HV Hospitality

The new Comino Hotel

Malta’s tourism policy-makers have spent decades urging the country to move away from mass tourism and towards quality tourism that attracts more revenue for the country with fewer visitors and therefore a lower impact on the environment and the country’s infrastructure. This is why it makes sense to revitalise a former 3-star hotel into one that can attract a top luxury hospitality brand like Six Senses. This required a re-imagination of the space to meet today’s tourism standards of 5-star travel.

The original plans submitted by HV Hospitality proposed a 7,154 sqm reduction of the hotel site at San Niklaw Bay, counterbalanced by an additional 2,032 sqm of the bungalow site at Santa Marija Bay. This led to an overall reduction of 5,122 sqm. The updated plans now propose a reduction of the footprint at the bungalow site too, bringing the total reduced footprint to 8,244 sqm. The buildings at the bungalow site will be receded from the foreshore, increasing public accessibility, and will be lower in height. HV Hospitality will not seek compensation for these adjustments with additional land on the site and will instead restore substantial areas of garigue landscape around the site.

There is nothing in the concession contract that prevents the title-owner from selling parts of the concession to other third parties as long as the sites are used strictly for tourism purposes. However, a strategic decision was taken to keep the site intact, operated by one entity to ensure a consistent product and achieve the task of attracting quality tourism to Malta.

Under the concession, the Comino hotel includes a very small beach – San Niklaw – for its guests’ use, just as most seaside hotels around Malta and Gozo have their own beach. Santa Marija Bay, where the Comino police station is located, has always been, and will continue to be, a public beach. Mariners and boat owners too will continue to enjoy access to Comino’s bays as before.

While it may be argued that the most sustainable thing to do is to leave the site derelict and unused, this ignores the needs of Malta to transition towards higher quality tourism that in itself is more sustainable. With this in mind, efforts are being made to ensure that the impact of this property is minimised and compensated for, including through recycling of construction waste, recycling of water as part of hotel operations, and through the priority towards energy efficiency.

These will be used to regenerate the garigue landscape in areas where the footprint is being reduced. These will also be used on the roofs and terraces of the hotel and bungalows and general landscaped areas.

In total, 1,831 alien and invasive plants and trees across the site will be removed. Another 132 protected trees will also have to be removed. However, a process is already underway for these to be replaced by 1,200 protected trees that are already in the process of being grown besides an additional 55,000 trees, shrubs and plants that will be planted across the site, under the supervision of the Environment and Resources Authority. This is the first exercise of its kind in Malta and requires a large site in Sicily for this large quantity of plants and trees to be grown.

An ensemble of overhanging terraces/canopies will prevent interior light from spilling out and from polluting the night sky. The skyline will also improve in some areas. The new bungalows will be one storey high whereas the current properties include some two-storey buildings. The hotel will rise to a similar height as the existing property.

The aim is to reuse construction waste from the existing buildings as much as is practically possible, including in the restoration of the garigue landscape. In line with the project objectives of minimising waste disposal, prefabricated construction methods will be adopted, which will also reduce the need for construction work on site. The restoration of areas such as the tennis courts to their original natural state will be implemented with recycled material. Any other construction waste will be disposed of in line with all Maltese environmental legislation.

The fact that this project has already received the green light from the Environment and Resources Authority confirms that every effort has been made not only to respect Natura 2000 rules but to abide by certain responsibilities and obligations that are necessary to such an area, such as the removal of alien species. To date, all wastewater from Comino is discharged at sea, including from the new public toilets that were constructed last summer at the camping site. The installation of a wastewater treatment plant will eliminate this.

Only electric buggies will be used for movement of guests and goods around the property, and we are also looking at the possibility of using electric boats for transport between Comino and Malta/Gozo. Low energy and alternative cooling systems are also being studied to minimise the amount of noise generated and the amount of electricity consumed from machinery once the hotel is open.

HV Hospitality obtained legal title over the land in 2019 at a cost of over €55 million. The land was originally leased out by the government in 1960 for 150 years, so there were 90 years remaining at the time of purchase. After 90 years, the site is to be returned to the Maltese government.

The architecture firm of Antonio Belvedere (who worked with Renzo Piano on the City Gate Project) were inspired by the French calade tradition of streets paved with pebbles or stones, as well as ancient Roman roads found in the north of Malta.

There is also no land reclamation in this project. If anything, efforts are being made to move both sites away from the shoreline to respect the site and provide more space for the public to enjoy.