it is already succeeding,” Mr Dingli continues. “The feedback we’re getting from estate agents is that, after the title was confirmed, interest in Malta quickly increased. We’re already seeing large numbers of distinguished individuals set up in the city, including international artists and entrepreneurs.”
Mr Dingli believes that V18 will help to portray a ‘modern Malta’, and will also highlight our heritage and culture. “We’re making some important statements,” he says. “Like through the Renzo Piano project, as well as with the creation of the island’s first Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be housed in the Powerhouse near the Valletta Waterfront.
“At this stage, we are definitely strengthening our creative economy, which is arguably new to Malta. This cultural injection will help to create more jobs across all sectors – construction workers will create the infrastructure needed, artists will have more spaces to realise their creations, the general public will be entertained by more quality productions and foreigners will be encouraged to be part of this change. Essentially, we will be creating a cultural ecosystem that will transform Malta once and for all. Plus, the expected boost in our tourism industry will have a positive effect on the whole of the Euro-Med region.”
At this stage, the V18 Foundation is keen to partner with businesses across a wide range of sectors. “We are currently analysing who our partners could be,” Mr Felice continues. “Research has proven that there is a wide cross-section of sectors which bring so much to the table, including finance, airlines, beverage companies, automobile, accounting services, hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tour operators, destination management companies, transportation, energy, construction, and food and media partners, with no particular dominant sector.”
The chairman explains that the private sector can offer support and contributions in the form of cash but also in-kind, supplying services or goods required for staging the ECoC. “With this in mind, it is about establishing a two-way relationship that will benefit both parties. There is so much to be gained from the way Valletta and the rest of the territory can be portrayed in the future – and that starts now.
“Additionally, the inclusion of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry within the founding structure of the Foundation was a fundamental and strategic measure. We strongly believe it can prove effective in helping us devise our sponsorship strategy and act as a uniting force between the Foundation and potential partners. After all, businesses in past ECoC capitals saw benefits that included increased exposure, sales stimulation, image enhancement and employee incentives. We plan to create the same, and more, here in Malta.”
Case Study – A Business in Culture: Phoenicia Hotel
“I am very positive that V18 will put ‘product Malta’ right in the limelight,” says Charles Azzopardi, Phoenicia Hotel’s general manager. “It won’t just impact tourism, but it will also have a significant roll-on effect on other service industries across the islands.
“In my opinion, being ECoC ties in beautifully with the Malta Tourism Authority’s strategic direction to promote Malta in major tourism markets for city breaks. Success on this front also means an improvement in our tourism seasonality, as city breaks and short-break holidays are more predominant during the winter and shoulder months.
“With more cultural events planned to take place in and around Valletta, we have greater possibilities to promote The Phoenicia with culture packages targeted at specific market segments. Given the size of the island, Valletta’s planned promotion could potentially also impact tourist inflows for the whole island in a very positive way.
“At the hotel, we are proud to have already started making cultural links with partners in Valletta. For instance, we are currently co-operating with the Manoel Theatre on the Baroque Festival, which is to be held in January. We believe it is very important for us to be associated with quality cultural events, and are promoting the festival through our PR agency in the UK. We hope that this will be the first of many.”