For people in Malta who prefer to travel abroad to experience a more festive Christmas atmosphere than Malta has to offer, COVID-19 has put a spoke in the wheel over the past couple of years. But now that the world is slowly opening up again,
One such person who prefers to be out of Malta for Christmas is Engels & Völkers Malta CEO, Benjamin Tabone Grech.
“Christmas for my family means travelling somewhere in the world. It’s the only time we really get to be together, and after all of my grandparents passed away it became our annual tradition to travel together for the Christmas period,” Benjamin says.
“Last year we were unable to go anywhere and our trip was cancelled last minute, unfortunately. This year, though, a last-minute getaway is definitely on the cards, and while the destination is still unknown and it’s actually really exciting. We are going to wait till the week before Christmas and COVID permitting then decide where will be the easiest to travel to.”
Benjamin says Christmas has always been a special time for him, as he did not spend much time with his family in his teens and early twenties, since he lived abroad.
“So at Christmas, I was always so excited to see and be with everyone. In recent years and as I’ve grown older, and now with more responsibility, I am beginning to realise how much I love being with those I care most about.”
As for gift-giving, Benjamin doesn’t just give gifts to his friends and family.
“Each year I buy small hampers and give one to each neighbour on my street. I live in Qrendi. and village life has become a treasure for me. This one time in the year gives me a chance to give them something small. Each year I always have a great story to tell after the morning out giving my neighbours their small gift. So each time I head out I ensure I have no plans for the rest of the day as I normally head back home after having been offered one too many drinks,” he says.
As for what his favourite gifts to receive are, Benjamin is a practical kind of person.
“The best gifts to receive for me are the ones I make use of, while the worst gifts are those that I put in a drawer and forget about.”
Meanwhile, Benjamin’s favourite moment of the year was one that was witnessed by thousands of people in person and online: helping long-distance swimmer Neil Agius’ complete his record-breaking swim from Italy to Malta, after having closely followed him on his grueling training regimen.
“My favourite moment was running up onto the beach in Xlendi after guiding Neil into the bay hanging out of a little dinghy with a little glow stick in my hand. All after his mammoth record-breaking swim and seeing what he and all of us on the team had accomplished together.”
Conversely, he says his least favourite moment was not being able to attend my nephew’s baptism.
Benjamin has some interesting plans for the next year, mainly revolving around his physical health.
“My resolution next year is to become the fittest I’ve ever been, so I can run a marathon towards the end of the year. I believe that I am always at my best when I am fit and strong. I’ve worked hard in the past year to create better habits and with what I’ve learnt I wish to continue to grow and positively impact the lives of all those around me.”
With regards to the property industry and what lies in store for it in 2022, Benjamin says that the standard of property will need to increase.
Almost every day over the past two to three years, we have read an article about the real estate and construction industry – a planning permit being objected to or an incident brought to our attention. Sitting on the side of selling a property, it has truly proven to be challenging. However. I am looking at the year ahead keenly as I believe the supply of available properties will grow and the properties that remain available will have to improve their general standard, while the market will remain lively but we will have to approach it in a very different way.”
Finally, Benjamin has some wise words when it comes to what he’ll take away from 2021.
This year has taught me to believe in myself more than ever before. It’s taught me not to allow anyone else’s judgement to affect my emotions. I’ve also learned to trust my guy, as it’s always shown me the truth, no matter how tough any decision may have been.”
This interview forms part of a series by MaltaCEOs.mt that catches up with the country’s business leaders to get a glimpse of how they’ll be celebrating this holiday season
Perit Piccinino previously served as CEO of Environment and Resources Authority
Ms Arnell has over 10 years of experience in the iGaming industry.
Prime Minister Robert Abela and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo were also present at the press conference.