Interview with Hubert Debono, General Manager

Posted on: December 02, 2014

The Malta Independent on Sunday interviewed Hubert Debono, General Manager, db Seabank Resort + Spa about the hotel's recent prestigious TripAdvisor ranking and the brand's plans for the future, which include the launching of a resort hotel chain.

TripAdvisor has just given a prestigious ranking to one of your hotels. Can you tell us about it?

We are very proud that the db Seabank has been ranked by TripAdvisor as the 8th best all-inclusive resort in Europe. It is significant that we climbed from the 17th spot last year to the 8th this year. To complete the picture, and increase our pride, keep in mind that we opened our doors less than three years ago.

Commercially what is the effect of such a ranking?

That TripAdvisor is followed by millions around the globe is not news. It is the barometer consulted by all the tourism operators everywhere and the first cyber port of call of prospective clients. TripAdvisor has revolutionised our business because it is driven entirely by the clients themselves.

For the db Seabank to be ranked as the 8th best all-inclusive resort in Europe means that those looking for quality are automatically directed our way. In fact, many of this clients told us that they chose our resort because of our ranking in the 17th place. Now that our ranking has shot up to the top ten, this positive trend can only get stronger.

You run one of the largest resorts on the Islands. How does this feature in the achievement of such ranking?

Yes, it is true that the db Seabank is large in size. But what is even more significant is the size of its operation. And in this business the commercial fulcrum around which everything turns is the ability to maintain excellence in operations, in everything and at all times. To give you a sense of our challenge, this year we welcomed 50,000 guests who spent 350,000 nights with us and to whom we served 1,500,000 meals. It is in this context that TripAdvisor’s recognition of excellence is to be appreciated.

What is distinctive about the db Seabank?

This is a resort unlike any other. It is not just rooms, restaurants, swimming pools and facilities. It was and remains a new concept for Malta. We are the only real all-inclusive resort here. Quite simply, this means that from the moment our clients check in to the time they check out they never have to put their hands in their pockets. Never.

Was it financially risky to put this concept into practice?

We knew that we were taking huge risks, that taking what we drafted on paper and turning it into reality would mean that we had to invest around €40m. And we also knew that we had to do so in the middle of a global financial crisis. But we believed in our ideas, in ourselves and in our country. Here we are today, less than three years later, ranked as one of ten best all-inclusive hotels in Europe.

What do you attribute your success to?

Success in hotel and resort operations is rarely a matter of luck. In our case, the guiding principle was and will remain that the client always comes first. In everything and all the times. This is not a slogan but the driving force of our entire operation – from the way we serve at table to the way we administer, from the way we deal with complaints to how we make our rooms welcoming.

Every decision the directors and management take is always seen from its client impact assessment, if you will. And the ongoing investment is always focused on enhancing the client’s experience and improve on our value for money offer.

Do you have repeat clients?

We are delighted that awards such as that of TripAdvisor drive new clients to our doors. But the most telling certificate of excellence is given by those who come and keep coming. These are the men, the women and the families who keep choosing us as a result of their own direct experience, not as a result of some marketing hype or scheme. These are the true ambassadors of our brand.

You just used the word ‘brand’. Is the db this brand? If so, what can you tell me about it?

Next year we will be launching our own hotel and resort chain, called db. The Seabank and the San Antonio in Qawra, which we just restructured and renovated, will be the first two links in this chain. We have ambitious plans and we are also exploring prospects beyond our shores.

The basic idea is that the db chain will have its own characteristics and charisma. When we come to launch it we’ll go into more details but for today I will only say this: db will be about excellence, in everything and at all times.

What do you see in the future for you brand?

That the db Seabank is now the 8th best resort in Europe, a place reached in less than three years, is an achievement we are very proud of. But we are going to remain more focused than ever because competition in Europe is tougher than ever. In addition, if we make one mistake or two when clients have high expectations, as ours do, it is easy go into free fall.

Our attitude is to keep feet and ears to the ground. Our clients have already told us what changes they’d like to see. We heard them and we are working hard to make them happen. This is the way that we run our resorts and hotels. We will continue to do so.

Article was published on The Malta Independent on Sunday  - 30th November 2014