It’s hard to imagine how someone who’s about to celebrate their 40th anniversary with the same company can have such distinct enthusiasm and excitement about their work. Yet, a few minutes into my chat with the affable Rosette Micallef, it’s immediately clear. Her secret? “You have to be passionate about what you do,” she reveals.
Joining the Mediterranean Conference Centre in 1982, the Director of Sales & Marketing has held several positions over the years, and has grown in tandem with the conference centre over her four decades there.
“MCC was inaugurated as a conference centre in 1979, and when I joined, the MICE market in Malta was still very much in its infancy,” Rosette reveals, affirming that the organisation was very different at the outset. “In fact, there was no sales and marketing department; there was an Executive Chairman, Head of Accounts and a Theatre Manager as the top positions, and I was posted as the PA to the Executive Chairman.”
This position afforded her insight into the daily goings on of the organisation, and she’d be involved in everything from preparing for the summit between Bush and Gorbachov to purchasing stationery. This instilled an interest in the marketing side of things.
“I realised the potential of the MCC, and that I could build a career here. I became Conference Services Executive, Sales & Marketing Executive and eventually Director of Sales and Marketing,” Rosette says, explaining that things changed a lot in that time. “The MCC was Government funded for many years. In 1999 the decision was taken that MCC should become self-sufficient and that is when the Sales & Marketing Department was set up.”
As she prepares to celebrate her 40th anniversary this week, Rosette recalls many landmark moments throughout her career – the most recent of which being the largest sale she ever made. “It was the Samsung Forum, which took place just before COVID hit the island, in February 2020. Without the pandemic, 2020 would have definitely been our best year ever,” she smiles, sadly.
Casting her mind back, other highlights she mentions include the CHOGM conferences hosted at MCC in 2015 and 2005, and, as Director of Sales & Marketing, taking the organisation from a loss-maker into a profit-making entity. She also goes back further still, highlighting an authentic mediaeval banquet organised in 1989 as another memorable moment. “We even had trained horses involved for the pageantry, sourced authentic food including dates from Tunisia and mead!”
Since its inception as a conference centre, an ongoing restoration and maintenance program has kept the unique character of the MCC as a national monument while providing a modern venue able to handle major international conferences, exhibitions, banquets and theatrical events. Commenting on how the entity, as well as the business landscape in the industry has developed, Rosette affirms that for the first 15 years or so, the MCC was more of a service provider, with most of its conference business being generated through third parties.
“At the time we also used to organise MCC’s own theatrical productions, for instance, high-calibre events like Milan’s La Scala Ballet & Orchestra, prestigious state orchestras from several countries, and the island’s first ever full length ballet, Swan Lake, in 1992,” she maintains.
As time passed, the team started becoming more proactive in seeking clients, thereby generating more business and more revenue. There were also several challenges they needed to overcome, which are no longer an issue today. “Until the mid ‘90s, the infrastructure in Malta meant that it was challenging to host the amount of people attending larger scale conferences. There were occasions where we couldn’t find proper accommodation for all delegates, and apart from that, airline connectivity wasn’t as good as it is today. Joining the EU helped put us on the map in this regard, and as more five-star hotels began opening and expanding, Malta became more sought after,” she explains.
Today, apart from tapping into more diverse markets, another feather in the MCC’s cap is the recent inauguration of its in-house Augmented Reality Museum, a project which also included the opening of its picturesque Grand Harbour Terrace. “Through the AR museum, Reliving the Sacra Infermeria, we give visitors the opportunity to see how the building used to function as a hospital in the time of the Knights of Malta. This was a project of eight million euro, and took several years to come to fruition,” Rosette maintains.
As the project was inaugurated during COVID, she describes it as a baptism of fire, with many of the initial bookings for weddings and events on the terrace having to be postponed. “We are so excited that these are finally able to happen, and we’re looking forward to a busy summer,” she smiles, revealing that the MCC is buzzing once again, with events happening every day, from small meetings to large scale international conferences.
“We’ve also recently inaugurated the first ever original in-house production by MCC called Caravaggio The Musical, about the intriguing life of the famous master painter, Caravaggio. We’re very much looking forward to this production, which will premiere in September this year,” she continues enthusiastically.
Picking her brain on leadership, Rosette says that ultimately, one should lead by example to inspire people to become the best versions of themselves. “I believe in being flexible and addressing the different needs of each niche market we work with. It’s also important to be a people person in my industry, and to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. You should be passionate about your work and be able to transmit this to your team, as well as your clients. Finally, it’s important to turn challenges into opportunities!”
The most important lesson she’s learnt, meanwhile, is the importance of teamwork, and “having the right people in the right places to weather whatever storm comes your way.”
Looking back on the last 40 years, she muses, “while I may not have become rich financially, I’ve really been enriched as a person throughout my time at the MCC. I’ve given it a lot and I’ve gained a lot back. I’ve met so many interesting people from all walks of life and there have been many memorable moments.”
Now, as she looks ahead to the years to come, she says that her main aim is to regain pre-COVID momentum. “The opportunities are there, and everyone is keen to resume,” she says.
And while challenges certainly remain, including the situation with Russia and Ukraine which is impacting travel, Rosette continues to walk the talk, looking at each situation positively and forging ahead. “Being a leader is having the capacity to turn a vision into a reality. You can’t do this on your own, so it is important to choose the right people and empower them. Together, you will transform your vision into reality.”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders 2022 project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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