Monday, 24 March 2014

The crime buster by Victor Calleja

Even criminals can be gentlemen. Hearing this statement makes you stop and listen, especially if it is uttered by someone who spent a long part of his life at Scotland Yard and participated in missions to places where dictators ruled and would shoot anyone who dared break the night curfew.

Ron Harrison has now retired from the police force but he is one of the heads of Surelock, a leading company in security, investigations, surveillance and brand protection. Based in England, Surelock is made up of a number of specialists, many of whom, like Ron, are former members of Scotland Yard or the British Police force. And the words Scotland Yard still have a resonance that smacks of loyalty, good practice and results.

Ron works hard and is a self-confessed workaholic. But he also knows how to take a good, well-deserved break a few times a year—and almost inevitably he chooses Malta.
“Malta is not a holiday place—when I come here I come to my family,” enthuses Ron. He tells me that “the friends and the bond I have created in Malta are unbelievable. The people of this island are really blessed with genuine friendship. They are welcoming and the climate here and the food help make Malta a true gem”.

To him Malta is old-fashioned in its most commendable of meanings, with its traditions of the loyalty of old, being family-conscious and spiritual. “Coming to Malta means I feel at home—and the Westin Dragonara is a true home to me. The food and the views are glorious and the service impeccable. It’s been the right place at the right time with the right people for me and for all my loved ones.”

Ron spends all his special occasions, birthdays, Christmas New Year and Easter, besides other periods in the year for some relaxation, at the Westin. And when his dear mother was still alive that is where she was treated by Ron—the Westin, the place which to Ron has a “true, beating and caring heart. It’s not all about the bedrooms and the facilities. It’s about the human touch which I find amazing at the Westin Dragonara—the GM, the waiters, the pool attendants, all have a positive attitude that makes you feel you are a VIP all the time.” That, according to the much-travelled Ron, is hardly an easy thing to achieve.

“I’ve been coming regularly to the Westin for over 10 years and I have seen a great development in the way the staff has changed and their attitude became even better,” Ron says.
Ron has been involved in many cases involving crime detection, fraud and surveillance. All this experience has given him a deep appreciation of detail—no detail, however small, however seemingly insignificant, is lost on Ron..
Now in his early sixties and more alert than some 20-year-olds, Ron still gets excited by anything that ends in a big swoop. Nowadays, he is mostly involved in supervising others doing the work but he still revels in the hands-on feeling of being there when the big day, the breakthrough happens.

Surelock does not do police work or Scotland Yard stuff but it offers a list of services that is astonishing, from brand protection against counterfeiters to private investigation,  surveillance and manning of property. However, Ron’s forte remains nosing out anything connected to fraud—internal or external.
Ron loves Malta and its food—rabbit, lampuki (Dorado fish) brań°joli (beef olives) and thinks Malta nowadays has superb restaurants, even if he is somewhat biased and always prefers the Quadro at the Westin for a true celebration.

After 30 years in the police force, and meeting hardened and sometimes charming criminals, including Pinochet of Chile, Ron considered retiring and doing nothing but sail and live quietly in Malta. But a year after retiring he was head-hunted and joined Surelock and now works round the clock to sporadically come over and enjoy Malta and its other huge gem, the WestinDragonara.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Westin Dragonara Resort enhances its accolade list

The Westin Dragonara Resort has enhanced its accolade of awards when it was presented with the “Win with Talent” Award at Starwood’s 2014 EAME Roundtable Events held in Frankfurt on Thursday 6th of February 2014. Mr Michael Wale, President of Europe, Africa and Middle East and Mr Robert Koren, Vice President Regional Director Italy & Central Mediterranean at Starwood Hotels and Resorts presented the award to The Westin Malta team that attended the Rountable Events.
The award recognizes the exceptional performance demonstrated by the Westin Team during the course of 2013.  The ‘Win with Talent’ award is based on four criteria being Employee Engagement, Leadership, Collaboration and Action scores from the ‘Starvoice’ survey which is conducted yearly and offers an in-depth knowledge of what associates think and how they feel about their place of work. 

The Westin Dragonara Resort achieved an exceptional score in Employee engagement reflecting the associates’ high pride and satisfaction with the property as their place of work, the high likelihood to refer the Westin for employment to friends and their positive recommendation for the hotel as a great place to stay.  This result was complemented with a strong Leadership score, reflecting the respectful approach displayed by managers towards their teams, reciprocally associates’ trust in management and the caring attitude towards associates’ wellbeing.  Both of these scores exceeded Starwood’s own benchmark.
‘Embracing the winning culture philosophy, the Human Resources Department in collaboration with the Management Team encourage and recognize the growth of talent and the development of strong functional skills thereby fostering a culture of continuous learning for professional growth.  This is evidenced by the numerous career growth opportunities offered to its associates who have grown up the ladder into supervisory, managerial and even leadership positions. The ‘Win with Talent’ award recaps this philosophy’ said Mr Michael Kamsky, General Manager at The Westin Dragonara Resort.

Visit for more information about The Westin Dragonara Resort.

Photo Caption:
The Westin Team receiving the award
(from left to right)
Mr Jason Degiorgio, Food and Beverage Director, Mr Malcolm Jones, Director of Finance, Mr Michael Wale, President Europe, Africa and Middle East at Starwood Hotels, Mr Michael Kamsky, General Manager, Ms Karen Warrington, Rooms Division Manager/Operational Innovation and Robert Koren VP Regional Director Italy & Central Mediterranean at Starwood Hotels

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


The Westin Dragonara Resort has achieved two prestigious titles in the 2014 Traveler’s Choice® awards by Tripadvisor.  Ranking 2nd place out of 10 in the Top Luxury hotels in Malta category and 3rd place out of 10 in Top Hotels in Malta category truly reflects the high level of quality and service that the Westin Malta is renowned in offering.

In the 12th year of the awards, the world’s most outstanding properties were identified in the categories of Top Hotels, Bargain, B&Bs and Inns, Family, Luxury, Romance, and Small Hotels.

Travelers’ Choice award winners were determined based on the reviews and opinions of millions of TripAdvisor travelers around the globe.

‘We are honored to rank highly in these two very important categories.  The Westin Dragonara Resort always strives to offer guests top notch service and exceptional experience throughout their stay in Malta.  During 2013 The Westin Dragonara Resort invested heavily in upgrading a wide variety of the hotel facilities and this has been reflected in the positive comments that our guests have shared on TripAdvisor during the past year. Winning these two accolades reinforces our commitment of offering the Westin guest a renewing experience when visiting Malta and our Resort’ said Mr Michael Camilleri Kamsky, General Manager at The Westin Dragonara Resort

“We’re excited to recognize the world’s best properties, based on the opinions of those who know them best – the millions of travelers around the globe who come to TripAdvisor to share their experiences,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “For those seeking inspiration for their 2014 travel planning, this list of spectacular accommodations that received 2014 Travelers’ Choice awards is a perfect place to start.”

Further information about The Westin Dragonara Resort can be obtained on and

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A Man of Daring, a Man of Faith by Victor Calleja

Some people are gifted with talent, beauty, riches or titles. Many proceed to do a lot with these gifts—for themselves, for the ones close to them and some help the world or its inhabitants. Then there are some others who are not gifted with something but are themselves a gift to all around them.

When I meet Herbert Richer I am immediately struck by this man who has been described to me as a not-so-young Rabbi. I meet him at his favourite spot on the island—the Westin Dragonara Lobby—and talk about everything imaginable. Time with this man stands still and all about him is graceful, friendly and easy. He talks religion like few religious people do—inclusively, infusing in me an aura of wellbeing. I know religion is one of the subjects we must never mention at table or in profiles like these but when religion is discussed in the Richer method it is all about humanity, love and feeling part of the oneness that should engulf us all. The religion Mr Richer talks about has nothing to do with war and anger. And he believes that no one, not even someone who does not believe in God, is wrong.

Mr Richer is about 8 years short of a century and he is rightfully proud of his age as he is incredibly alert and can relate a story much better than many people I know who are much younger than him. If only I could remember things in as much detail as he does.

For nearly half his life he has been living in—and loving— Malta. And one of the loves of his life is the Westin Dragonara. When he first came to Malta, he fell in love with another leading hotel but when the Westin opened it worked its magic spell on him. And long years, dinners, swim sessions, parties and relaxing moments later, he is still convinced it is the most magical of places in Malta. He considers himself one of the most loyal Westin Dragonara users or, as he adds with his smile, one of the oldest and definitely the first to fall in love with it and remain besotted.

Mr Richer has had—with such a name he can never be far from an easy quip—a rich life. “I’m quite poor actually so I never can justify that name of mine”, Mr Richer tells me in his most captivating of ways. “But yes I have led a most amazing, happy life in England, South Africa and Malta. And in between all these I have travelled all over the world thanks to my work. For many years now Malta with its beauty—and the Westin—has been my home. And a truly welcoming, good home it has been too,” Mr Richer says.

Mr Richer started off as a clerk in England. He was a son of very devout and religious Jewish parents who at an early age realised their son was rather a disappointment with regard to his religious views which, even if deep, were not orthodox at all. A liberal at heart, all his life he has lived the idea that all is fluid, all is flexible as long as your heart is pure.

He left school too early and in fact was to return later to University. Life as a clerk bored him so he applied to join the RAF. He had never cared much for studying so he was bottom of the class when they tested him for piloting. However, although he had flunked that, he was singled out to become a navigator.

Now go back in time and imagine aeroplanes back in the thickest of a world war in 1939. It’s not just the danger, the daring, the daredevilish stuff pilots and their navigators had to go through. All the plotting, all the routes and flying depended not on machines but on the pilot and especially the navigator. So our hero was going round the world taking ages to get to any destination because at that time planes traveled at much less speed than they do today.

War over, Mr Richer, lost about what to do in life, met a woman who changed his course in life by seeing in him what would become his true calling—that of being a rabbi. She befriended him, spoke to the elders in a synagogue in London and the rest, as they say, is a richer history. He went to University—again he was great at the practical things but he laughs at his marks and the fact that he came last again in his course—became a rabbi and set out on a life of looking after, guiding and preparing people of the Jewish faith in England and subsequently in South Africa.

Sadly, his wife, who was a brilliant pianist, passed away in South Africa but he was to meet another woman—his present loving wife, Dorien—who was also involved in the musical world and they then became soul-friends and subsequently married. According to Mr Richer “My first wife made me and my second wife saved me.”

From South Africa they started coming regularly to Malta where they made many friends, bought a house and has lived most happily. With the opening of the Westin, the island, according to Mr Richer, became truly perfect.

A few weeks ago Mr Richer brought his religious career to an end, surprisingly at a Catholic Church in Italy. There he, the Rabbi who believes in inter-religious progress, spoke of faith, of popes, of living the faith in the most inclusive of ways. His wife sang at the church during mass and people were truly moved.

Whatever your beliefs, talking and listening to this man is truly enriching.



Friday, 25 October 2013

Home is where there is a Westin by Victor Calleja

Success, especially when it is recognised beyond the shores of your own tiny country, changes people. It makes some arrogant, others think they have become supermen—or superwomen. Then there are the interesting others who thrive on success while glowing in it. Instead of making them bores and bigheads, success turns these people into even nicer people with a great story to tell.

Mark Bamber is one such person who, even if he is a jet-setting traveller who has reached some peaks in life, still finds time to speak to me about his life, his times and his loves.

Mark is accommodating, easy to get on with and it’s a true joy to hear him talk about his work, his posts, his travels and life in general. Accompanied by his equally affable wife, Nathalie, I meet Mark at The Westin Dragonara Resort’s Lobby.

When we meet Mark’s first words—echoed by Nathalie in her winning smile of agreement—are that one of their most favourite spots, not just in Malta but in the world, is The Westin Dragonara Lobby. And I have to admit, sitting in the lobby watching the world go by while people are busy relaxing, sipping coffee, eating delicious-looking stuff and being pampered by the most efficient of staff, does seem one of the best places to be in. Mark saying it so enthusiastically does take on special meaning as he has been to an unbelievable number of Starwood properties all over the world.

Way back in the 80s Mark’s ambition was to become a lawyer but, as that course was only available every other year, he opted for management and moved on to economics and accountancy, loved it and thrived in it. What the world of law lost, the world of accountancy, and KPMG won as Mark’s success in this field was significant. The ambition to keep reaching out for more knowledge and new avenues got him into this world where travel is a part of his life.

He is now an economist and partner at KPMG Malta, one of the top 4 audit firms in the world with a global programme which includes the KPMG Chairman’s group of upcoming leadership candidates. Nine years ago this global arm of KPMG zoomed in on Mark, saw his capabilities and asked him to form part of it, touring the world doing work connected to it. There are few countries Mark hasn’t been to and he has now also been entrusted with heading, and setting up, KPMG in Libya.

Life is never boring for Mark who spends 5 days a week abroad but tries to religiously come home to live his normal family life here in Malta for the other two days. Nathalie does a lot of travelling with him and one of the things they both love doing when they are back in Malta is going to the Westin and having a meal at Quadro Restaurant. What Mark tells me about Quadro—in his unflappable way—is that to him it ranks as one of the top three restaurants in the world. Coming from a much-travelled couple, this sounds unbelievable but when I question it they not only confirm it but also enumerate the restaurant’s many attributes, from the service, to the food—immaculate—to the people behind it and a view to mesmerise anyone.

Mark is a structured person—his life is hectic and he lives out of a suitcase most of the time so his stays abroad must be a seamless affair. His travel is mainly last-minute, so he has to be sure that his travelling itinerary, from the airlines to his accommodation abroad, is flexible and suits his needs and demands. He always needs a hotel that feels like a home away from home and, though an optimist by nature, he is finicky and demanding.

The Bambers have enjoyed all the facilities the Westin Dragonara offers. The rooms are very well-known to them as they have stayed there so many times and enjoyed the different rooms with their own particular characteristics. Pampering after their hectic schedules is one of the things the Bambers need—and they find it in plentiful supply at the Westin. Both agree that the rooms are great, the views difficult to surpass, the service impeccable and the breakfast a real winner.

Mark emphasises that the Westin gives him all he wants many times over—but of all the Westin Hotels and Resorts he has seen and experienced the one which Mark and Nathalie call their true second home is The Westin Dragonara Resort.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A winning culture at The Westin Dragonara Resort

Watching team sports such as football or waterpolo I often ask myself – what are the ingredients that lead to a winning result?  The management theories to success are endless.  Mine is simple – teamwork. 

Our team at The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta are in celebration mode this week.  Why?  Last weekend, the Hotel was named the ‘Mediterranean's Leading Resort’ at the World Travel Awards 2013.

The World Travel Awards have been hailed as “The Oscars of the Travel Industry” by the Wall Street Journal and recognised worldwide as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.

This year, over 1300 travel, tourism and hospitality companies have competed for the prestigious top awards. The voting process, in which also a phenomenal number of industry professionals participated is scrupulously monitored and independently audited.

 Increasingly, the awards are known as a title to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Growing numbers of travel companies, airlines, operators and resorts compete to walk away with one of the coveted titles, to show customers their continuing endeavours to improve products and services.

 The entire team at The Westin Dragonara is very proud to have been awarded such a prestigious award.  We believe it is recognizes all the hard work and dedication with which each and every one of us carries out his/her duties.


More information about The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta can be found at

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Westin Dragonara Resort receives Gold Standard Award

During the recent Health and Safety Audit, conducted by Clifton Environmental Services, the Westin Dragonara was awarded a Gold Standard Award.  The criteria for this award cover a wide range of areas, namely: Management of Health and Safety, Fire and Emergency Safety, Engineering Safety, Food Safety Management and Practices, Security, Environmental Protection, Leisure Facilities as well as Childcare and Kids Club.

The Westin Dragonara strives in offering guests and associates a safe environment; hence achieving this award and ensuring that all the required standards in Environmental Health and Safety are met makes this award an even more prestigious one to the hotel.
‘Considerable efforts have been made over the last five years which have produced a steady improvement in site health, fire and food safety. The 2012 audit has identified the best result to date and is a credit to the GM, Safety & Security Manager and dedicated team members. The achievement of a gold award is well merited’ commented the Clifton Environmental Services auditor. 

Further information about the Westin Dragonara Resort can be found on