Agility and versatility in this time of crisis
For AX Group – Malta’s leading corporation operating in Hospitality, Construction, Development, Care and Estates– the COVID-19 crisis has proven to be one prolonged opportunity to seek change and new business opportunities. A level-headed management strategy coupled with a penchant for versatility has seen AX Group navigate the stormy waters of the pandemic and emerge an altogether stronger and more unified group of companies.
The pandemic has thrown up a number of unprecedented obstacles that have directly affected AX Group’s business model. With its portfolio of seven hotels, it was undoubtedly the Group’s hospitality unit that was hit the hardest. All in all, AX Hotels was looking forward to a year of further growth until the pandemic threw Malta’s tourism sector into complete tumult and brought guest activity to a standstill for several months.
In times of crisis, it is response and reaction that determine the outcome. The AX management team carefully evaluated each opportunity that presented itself during this pivotal period and seized the opportunity to streamline the Group’s internal structure and administrative functions which enabled the Group to be better equipped to look out for its people and safeguard countless jobs.
The company’s family-inspired values continue to be the driving force behind building its 1000-strong workforce, many of whom have built careers with the company over many years. As unemployment and furlough rose across the local sector, the Group took a different approach to retaining employees and began putting the skills, talents, and resourcefulness of its people to use in new ways.
The COVID situation has been more than just an eye-opener in crisis management. It also showed the Group that while its employees might have been recruited within a particular role, they could well shine in other areas hitherto undiscovered and unknown. Putting its proclivity for investing in its people to the ultimate test, management shifted and restructured entire business units to save jobs. This resulted in many employees showing skills in different areas of operations and divisions. Better yet, mobilising such a wide-reaching, cross-skilling exercise has created a more resourceful talent pool with greater knowledge across more facets of the business; an asset that will surely continue to reap benefits in the future. Not only has the Group successfully managed to safeguard existing jobs, it has also continued to grow. A recruitment drive was reinstated for key positions given the long-term vision of the company to invest in human capital.
None of this would have been achievable without a level of transparency and trust fostered between management and staff. Whether on a one-to-one basis or through collective forums, the Group remained in constant communication with staff at every turn. Going forward, management is determined to proactively instate such measures as best work practices to be carried across all its business units.
Outside of its internal initiatives, it is AX Group’s diversified business model that has been its winning ticket throughout the pandemic. Operating within various sectors has ensured the company has been agile and able to divert its energies and resources to different pillars of business when and as needed. Realising the pandemic was no short-term blip, but one that would have far-reaching knock-on effects across the travel and tourism industry for years to come, the Group has shifted its focus towards its development, property and and estates divisions, all of which were ideally primed to create new opportunities and give the Group forward momentum. This move has proven fruitful and has ensured losses shouldered by its hotels have been adequately recuperated.
Furthermore, the Group has been industrious in acquiring new sites and permits to set several long-gestating projects in motion. The Group was successful in obtaining the planning permits for two major projects: the extension of the Suncrest at Seashells Resort in Qawra, and the Verdala development. The latter will be another exceptional development by AX Group, which will see the dilapidated Grand Hotel Verdala in Rabat being demolished and redeveloped into a 5-star boutique hotel and luxurious residential complex.
As Malta continues its re-emergence in light of the successful vaccine rollout, AX Group is under no illusion that the situation will return to pre-COVID normality. The pandemic has changed the world irrevocably, and the Group is capitalising on the lessons it has learned over the past year to adapt, evolve and emerge stronger than ever before.