Conquering New Heights – Claire Mifsud’s Journey on Mount Toubkal

Introducing Claire Mifsud, Sales Executive at AX Hotel Sliema, who fearlessly conquered new heights by reaching the summit of Mount Toubkal.

 

In 2021 – my life took a complete 360-degree turnaround – with this, came a change in career, and change in status and a change in my whole life. I met a friend who organised weekly treks around Malta – with the goal to do the Camino de Santiago as a fundraising for a charity he supports.

So, I joined this group, some people I knew – some others I get to know. I gelled with them right away and made some amazing connections. Last May – 22 – I challenged myself to get to Santiago from Sarria, which is a 111km walk – and loved every minute of it! It gave me time to think and reflect as well as enjoy the beautiful scenery – and time to get out of my head and see things from a different perspective, after that I came back and started my amazing journey with AX.

This was such a great satisfaction – that kept me looking for my next challenge – as well as our fundraising which contributed to building three schools in Bonga, Ethiopia, which will allow 500 children a year to receive an education. After this I was itching for my next personal/philanthropical challenge, as a fundraising – we thought about empowering women in Ethiopia and made plans to build an education centre which will teach women skills such as creating employment opportunities, reducing migration and uplifting poor women and increase household income of families and hence reduce poverty in the area.

Conquering Mount Toubkal, was the biggest challenge I’ve set for myself and the most gratifying and exciting. The distinctive beauty and unique scenery were already enough for the trip to be the most exhilarating – but the unique climb made it the most transcendent.

Mount Toubkal, a mountain peak that is the highest point in Morocco and in the Atlas Mountains – 4,165 metres high. The peak is situated 60 km south of Marrakech in the High Atlas (Haut Atlas). Juniper forests covering the mountain’s higher slopes are succeeded by alpine meadows, whereas the lower slopes have been extensively overgrazed.

As trekking Mount Toubkal requires your body to be at high altitudes, it is crucial to allow time for adjustment. A rule of thumb is “climb high and sleep low.” It’s important to gain height slowly, about 500m a day once you are at 2,500m. You should be drinking plenty of water as well.

We started with a good night’s rest in Imlil and then stop at one of the refuges to sleep for the night. This allowed your body to adjust gradually, as the walk from Imlil to the Toubkal Refuges is about 12km alone. After spending the night at the Refuge, we woke up very early, feeling somewhat refreshed, and began our trek up to the summit of Toubkal. we began our trek in the early hours of the morning, with a headlamp, to avoid returning too late in and it was also great to get up to the summit for sunrise!

Conquering Mount Toubkal and reaching the peak was an emotional moment, the sky was a deep blue, and the horizon was punctured by sharp, jagged forays into the sky from the deep orange and white mountains below. It was an epic scene, and to look at it you would think the most serene moment.

As we left the peak, we started making our way back down. We had conquered North Africa’s highest peak in some of the worst conditions, and we lived to tell the tale.

Once you conquer a mountain there’s very little else you cannot do, I feel very satisfied, happy and proud I did this it’s a great one for the bucket list – now onto the next challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Optimizing Efficiency through Streamlining Operations

Ryan Muscat is an IT Systems Analyst within AX Group’s Business Transformation Unit. In just over 8 months, Ryan has been instrumental in the Group’s digital transformation efforts. He has expertise in the Therefore document management system and exceptional programming skills. Ryan has streamlined processes, integrated Docusign to eliminate the printing of agreements, and utilized metadata to improve operations. He is currently working on two critical projects: Digitizing AX Hotels Group’s agreements and developing a new agreements system for AX Development. Ryan’s contribution to the standardization of the agreement creation process and the integration with DocuSign has significantly improved AX Group’s operational efficiency, accuracy, and sustainability.

 

AX Group recognizes the importance of document management and the role it plays in improving our operational processes and decision-making capabilities. Our ongoing efforts to digitize documents, extract metadata, and enhance document accessibility have not only increased our efficiency and accuracy but also reduced our reliance on paper and contributed to our sustainability goals. One of the main advantages of digitizing our documents at AX Group has been the increased speed and ease of accessing and sharing them. This has significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to find specific documents and improved the overall efficiency of our workflows. By extracting metadata from these documents, we have also been able to use the information to improve our decision-making processes. For example, we can now easily analyze patterns and trends in our data, which helps us to make more informed decisions about our operations and strategies.

 

 

The Business Transformation Unit at AX Group is actively engaged in a number of projects that share the common objective of enhancing business operations. Specifically, our focus has been on increasing efficiency, centralizing and standardizing processes, improving document accessibility, and furthering the paperless effort. However, we faced a number of challenges during the digitization process at AX Group, such as dealing with large volumes of documents and ensuring that the metadata extracted was accurate and consistent. To overcome these challenges, we developed clear guidelines for document management and implemented quality control measures to ensure accuracy and consistency. Additionally, we provided training to our staff to ensure that they could use it effectively and efficiently.

Input = Output

Life has taught me many things but above all, experience has taught me certain simplicities which are so logical and have an absolute natural flow. Today’s busy life, unfortunately, doesn’t allow us much time to stop and think. One must really be aware of this, in order to break the cycle, reason things out objectively without interruptions and see clearly the logic in things.

 

I truly believe that in our workplace, it is all about input and output, in its very literal sense. If we input something wrong in our PC, it will be registered wrongly and consequentially it will be interpreted wrongly too, leading us to wrong decisions and a bad output. Likewise, if we give X amount of energy into what we are working on, it will usually give you back that energy in return, whether it is physical, mental or numerical, in the short or long term. Similarly, if we don’t give the right amount of focus to whatever it is we are working on, we will never reap the energy we expect in return. Input = Output. In my head, it is very clear.

 

On a different note, what affects us similarly is the ‘input’ we give to ourselves, mentally, physically and spiritually. So, logically, if we invest time in stimulating ourselves, mentally, physically or spiritually, we will naturally feel better about ourselves, and consequently, reap the results of that. I look at us as if we were a tank. If the tank is full of bad energy, how can we fill it with good energy? We first need to make space for it, and secondly, start replacing the bad energy with the good energy. This process can never take place if we don’t consciously work hard on it. If we don’t take control of our lives, our lives will take over us. There is no such thing as, my work conditions don’t allow that to happen, or my family needs are too demanding, or the hours, or a ton of other ‘reasons’, which ultimately boil down to excuses. If we REALLY want to take control of our life and how we feel, we just do it. We stop to think and see which are the things we CAN change that can help us achieve this. In this process, we must not stop at the first layer of trial we encounter. One needs to really dig in and uncover all the layers until we come to our true feelings and causes involved. Example: if you would like to really find time for yourself and are not able to find 30mins to yourself every day, one needs to delve into the reasons why. Is it work? What can we do about it?

 

Find the right people to help you tackle it. Truthfully in my understanding, there are no excuses from whichever level, that inhibit you to find those 30 mins to yourself daily. Surely, solutions can ALWAYS be found, and if you don’t manage to get it daily due to justified causes, then at least you make sure you get that same time on a weekly basis at a stretch, just to yourself. If one problem is presented to us, dig into that problem and try to find solutions. If you find another problem in the process, you again try to find solutions to that new problem. And if you find further problems, you repeat the process, until you find a solution to all the problems you are faced with.

 

Where there is a will, there is ALWAYS A WAY. On a personal level, same thing. If we are challenged with time due to family commitments, we repeat this same process and see where a compromise can be found. I am a single mum of three children, running multiple businesses in different industries with multiple brands, and like everyone else, I struggle to find time for myself with all the commitments I have that are almost impossible to delegate to, but somehow, I manage. Hence why I speak with conviction and passion about this. Investing time in myself has not only given ME a breath of fresh air, but has also focused my thinking which in turn the company is gaining from. I work extremely long hours too. Once my children are settled at school, they don’t see me before minimum 6pm, but I make sure that I make up for every minute of that time they didn’t find me at home after school, or any other time I had to be missing from home due to a work event. To do that, it takes me a lot of pain staking effort to co-ordinate and plan ahead, but I realize now that if I am not ahead of it, things will get on top of me, and I will never be on top of things.

 

On the contrary, I understand that I will be right there at the very bottom of that stack of things to do and guilty of not doing, buried in the helpless zone, and to add insult to injury, I would pull my family and my business down with me. Today, I can recognize this very clearly as I have lived it. Hence why I found the urge to share this with you and serve as some inspiration for those of you who feel are feeling stuck in the zone. You don’t need to make radical changes, just an internal change by being conscious of this very fact, the input determines the output.

 

Should we choose to live life with so much determination, the result of that energy will surely be seen and felt significantly. When we create room for choice, we are happier as we feel that we are part of that choice, and we are masters of our destiny not conditioned by our destiny. If we allow ourselves to make good choices, then we become happier. If we are happier, less anxious and stressed, then we are generally more productive at work as well as in our personal lives. It is a big ripple effect. It starts from within. Being happier also makes us more creative and frees us up to think out of the box. Thus, we facilitate THE change that is needed in this very fast life we are living. This frees us from those walls that sometimes seem to be holding us back.

 

When we feel fulfilled, everything else around us, within our daily reach, will work in harmony. It has a direct effect. If not immediate, in the short to medium term. The same applies with our nutrition. Not that I am a nutrition expert, by no means, but I now realize that we are literally what we eat, drink, think and breathe. We are a produce of our own making. We can go through life being masters of our destiny. The choice is ours!

 

 

World-Class Hospitality is a Lifelong Learning Journey

They say that in hospitality the only thing that is constant is change. Ever since I started my journey into hospitality and catering, I know this to be absolutely true. Over the years, I’ve seen many changes occur over and over again, where new trends, travel realities, and general attitudes within the service industry reshape how we are expected to cater towards our guests and diners. Most recently, the pandemic brought with it significant changes that hotels and restaurants the world over are continuing to adapt to.

For all these reasons and more, I continue to seek out opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge so that in my role as restaurant manager overseeing AX Hotels’ Sliema properties I can continue to deliver the high standards of service the AX brand has become synonymous with.

In November last year, I was lucky enough to spend a week at the renowned Gambero Rosso academy in Rome as part of the Erasmus programme organised by the Malta Tourism Authority. Offered exclusively to restaurant and catering professionals, the programme was a rare opportunity to train directly under the guidance of highly skilled Maitre and Sommelier on all manner of topics related to improving quality-of-service standards in the industry. From all my years of studying and working in hospitality, I can genuinely say that this was a unique and an unforgettable experience from start to finish.

The training itself was a true masterclass in hospitality and service. Throughout the week, we enjoyed classes from three extraordinary tutors, each of whom held a distinguished resume working in 5-star luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants around the globe. They all had a tremendous passion for food, wine, and hospitality that shone through their engaging teaching style, and which welcomed us in as equals. More than just simply educating us, each tutor offered up a wealth of scenarios and episodes from their own experience, which really put the theory and concepts they were teaching us into a grounded context, showcasing how we could apply all that we were learning within our own respective roles.

Over the course of the week, we were given training covering a wide range of skills and topics, including best practices in contemporary hospitality, the differences between traditional and modern service techniques, restaurant planning, food and wine pairing, the history of wine, and so much more.

Personally, I learned many new skills which I instantly knew would better support me in my role as restaurant manager at our hotels in Sliema. I also got to absorb new perspectives on my own ingrained skills and knowledge, which really opened my eyes to different approaches and ways of thinking on servicing diners and guests. In hospitality, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to expertly handle all guests. You need to be cognisant of various ways to meet their requirements, needs, and requests, which can vary depending on a number of factors, from the style of hotel or restaurant you’re working in to how guest expectations differ according to geographical and cultural contexts. Therefore, having an opportunity to soak up more standpoints was a valuable lesson that I know will serve me well going forward.

In addition to the training, I was also looking forward to this trip in Rome as it presented another opportunity for me to experience a hotel stay from a guest’s point of view. Working in the hotel industry, catering to guests on a day-to-day basis, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the simple things which can transform the guest experience into a truly memorable one. As such, I treated my time at the Villa Zaccardi hotel as something of a refresher course in guest hospitality.

Located a mere 10 minutes away from the academy, the hotel was a truly fine place to stay in this beautiful city. Not only were the rooms, facilities, and lovely garden a pleasure to stay in but the staff were an absolute delight. They saw to our every need and were welcoming, sociable, and expertly prepared throughout. As a fellow hospitality professional, it was a pleasure to see such excellent service standards first hand, and the entire hotel experience perfectly complemented the daily training we were receiving at the academy.

Moreover, the trip was also an opportunity to get to know many hospitality professionals working across so many different hotels and restaurants. All the managers and supervisors who attended the course were incredibly talented and everyone showed their passion toward the job, sharing their experiences, and going out of their way to be friendly and helpful. It was an amazing group to be part of and reminded me how lucky we all are to work in an industry where being friendly and courteous to one another is in the job description.

All in all, the entire week of training at Gambero Rosso was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone who is serious about delivering world-class hospitality. Since I returned from the trip, I have been putting all that I learned into practice. I also continue to share all the lessons I picked up with my colleagues at AX Hotels to ensure that we are all delivering a consistent service across the board that is in line with international standards.

While I learned a lot during the experience, I also know there’ll be plenty more to discover in the future as the industry continues to evolve. That’s why I look forward to each new learning experience presented to me with open arms so that I can acquire new skills, challenge my preconceived ideas, try different experiences, meet new people, and continue to enjoy the unique privileges of working in, what I believe to be, the greatest industry in the world.

Empowering young people personally & professionally at AX Care

Since launching in 2014, AX Care has made a name for itself as one of the finest residential and flexible care service providers in Malta. Central to AX Care’s values is a community spirit that’s built on genuine trust and respect for people. And this isn’t a standard of behaviour that applies to residents and their families only but also to the entire team working across AX Care’s diverse operations, which include Hilltop Gardens, Simblija Care Home, and Revive Physiotherapy and Aquatic Centre.

Overseeing the employee wellbeing and talent recruitment side of the operation is HR Manager Luana Caruana. After completing a degree in Youth and Community Studies, where she trained to work with individuals with substance abuse addiction, Luana went on to read for Master’s degree, where she realised a career in HR was her true calling. “At heart, I am a people person and love to be around people, instilling positivity in their daily lives. So, a career transition into HR was ideal,” she explains.

In her role with AX Care, Luana works to find new and innovative ways to foster an engaging and supportive workplace, where people can find everything they need to build a fulfilling career that promotes wellness, growth, and progress. She is also responsible for recruiting new and promising talent to the business.

“Recruiting for the care sector takes a dedicated approach and that’s because the people we hire have a direct impact on the quality of care we offer our residents. So, first and foremost, I shortlist only the potential candidates who are genuine in their commitment to work in this sector. Over and above the standard qualifications, they need to be able to demonstrate that they can be dedicated to the job and compassionate towards people who are sometimes facing challenging circumstances.”

AX Care is also continuing to invest in young talent, empowering people to grow professionally through ample training and career progression opportunities within the sector. Luana herself works alongside all the teams to better understand what training and support employees need and to point them in the right direction.

“The fact that AX Group is  a large organisation with a well-established name in the Care sector is already an incredible opportunity in itself. I believe that young professionals who are ambitious and entrepreneurial, will quickly understand they are entering a workplace that rewards hard work and values their contributions. We also actively support promising talent as they climb towards positions of greater responsibility in the organisation,” she says.

Key to this upward mobility ethos in the AX Care workplace is a strong belief in the talent, vision, drive, and resourcefulness of young people to bring about the changes they want to see in their lives and careers.

“Throughout my youth and community studies, I found again and again that if you manifest that you believe in people, they will strive to change for the better, no matter how difficult the challenges ahead of them. Ultimately, it all boils down to attitude. You can coach and offer people all the tools they need, but it’s their drive and ambition that will make the difference.

“And this is where my role becomes important. As HR Manager, I strive to be emphatic and supportive in all circumstances, whilst ensuring that the right tools and resources are provided to the employees. Additionally, I believe that creating a positive work culture will only lead to a better mood overall which in turn leads to a more fulfilling job experience. This is why I focus on helping my colleagues see the bigger picture and show them that there is always some sort of solution to most problems. Such an approach can only serve to provide our people with the inspiration and encouragement they need to succeed in both their professional and personal life.”

Luana and her team also implement various initiatives to strengthen AX Care’s teams, ensuring they can thrive all year round. These include organising regular team building events and activities that enable employees to learn new skills while having the opportunity to relax and unwind together. Furthermore, the HR team looks to reward its people through acknowledging improvement and effort, and offering training, coaching, and mentoring.

“I truly believe that listening to our people is essential if we want them to succeed. That’s why we practice an open-door policy and encourage employees to reach out to their managers to discuss their concerns and career goals at any time. Instilling a culture of trust and open dialogue is crucial to building a workplace that fosters empowerment,” Luana explains.

As AX Care continues to grow and expand its operations, it also offers new opportunities for young professionals to join this growing team. What advice can one offer young candidates who are in the process of starting a career in the care sector?

“Working in the care sector can be tough and challenging but also an incredibly rewarding experience. More so when you have an employer like AX Group backing your career journey. With the company successfully operating for the past 44 years, candidates have peace of mind about job security. Furthermore, the Group continues to be innovative and diverse, encouraging entrepreneurship and creativity among all its young professionals. Just look at the future projects the company has announced—there are only bigger and brighter horizons ahead.’’

“So, for those reasons and many others, I strongly recommend AX Care as an employer. If you are ambitious, creative, and have genuine compassion for people, AX Care can offer you a fantastic career with so much to look forward to.”

Are you looking to embark on an exciting career in care? Then search our open vacancies today. We look forward to hearing from you.

SEARCH VACANCIES

Wearing The Hard Hat and Breaking The Stereotype

The construction and development sector has historically been a male-dominated industry. The notion that men are physically stronger than women largely contributed to this state of affairs, and the industry organically grew to appear more welcoming for men in all areas – from the construction site to management roles.

But one woman is challenging the stereotype. We spoke to Denise Micallef Xuereb, Construction and Development Director at AX Group, to find out more about her story and her experience on the ground.

You have always been involved in the family business and AX Group’s business streams are diverse. What drove you to steer your career specifically towards construction and development?

When AX The Palace project was underway, I was asked to supervise the works in the new guest rooms as part of the hotel operation duties, to help with the final phases of the finishing and fit-out works. The job immediately drew me in. Despite the intensity and the challenges, the adrenaline and finally seeing the project materialise was extremely satisfying. At the end I did not think twice, and I have not looked back.

When was your first time on a construction site?

I was quite young when I used to accompany my dad around sites, eager to spend time with him and enjoying the change of scene from my weekly school routine.

In the years that followed, the first real site I worked on, was at The Palace where I was responsible for the completion of new guest rooms as well as the complete fit-out of the top floor restaurant. I just had three months to make the areas habitable and ready for use. I vividly recall standing in this open space which was nothing but bricks and concrete. It was a daunting start but an excellent experience on which I kick-started my career.

How does it feel to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

In the early days I remember it was challenging for me to stand my ground and I had to prove my worth more than others – not just for being a woman but also for being the boss’ daughter. By time I earned the respect of my colleagues and peers, through professionalism, expertise and the right attitude. And well, grind and sheer determination too.

Can you tell us more about the mason course and what compelled you to do it?

Well for those who know me, know that I am not one to shy away from any task. During one of the conferences on the industry where I was advocating for contractor licensing, a contractor asked a question to a panellist; ‘’Having no contractor license prevents me from working as a contractor but if I have a builders’ license, am I allowed to work and hire others?’’  And the answer was yes.

Having already managed AX Construction for a number of years, I found the answer absurd and realized that to manage the company I would need a builder’s license.

A month after I applied for the course. To be honest the journey was much more enriching and insightful than when I set out to do it, and today I am grateful I did it all.

There are a lot of outdated perceptions that might keep women away from the construction industry. What is your experience of this?

In recent years I have seen a higher percentage of women join the industry, as architects, engineers, surveyors, project managers, site supervisors, consultants and contractors. The sector is wide and there is so much scope for more women coming on board as both skilled workers and professionals. I believe we have a responsibility to change this perception. At AX Group, diversity and inclusion are core values and we encourage women to work towards achieving their dreams and career plans in any field.

How can entities improve the representation of women in this sector?

Education has an important role to play on two fronts. The first is to educate workers and professionals in the industry to improve the image and safety standards of the industry. That on its own will make the industry more appealing. Secondly, exposing particular roles to girls at a young age at school will make these jobs more approachable and reachable.

What are the most exciting moments of working in the field?

The adrenaline rush. And seeing a project grow from a dream, to an idea, onto a plan, and then its execution. And after blood, sweat and tears, it’s done. The most satisfying moment of all is sitting down among the end users in the space you once dreamed of and that you played a key role in; among workers in an office block, employees in a new hotel or tourists enjoying afternoon tea in a newly transformed space.

Which of your projects is most meaningful to you?

The Palace will always be my number one, much like a first love! But my true learning curve and baptism of fire remains working on the new Parliament Building. Not only was it my first holistic project but it also set new benchmarks in local construction management.

Who were your role-models throughout this journey and which valuable advice did you heed to build your career?

My father is my ultimate role model. He has taught me that everything is possible. He always supported me in all my dreams from a very young age. His most valuable advice was to treat your job as an interest, almost as a hobby and to enjoy every moment. I also collaborated with an English woman, a project manager whose composure, strength and convictions were so powerful and admirable that she impressed me greatly as a young woman starting off into the big world of construction. Her aura still inspires me today.

Will you introduce your daughters to the industry, in hope that they will follow in your footsteps?

I will always encourage my girls to follow their dreams and work hard to reach them – no matter what they are. And I will make sure they get a good education, good core values and life skills so that they are able to make their own decisions and choose what is right for them. Having said that if you ask one of my daughters today what she wants to do when older, she will probably say a builder or an architect, because she is exposed to these roles through me. But I will always remind them that they can do anything they want if they set their mind to it.

 

 

 

 

AX Hotels Sliema Got Talent

Oftentimes, work takes priority over everything else in our lives. The passion to succeed in our career can push us to forget other important aspects in life, including our own mental and physical well-being. That’s why it’s vital to have activities outside of work which ensure that we embrace a harmonious work-life balance. Although it is sometimes difficult to do so, it is always possible.

Andy Tanti, Our Director of Sales at AX The Palace, proves that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Apart from fulfilling a very challenging role at work, handling familial responsibilities, and reading for a Master’s Degree, Andy has also taken on coaching U6 children at the Mellieha Football School. Take a look at what he has to say about taking on this enjoyable but challenging role.

 

Why specifically football?

“I started playing football with my hometown club Rabat when I was six or seven years old, eventually leaving the club to pursue my career in hospitality. I cannot say that football is my favourite sport; that spot is dedicated to water sports. However, over the years, I have followed club and international football, and eventually, when my boys started playing, I was hooked again.”

 

How long have you been coaching?

“I have just started my second season coaching at the Mellieha Football School. During my first season, I was an assistant coach with the Under-8 team. This season, I’m coaching the Under-6 group. At this age, it is important to support their development through exciting and enjoyable training sessions that promote involvement and encourage kids to fall in love with playing football. My goal is to instil a sense of team spirit, collaboration, and the ability to deal with different and challenging situations whilst promoting children’s creativity and skills.”

 

What inspired you to start coaching children?

“I wanted to help my boys, Xandru, who is nine, and Gianni, seven, improve their skills and technique. So essentially, I started coaching to be able to help them. Luckily, my girls, Emma and Nina (I have four kids), did not ask me to help them with singing, dancing, or ballet!”

 

How do you juggle your time between family, work, studying, and coaching?

“It’s a daily challenge to balance everything whilst allowing enough time for my family and myself. My typical day, including weekends, starts at 5.30am to work on my Master’s Degree thesis for about 2 hours, have a quick breakfast, get ready, and leave home for work by 8am. The workday can be rather intensive, but at the same time gratifying. I try to leave the office by 6pm, which gives me enough time for an end-of-day swim at Xemxija, where I spend most of my summer evenings with my family. I coach on Mondays and Saturdays and play 5-a-side football on Wednesdays and Friday evenings. My children’s extracurricular activities generally take up every other minute during the day!”

 

Sports and extracurricular activities are very important, and children can be quite a handful! How do you personally benefit from this important role you were entrusted with?

“I have 14 kids in my U6 team. Keeping their attention while explaining different exercises and ensuring that they perform those same exercises correctly is a daunting task. It certainly takes a lot of patience – in fact, I had never imagined having that much patience! Coaching and playing football allows me to switch-off work and everything else for a couple of hours. Apart from the physical benefits, it’s a unique opportunity to take care of my mental health.”

 

What’s your advice to anyone out there who finds it difficult to juggle work and extracurricular activities?

“Maintaining a balance between work and non-work activities is essential for our mental well-being. I have learnt to manage my time better by colour-coding my daily calendar, so it becomes easy to identify time slots I can dedicate to myself. It is easy to fall into a vicious trap where you try to convince yourself you don’t have time or cannot do something. So start, give it your very best shot, do everything with passion, and time will find you.”