As part of our series on people behind the events we talk with Rosette Micallef Head of Marketing and Sales, at Mediterranean Conference Centre
CEO Insight: Can you tell us your journey and how you came to working at MCC
Rosette Micallef: When I joined the MCC a few decades ago (!) the MICE Market was still relatively new to Malta and therefore the organisational structure was completely different. Whether it was the organisation of a high profile conference or the purchase of pens, everything used to go through the then Managing Director and I was his Personal Assistant. Of course things have changed and evolved over the years and I worked my way up. I’ve been in the position of Head of Sales and Marketing since 2001. Incidentally I was being interviewed for the post while the 09/11 attack was taking place. As you all know, people were scared to travel for quite a while so the MICE Market suffered a lot during the ensuing years, which meant a huge challenge also for me at MCC. But we managed to overcome those challenges. Today we are pleased to say that the past 3 years have been the best ever for MCC. May I say that despite all these years, I still feel something really special about this place…. The architecture, the environment all around seem to transmit such a positive feeling.
CEO Insight: Can you tell us about the history of the venue?
Rosette Micallef: For over two centuries, the building that now houses the Mediterranean Conference Centre was the ‘Sacra Infermeria’ or Holy Infirmary of the Order of St. John. Constructed in the latter part of the 16th Century, this architectural landmark has had a fascinating history during which it was subject to various transformations as it changed to accommodate the needs of the day. Following the Knights’ departure from Malta in 1798, the French under Napoleon’s reign and subsequently the British, also used it as a Station Hospital. It was in this building in 1887 that Surgeon David Bruce and his colleague Doctor Giuseppe Scicluna discovered the germ of Mediterranean fever – known as Brucellosis.
At the end of World War I the infirmary was handed over to the civil authorities and used by the Police Force: the Great Magazine Ward, below the Long Ward, became a stable for their horses and the Infirmarian’s Hall the Officers’ Mess. It was evacuated on the outbreak of World War II and suffered much bomb damage.
After the end of the war the buildings were put to many uses: a soldiers’ and later a childrens’ theatre, known as the Knights Hall, a school and an Examination Hall. Various attempts for its reconstruction were launched between 1952 and 1974, but it was not until 1978 that vigorous action was taken to set up the Mediterranean Conference Centre as it now stands with several halls and conference rooms, exhibition areas, banqueting rooms and other facilities.
As a matter of interest, the main Auditorium, the Republic Hall was originally the Lower Courtyard, fragrant with the scent of numerous orange and lemon trees, the fruit of which was doubtless much appreciated by the sick. The building was fully restored in 1979 and converted into a modern conference centre which earned it the coveted ‘Europa Nostra’ Award for its ‘superb restoration’ and tasteful blending of ancient and modern.
CEO Insight: What have been the biggest changes you have seen to the event space over this time?
Rosette Micallef: Restoration and maintenance works are ongoing in this 400 year old building. The biggest change I’ve witnessed was the reconstruction of the main Auditorium, following a fire which gutted completely the hall way back in 1987. The stage of the new Auditorium was turned 180 degrees with better back stage facilities and a larger seating capacity. However, I am now excited to see even bigger changes to some spaces which so far have not been used, namely the transformation of the roof into an outstanding outdoor venue for 800 people overlooking the majestic Grand Harbour. Works are also currently underway to transform what used to be the Slaves’ Ward into another venue and another space at street level – still raw – will be transformed into a meeting room with a seating capacity of circa 200.
CEO Insight: How many events a year do you put on?
Rosette Micallef: Our leanest month is August, for obvious reasons. We are busy throughout the rest of the year with almost, at least, one event per day. For instance last year we hosted 195 different events, the majority of which were multi-day events and only a few were booked for just one day.
CEO Insight: Can you tell us what other services are available other than just venue hire?
Rosette Micallef: Since its inception as a conference centre, an ongoing restoration and maintenance programme has kept the unique historical character of this national monument, while providing a modern venue able to handle major international conferences, exhibitions, banquets and theatrical events. The MCC, the flagship of conference venues on the Island, is now renowned for its outstanding services and facilities. The range of events that can be held at the conference centre is rather wide.
“The MCC boasts a total of eight halls over an area of 7,000 square metres. The halls vary in size and are therefore suitable for a range of events. The largest and most impressive, Republic Hall, seats 1,400 in theatre style whereas the smallest, La Cassiere caters for 60 persons.”
Each meeting hall is equipped with its own independent sound, lighting and climate control. Conference facilities include permanent installations for simultaneous interpretation for up to six languages, audio / visual equipment and WiFi throughout. The main marketing thrust for the MCC is definitely its historic aspect. Over the years, the MCC has offered the clients a venue which is completely different from the normal concrete & steel structures.
CEO Insight: What events have been the most challenging?
Rosette Micallef: Over the years, the MCC has hosted numerous events including very high profile ones such as the Crans Montana Forum in 1996 and a Euro-Med Summit in 1997 attended by people such as Yassir Arafat, Alia Izetbegovic and David Levy. However the most challenging so far were undoubtedly the Commonwealth Meetings – CHOGM 2005 and CHOGM 2015 and the Valletta Summit Meeting on Migration also in 2015 Suffice to mention that 53 heads of State including Prime Ministers of UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and many others – headed by the HM Queen Elizabeth II – were in attendance. Worth mentioning also are the numerous meetings and Ministerial Dinners held last year during Malta’s EU Presidency.
CEO Insight: What can we expect over 2018 from the MCC?
Rosette Micallef: Whilst works on the new projects will kick off in a few weeks’ time, we are looking forward to another successful year full of a diversity of events, the more so that this year Valletta is the European capital of culture. We are currently negotiating – amongst others – two major international events to be held towards the last quarter, one from the financial sector, the other one from the entertainment world. These two events will attract thousands of visitors to our shores.
CEO Insight: What’s on the horizon for yourself and the MCC?
Rosette Micallef: More exciting times are on the horizon for MCC and therefore for me too! Expansion is definitely on the boards; currently almost a third of the space is un-utilised and not accessible to the public. Now, thanks to the vision and enthusiasm of our current CEO, we have managed to obtain the necessary funds for the development of this, so far, un-utilised portion of the building. As a result, this would benefit the public and conference business with the opening of two new venues inside as well as a major roof terrace commanding magnificent view of the Grand Harbour. We simply can’t wait to see the completion of this ambitious project next year.
Incidentally next year the MCC will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. However, after all these years we are proud to say that the Mediterranean conference Centre is still the flagship of conference venues in Malta. As the London merchant Edward Brown said in 1676 of the Infirmary at that time, the present Mediterranean Conference Centre is the “very glory of Malta”.