The Fenech Story
Moses and his paradise
By Terence Mirabelli
A bronze statue of Moses Fenech, one of the pioneers of Malta’s tourism industry, was unveiled on Wednesday, 27 September – World Tourism Day – in St Paul’s Bay by tourism and culture minister Francis Zammit Dimech.
The statue, cast in Italy, was commissioned by Fenech’s children and sculpted by Anton Agius. It will stand at the top of Parades Street as a memento to Moses Fenech’s philanthropic works.
Fenech, however, is best remembered for the hotels he owned; the Paradise Bay at Cirkewwa and the Golden Sands at Military Bay, which he renamed Golden Bay.
The Golden Sands was sold a few years ago to the Island Hotels Group who demolished it and built anew; the new owners retained the property’s original name and it now operates as the Radisson SAS Golden Sands Resort and Spa. The Paradise Bay, meanwhile, is now owned and run by two of Moses’s children – Ferdinand and Beatrix.
Moses bought the Paradise Bay in February 1970 from its British owners; at the time it had 40 rooms, a restaurant, a small pool and little else. It was soon apparent that there was insufficient accommodation and a 180-room extension – designed by architect and former premier Dom Mintoff – was built, which went into service in May 1974. Two years later an indoor pool was added.
In recent years the rage has been creating sandy beaches, the government invested heavily in Jordanian sand for St George’s Bay and this year it built an enormous sandbox in Qawra that it calls a perched beach. The fact is, these are not the first man-made beaches in Malta. The credit for that goes to the Fenechs.
Across the road from the Paradise Bay Hotel stands a tiny bay that Fenech was allowed to convert into a private beach. But the concession was not suitable for a beach as it was rocky.
At the time, in early 1982, the road along Mellieha Bay was being widened and sand had been bulldozed aside. And it occurred to Moses’s son Ferdinand that he might transport any excess sand to Cirkewwa. The contractors agreed and let him take as much as he could in one afternoon. “I managed 12 lorry loads of sand” he chuckles and adds: “with it we created the first sandy beach in Malta”.
Today the beach is accessible by tunnel from the hotel and is also home to a diving school.
Over the years the four star property added services and facilities and acquired an enviable reputation as a well-run family hotel with a solid base of repeat clients; in fact, says general manager Malcolm Howe, up to 60 per cent of the clientele is repeat business.
In 1992, meantime, a complete refurbishment of the property was undertaken. Nine years later, in 2003, it amended its name to Paradise Bay Resort Hotel and launched another refurbishment programme that is still underway.
Rooms have been redecorated and upgraded and all have en suite facilities, air conditioning, satellite TV, radio, telephone, tea and coffee making facilities, iron and ironing board and a mini fridge that is stocked on request.
Last winter another floor was built adding 17 more rooms to the property. Of the 238 bedrooms now available at the Paradise Bay “there are still 76 to refurbish, and these will be done this winter”, says Howe.
Also planned for winter is the refurbishment of the public areas and the addition of another fire escape. A fourth outdoor swimming pool is also being considered – the hotel already has three al fresco and one indoor heated pool. Also being considered is a new F&B outlet beneath reception that will also have extensive open-air facilities.
The 40-room hotel that Moses Fenech bought 36 years ago is no longer recognisable, yet his legacy endures thanks to not only his son and daughter but also to two of his grandsons who work there.
Today the Paradise Bay is an institution; it is popular with locals who check-in for weekends throughout the year and it is a second home to many senior citizens who escape the northern European cold and spend, in some cases, up to six months in Moses’s paradise.
For more information on the Paradise Bay Resort Hotel go to www.paradise-bay.com