As Malta’s post-COVID recovery sees tourism figures reach new peaks, Valletta is seeing renewed interest from visitors and investors alike.
“Valletta has always been Malta’s strongest and most well-known brand on the international scene,” says Stephen Clough, VBL Group’s Head of Development, speaking to MaltaCEOs.mt following a positive market update by the company, in which it announced an increase in dividends to shareholders.
VBL Group is a major real estate and hospitality player in the capital, and Mr Clough says it is “a total delight” to see Valletta’s regeneration.
“Ten years ago we had a dormant city, but today it is buzzing with activity – which is further compounding investment.
“For the VBL Group we have seen a great start to the year, with all predictions pointing to another record year for the Group and Valletta tourism in general. As a Group we have outperformed pre-pandemic 2019 numbers, both in terms of occupancy nights and average daily rates.”
He points to a recent study conducted by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), indicating that Valletta’s hospitality KPIs are better than most of those in other areas of Malta.
This has led VBL Group’s significant Valletta-based property portfolio to register a material increase in value at year-end valuation, says Mr Clough, resulting from both new acquisitions and development.
“At the same time, the Valletta property market saw an increases between 9-12 per cent across, driven by limited sale-side supply and growing interest from local and international buyers,” he says.
These impressive figures had led to an increase in investor appetite. Mr Clough says: “I would go as far as saying that Valletta has never seen this level of investment attractiveness from local and international investors,” hastening to add that such investment must place sustainable, socially-aware development at the core of Valletta’s growth story.
This is in line with VBL Group’s commitment to sustainability and green development, with Group Chairman Andrei Imbroll pointing to its delivery of new gardens and green areas, as is the case with the development of a rooftop garden on top of the Silver Horse Block.
“While VBL does not build new square meters, it reuses most of the existing materials, stone, tiles, and combines that with modern energy management systems.”
Dr Imbroll explains that VBL Group’s main focus today is in developing its large portfolio of undeveloped property, “with the clear mandate of converting the majority of its assets into revenue generating property in the medium term.”
“The Group operates a large array of short let accommodation options within the City, ranging from the only dormitory style accommodation up to luxury palazzos,” he says.
“It is clear that the make up of the City is changing, with more and more commercial activity being seen.
”We are very proud that today we can say that the neighbours of our properties are our number one ambassadors – the cluster development concept has integrated well into the social make up of Valletta.”
Touching on the recent privatisation of the Evans Building in Lower Valletta, which is still under negotiation, VBL Group CEO Geza Szephalmi says that such well publicised property dealings are “a further testament to Valletta’s rejuvenation”.
While the National Statistics Office does not keep record of the value of residential property transactions by locality, nor of the number and value of commercial property transactions, the bids placed for the Evans Building do indicate a major shift in the way investors view the capital, VBL Group says.
VBL Group notes that the values the bidders put on square metre value for the landmark site shows “a new level of attractiveness”.
“The fact that the Evans Building is set for a high-end luxury product really demonstrates that the appetite for investment is changing in Valletta,” continues Mr Szephalmi.
“As a Group we have always stated any investment and exposure of Valletta on the local or international scene is positive. Investment attracts investment, which will ultimately drive our city to be competitive with its European peers.”
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