13 December 2006

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Business Today

Grand Hotel Excelsior to open in March

Karl Stagno-Navarra

The end is finally in sight for the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana, after an almost 10-year saga of incomplete works.
“We are more than happy to see everything falling into place, as works have now progressed and we are aiming to re-open this landmark hotel by next March,” said an enthusiastic Graham Elliott, son of Hong Kong-based British entrepreneur Stewart Elliott who is overseeing the completion of works.
The Elliott family, who have been involved in other major infrastructural projects on the island, are since 2003 the sole proprietors of the Grand Hotel Excelsior after having bought out Hopewell, another Hong Kong-based consortium.
Valletta’s long-idle Excelsior Hotel, the doors of which have failed to open for business despite successive bids by a line of investors, was sold in 2003 by Hong Kong’s Hopewell Holdings run by entrepreneur Gordon Wu. The idyllically-located hotel and another Maltese Hopewell holding – Slipform Engineering (Malta) – were sold off to former Hopewell executive director Stewart Elliott.
The two assets were let go for what can be considered a paltry sum of USD4.25 million (approximately Lm1.77 million). However, Hopewell had also expected to recoup the estimated Lm1.8 million in loans made by a subsidiary to the hotel. The move formed part of the infrastructure conglomerate’s strategic move to unload non-core assets and had also sold a Philippine tollway project worth Lm430,000 to Elliott, who retired in 1998. The asset disposal is part of an agreement between the company and Elliott to settle four lawsuits connected to the two projects since 1999.
Almost 100 workmen are currently involved in the finishing touches to the reconstructed 431-room luxury hotel, that now includes a private marina for approximately 35 sizeable boats.
“What we are doing here is giving back to Malta and the Mediterranean a landmark in full right,” said Graham Elliott, while explaining that the “new-look” Grand Hotel Excelsior will be a five-star hotel of excellence.
With an investment running into millions of liri, the Grand Hotel Excelsior is expected to generate approximately 400 new jobs, while giving the country an extra “added-value” to its tourism product.
Designed by Hong Kong and Dubai-based company ‘Hospitality & Leisure Asia’, the hotel structure was demolished and rebuilt according to plans designed by architect Ray Vassallo.
“We have more than doubled the rooms from its original 188, and all have been carefully planned to give space and comfort to our guests,” he said.
While not excluding an eventual casino within the hotel boundaries, the Grand Hotel Excelsior will be aiming to attract the European traveller, however much is already being made to promote it in Asia and the United States.
Graham Elliott sees Malta as a great location for investment, and believes that the hotel will turn out to be a great success.
Sporting a hard-hat and a fluorescent safety vest, Graham Elliott is constantly monitoring all the works on all floors. “As you can see, all the ceilings and soffits are in place and that is evidence that we are now close to completion,” he says, adding that all the main services have been passed and are working. “See you in March for our soft opening.”

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