Scaling Up AX Hotels: The HR Perspective

Joseanne Tanti, Human Resources Manager for AX Hotels, discusses the innovative recruitment and training strategies implemented by the HR team to prepare for the re-opening of the ODYCY hotel.

Over the past few years, AX Hotels has entered a new phase of growth and development, characterised by the development of several ambitious hotel and F&B projects, including the newly redeveloped ODYCY resort in Qawra. As a company with a strong reputation for delivering exceptional hospitality, we understand that the success of all our hospitality offerings ultimately depends on the calibre of the staff who work within them. Consequently, our HR team has been actively working on a proactive recruitment approach, utilising creative solutions to attract and onboard the right talent, despite the ongoing challenges faced by the local hospitality industry.


At AX Hotels, we take pride in our recruitment strategy that centres around a positive and fulfilling career journey for potential candidates from the very start. Our approach is to identify and attract candidates who share our passion for hospitality, possess the character traits required to excel in the industry, and are excited about building a long-term career with us. To overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and the limited local talent market, we proactively sought to recruit skilled professionals from leading international locations. By conducting targeted recruitment drives, we successfully attracted a diverse range of highly talented individuals with experience across a range of hotel departments, including operational, administrative, and managerial positions.


Naturally, recruitment is just one part of a successful hiring strategy. We also recognise that effective onboarding is key to building a strong team. This was especially crucial in the build-up to the re-opening of ODYCY to ensure that all our new recruits gel and feel integrated into the AX Hotels family. As many of our new hires were foreign nationals only just arriving in Malta, we also felt the need to create a comprehensive onboarding program that not only introduced them to their roles but also included cultural awareness training to foster a workplace that respects diversity. By embracing diversity, we believe we can create a more inclusive and successful workplace for everyone.


We also believe in taking a long-term approach with each of our employees from the outset. We understand that providing a supportive work environment is essential to fostering success and productivity in the long run. To this end, we provide our staff with comprehensive training and support to help them thrive in their roles and build fulfilling careers with us. Effective staff management entails striking a balance between the company’s objectives and the individual needs of our employees, with the ultimate goal of transforming groups of new hires into successful and harmonious teams who deliver on the AX Hotels’ promise for exceptional hospitality.


Our open-door policy encourages our employees to approach their managers with feedback and concerns, enabling them to share their experiences and ideas to enhance the overall employee experience. By valuing our staff and listening to their needs, we strive to create a workplace culture that motivates them to perform at their best so they can build fulfilling careers with us.


We also feel it’s important to acknowledge the unique qualities and motivations of each individual on our teams. We understand that some employees are more driven and passionate about their work than others, while different people hold different career aspirations. To support the diverse needs of our staff, we have tailored our approach to staff management and development accordingly. Our development programs are designed to assist employees in achieving their goals by actively listening to their needs and understanding what motivates them in both their work and personal lives. This enables us to support them in the right ways and to open their eyes to the countless job opportunities available through AX Hotels, so that they can flourish and enjoy fulfilling careers.

As we look ahead to the reopening of ODYCY, we are proud of the progress our teams have made so far. We recognise that our people are the cornerstone of our business and remain committed to their growth as we move forward. By cultivating talent and promoting a culture of teamwork and creativity, we are confident that we can continue to excel and set a new standard of hospitality excellence in Malta.

A Career Evolution: Andreas Dullnigg Shares His Lifelong Journey in Hospitality

As Andreas Dullnigg approaches his tenth year at AX Hotels, we had the pleasure of sitting down with him to explore his remarkable career journey, his deep-rooted passion for hospitality, and his unwavering commitment to providing unforgettable guest experiences. Here he delves into his insights, inspirations, and the lessons he has learned along the way, from his early days in the industry to his current role as Hotel Manager at AX Hotels Qawra.


How long have you been working at AX Hotels, and could you share your career progression within the company?

I started my journey with AX Hotels nine years ago as an Operations Manager, where I had the opportunity to oversee day-to-day operations and be responsible for everything from food and beverage operations and store management to security, health and safety, and purchasing. In addition to my primary roles, I also led the Hotel Animation team to help foster an enjoyable atmosphere around our hotels and ensure our guests always had a wonderful time with us.

A few years later, I was appointed Assistant General Manager, which enabled me to broaden my scope of responsibilities and gain valuable insights into overall hotel management. And now, I am proud to hold the role of Hotel Manager at AX Hotels Qawra. I am truly grateful for the rewarding career I have enjoyed so far with AX Hotels and eagerly anticipate the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.


Could you share your academic background?

I completed a comprehensive five-year academic course at ITS, together with a two-year certificate programme in Front Office and Housekeeping, followed by three years of specialised study in Hotel Supervisory Management. As I have always wanted to progress further in my hospitality career, I also decided to embark on a Masters in Hospitality Management, which I am looking forward to completing this year. I believe that my studies and training, combined with my first-hand experience on the job, have equipped me with a solid foundation and a diverse skill set, enabling me to approach my role with a well-rounded perspective.


Could you share a favourite initiative that you have been involved in at AX Hotels?

One project that stands out as a major highlight for me is the opening journey of the AX ODYCY hotel in Qawra. It has been an incredible experience being part of a multi-talented team that brought this fantastic hotel to life. The process has been quite a unique challenge, requiring us to go above and beyond and embrace new learning curves, but collaborating with such a diverse group of professionals has been incredibly rewarding. It really leads you to appreciate the significant investment that AX Hotels is making in transforming Qawra into such a stellar, year-round hospitality destination.


What are your core responsibilities in your role?

Recently, my main focus has been on strategically planning for the highly anticipated opening of the ODYCY. I’ve been fortunate to have a fantastic operations team supporting me all the way. This project is a major milestone for AX Hotels. Not only have we extended the original hotel, but we’ve completely transformed our hospitality offering and brand, adding new restaurants, bars, and upgrading our facilities. We are offering our guests something truly unique and unforgettable in Malta. So, as you can imagine, this has meant that we’ve all needed to pull together and work tirelessly to ensure every aspect of the hotel is perfect.


Do you have a favourite quote that inspires you?

One quote that has always stuck with me is from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I find this quote particularly relevant in the hospitality industry, because as a hotel, we’re not just providing people with a place to sleep and eat, but creating an experience where families, friends, and couples can come together to create treasured moments. This quote reminds me that when we make our guests feel truly valued, appreciated, and cared for, it leaves a lasting impression that they will carry with them long after their stay.


What are your interests and hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy travelling, immersing myself in different cultures, supporting my favourite football team, and taking drives in my VW Beetle.


Can you share an interesting fact about yourself?

One interesting fact about me is that my journey in the hospitality industry began at the young age of 15, working as a pool boy in a local 5-star hotel. You can say that the hospitality bug caught me young, and I’ve been hooked ever since.


What do you enjoy the most about your job?

What I find most fulfilling in my role is the opportunity to make a real difference in guest satisfaction. Nothing motivates me more than ensuring our guests have an exceptional experience with us. Additionally, I take great pride in mentoring our young employees and witnessing their growth and advancement. AX Hotels has always been deeply committed to investing in and supporting our employees, and being able to contribute to their success and witness colleagues flourishing in their careers is truly rewarding.


Have you encountered any challenging situations in your role that have taught you valuable lessons?

As with any team and work situation, I’ve witnessed disputes between departments caused by misunderstandings or communication gaps. It taught me the importance of never taking communication for granted, actively listening to colleagues, considering everyone’s opinions and insights, and maintaining an open and ongoing dialogue within the team to ensure we’re all working collaboratively and pulling in the same direction.


What is your motto for delivering the best guest experience?

Every interaction with a guest matters, so make each one count.


What advice would you give to young individuals aspiring for a career in hospitality?

My biggest piece of advice to aspiring hospitality professionals is to recognise that this industry is not just a job, but a vocation that demands a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. Whether it’s a hotel stay or a dining experience, these moments hold immense significance for people. They eagerly look forward and save up for these cherished moments with loved ones, and it is ultimately our duty, as hospitality professionals, to deliver experiences that become treasured memories in their lives. So, if you’re serious about embarking on this journey, remember that it’s an opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives. As such, it requires passion, determination, and a willingness to go above and beyond the job description to exceed guest expectations.

Breaking down barriers: Fostering a work culture that is welcoming of foreign nationals

It is no secret that Malta’s labour force has been transitioning through a period of unprecedented change over the past decade. In fact, according to recent statistics issued by JobsPlus, non-Maltese now make up over a quarter of the total labour force on the island, which has seen the number of foreign national workers in Malta shoot up from 9,500 in 2009 to close to 80,000 a decade later.

At AX Group, the shortage of local talent in industries such as hospitality, healthcare, and construction has resulted in the need to recruit foreign workers. In just one example pertaining to our business, within our construction division alone our headcount has gone from under 200 employees to over 300 over the past year, with the majority of these employees hailing from countries such as Turkey, India, and Southeast Asia.

While employing foreign nationals presents several challenges, such as obtaining the necessary work permits and visas, it also brings the need to address certain psychological and cultural challenges in order to ensure these employees are successfully integrated and supported at the place of work.

Many foreign workers arrive in Malta unfamiliar with the island and its culture, often having left behind families and loved ones in pursuit of better livelihoods and opportunities. It is crucial to acknowledge the bravery and sacrifices they make in choosing to work in an unfamiliar country. At times, they may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, which will inevitably impact their performance and motivation. Not having adequate support networks in place, such as family or friends, can also make the transition to a new job in a new country more challenging. Employers who acknowledge the unique experiences and difficulties faced by foreign workers can establish effective initiatives that promote their successful integration into the workforce.  This will lead to a job that brings them a sense of fulfilment and pride.

AX Group is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone is treated with fairness and respect. As an equal opportunities employer, AX Group ensures that all job candidates and employees are considered on the basis of their skills, abilities, and potential, rather than their background, gender, age, race, religion, or any other personal characteristic.  To support its commitment to equal opportunities, AX Group has established policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of the organization.

We believe that open communication is crucial for fostering a positive work culture. That’s why we encourage employees to share their ideas and perspectives, and to listen and learn from one another. To build relationships among colleagues, we also encourage foreign nationals to participate in company events and activities, including cross-cultural celebrations of religious festivities such as Christmas and Diwali.

Additionally, we provide professional development opportunities to help foreign nationals advance in their careers. We encourage them to take advantage of training programs and mentorship opportunities to enhance their skills and achieve their career goals. Here, we strive to create an inclusive environment where everyone is treated fairly and has equal access to opportunities. Our goal is to embody this ideal and show all employees that they are valued and respected, regardless of their race or religion.

We have seen time and again that our patience and perseverance on this front has paid dividends. We dedicate a lot of time and energy into fostering cross-cultural respect and understanding among our teams, and today, our multi-culturalism has become one of our major strengths. Our commitment has resulted in a diverse and unified workforce, enriched with a multitude of skills, expertise, innovative ideas, and craftsmanship.

However, we also acknowledge the need to do more to make a positive impact in any way we can to enhance the situation for all.

To this end, we are proud to have partnered with the recently founded Malta ESG Alliance (MESGA). Together with 12 other local business leaders, this private sector consortium is actively working together to tackle environmental, social, and governance priorities to contribute to a more sustainable and socially equitable Malta. In line with these efforts, AX Group remains a vocal advocate for improved policies that ensure fair and proper payment for all workers, both local and foreign. We strive for a system that supports foreign nationals entering the workforce, ensuring that they feel secure and not exploited or subjected to unjust treatment.

By understanding the unique challenges that foreign nationals face, providing support and resources, creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment, fostering a culture of open communication, encouraging employee engagement, and providing opportunities for professional development, businesses in Malta can help foreign nationals integrate into the workforce and feel valued and supported.

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that this is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that requires commitment and dedication. It’s important to assess and evaluate the progress, take feedback, and make necessary adjustments to the strategies employed. By doing so, we can guarantee that we are fostering a welcoming environment for individuals of all backgrounds while maintaining Malta’s appeal as a desirable workplace for foreign nationals seeking better prospects beyond their home countries.