Corinthia has confirmed it has placed its longstanding plans for a high-rise six-star hotel development by St George’s Bay on hold.
“Please note that Corinthia has put its plans for the San George peninsula on hold for the time being, and has taken a strategic decision to focus on other projects internationally as well as locally,” a Corinthia spokesperson told Lovin Malta.
The business group, which operates nine hotels across Malta, Europe and Africa, has long planned to revamp its presence on the so-called ‘Golden Mile’.
Its founder Alfred Pisani launched the plans in 2015, announcing it would convert the Corinthia San Ġorġ, Radisson and Corinthia Marina hotels into a six-star high-end mega resort.
Pisani said the project would include two luxury hotels, a beachfront lido, a lifestyle hotel for corporate guests and real estate development, describing it as an “oasis of excellence”.
Then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat attended the launch, stating that Corinthia’s €400 million investment would have “incalculable” ripple effects on the economy and generate around 600 new jobs.
Corinthia had originally planned to start working on the project in 2017 but the next few years proved to be rockier than expected.
To get the project done, the International Hotel Group (IHI) – owners of Corinthia – had to renegotiate its original deal with the government which had granted it the land in St George’s Bay on condition that all developments on the land must be touristic in nature.
The Malta Developers’ Association warned that renegotiating the deal would “open Pandora’s Box” by sending a signal to all hotel owners to try and build apartments on the land they had rented from the government.
Environmental NGOs and the Nationalist Party also opposed these plans, and in 2019 then Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi promised that the proposed deed would be updated to reflect the concerns of stakeholders.
However, Mizzi was forced to resign a few months later and in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions wreaked havoc within the global hospitality industry.
Then earlier this year, a study by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) raised serious concerns about the island’s carrying capacity.
The study found that if all planned hospitality projects – including Corinthia’s – are implemented within the next five years, Malta will need to attract 4.7 million tourists a year staying an average of just under seven nights each to maintain the same bed occupancy rate as it did in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic.
That would require setting an absolute record, significantly higher than the 2.8 million tourists who travelled to Malta in 2019.
A recent report by BusinessToday suggested that the relocation of Corinthia’s Area General Manager Jonathan Pace to Malta could be a sign that the business plans to push ahead with its St George’s Bay project.
However, Corinthia has now poured cold water over these rumours. With regards to the MHRA study, it said that “Corinthia has been advocating a focus on high-end leisure tourism for many years” and that “this sort of tourism would be less impactful on the local infrastructure and environment”.
Cover photo: Corinthia Group
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