Luxury resort brand Six Senses is to operate the new Comino Hotel, the project's developers have announced. 

The brand, which markets itself as being environmentally sustainable and socially conscious, operates 22 hotels and resorts across Europe and South East Asia and is behind some of the world’s most luxurious resorts and spas.

Hili Ventures CEO Melo Hili and the Comino project’s lead architect, Antonio Belvedere, told Times of Malta in an interview that the plans for the resort aim to provide a different product for travellers, where luxury is not measured in terms of flashy interiors, but by allowing clients to be closer to nature. Six Senses, Hili said, is the number one name for this kind of experience. 

Hili and Belvedere defended the project amid questions and concerns raised by thousands of people over the proposals to replace the derelict Comino Hotel.

What is the brand expected to provide in terms of sustainability? 

Hili: In terms of what the brand provides, there will be no plastic in the operation of the hotel. It will also incorporate a lot of local products in terms of what we feed our customers. In general, it will all be focused on getting clients closer to nature. 

Belvedere: Six Senses offer an experience that goes beyond shiny finishes in a room. They are very much oriented toward sustainability and that is why we believe that they are the appropriate choice when it comes to Comino. 

Comino is ecologically sensitive and there are concerns over a number of issues such as waste generation as well as noise and light pollution. What impact will the operation of the hotel have on the flora and fauna, particularly the endemic bird population? 

Hili: In terms of the waste generated, in the past, the waste generated by the hotel ended up in the water for the most part. With us, this will not happen as we plan to treat the waste on-site. 

Belvedere: For light pollution, we are working with local experts who know Malta’s environment very well and the philosophy we have adopted is that rather than working with light, it is about working with the darkness. One of the first things we have been trying to explain is that darkness in Comino has value. So how do you protect the darkness? You have to do two things, reduce the amount of light you are going to install to a minimum and also prevent the light from spilling. 

This is why we have designed the hotel with terraces that cantilever, to prevent the light from going into the sky. Typically, outdoor spaces have a light fitting every 15 to 20 metres, but we are trying to double the distance because we realised you don’t need so much light to find your path. 

When it comes to noise, we have also taken a scientific approach by identifying the things that typically generate a lot of noise, like a cooling machine for example, and we have been working with ERA to exclude all solutions that produce noise and disturb the wildlife. We are going for a geothermal system in order to not have machines that generate noise. This is going to be a very silent place and it is important that it is so. 

Will the hotel be hosting events that generate loud noise like pool parties with music and weddings? 

Belvedere: No, this is Comino and it cannot be this way, there is already enough of that experience. I think it is more of a contemplative experience that is going to be offered rather than entertainment. 

Hili: This is not what customers are looking for. We want to create something that takes the island to the next level. There has been talk for many years about upgrading our tourism, to have smaller numbers and better quality. By this, we mean having a calm place that people can enjoy. 

Melo Hili and Antonio Belvedere said that the project will be focusing on quality tourism that brings tourists closer to nature. Photo: Jonathan BorgMelo Hili and Antonio Belvedere said that the project will be focusing on quality tourism that brings tourists closer to nature. Photo: Jonathan Borg

You’ve previously spoken about how the footprint of the hotel is smaller than the previous one, but upon evaluation, it also appears that the floorplan has increased and there is more density in the building. How does this factor in terms of reducing the overall impact of the hotel? 

Hili: It’s certainly lower. There are parts of the building that were two storeys and are now becoming one, so there is mass being broken down. To maintain a certain standard the rooms might need to be a little bit larger. 

Belvedere: When we look at certain areas of the hotel, like the tennis courts, for example, these are not undisturbed land, these are buildings that were not included in the existing gross floor area of the existing site. If you want to compare apples with apples, I think we must also take into account all these cubic metres of concrete. 

In the existing hotel, there are 100 rooms and we will have 71. We are doing this because there is attention to the footprint and to achieving the right balance in terms of built area.

The project includes plans for bungalows and concerns have been raised that these may eventually be used for residential purposes. Is there a possibility for these to be sold and can you guarantee that their use will remain exclusively for hospitality? 

Hili: The concession agreement is very clear that these are for hospitality use only and they will not be sold. In the agreement we’ve entered into with Six Senses, the 19 bungalows are a part of the complex. Guests will be able to rent them just as if they are renting out a room from the hotel.

The project has attracted a lot of criticism and thousands of people have objected to your plans. Why should this hotel be built? What net value does it hold for the population in general?

Hili: There is a hotel in Comino already, so we are replacing something that was already there and I think the way we have planned it there is a huge value, in terms of how we do things and even in employment opportunities. 

Belvedere: In terms of cultural tourism, I think to a certain degree this is something that should be brought to the level of politics. But in terms of the environment, this is something that has taken a lot of time to conceive.

I was previously in charge of the Valletta City Gate project which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a project that has been done with the spoon and the brush, counting all of the plants and the shrubs and measuring the area as if it was an archaeological site.

This is a truly blended project, not something we have put some decorative vegetation on, but going into the geology of the land and finding what is beneficial. We have an exhibition going into all of these days starting on Saturday with very precise and technical descriptions of what we are doing.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us