How did your business start and what prompted you to invest so heavily in Malta?
In 2008 I sold my business in Asia. I spent several years working out what to do next. I set up a small trading business, I opened a hotel in Thailand and focused on philanthropy. I then decided to come to Malta 7 years ago. When I arrived I fell in love with Valletta and realised there was huge investment potential. Over the next few years, I put together a portfolio of properties for development. Today we have several office projects in development, we have just finished a residential project in the city that is for sale and we will soon open our hotel in Valletta.
Your plans for Iniala started off in 2012. The last information we received is that the hotel is set to open its doors in January 2020. Can you confirm the opening month?
My plans for a hotel in Valletta started in 2014. We opened our pop-up restaurant in July and I purchased several properties on St Barbara Bastions. Over time we have collected seven different properties and we have combined them into what will be Iniala Harbour Hotel and Residences, which will open in April 2020. We also have a smaller property which is an exquisite jewel box that will be opened in January 2020 called The Hideaway.
What can people expect from Iniala Malta?
From sophisticated minimalism to understated Baroque styles, the hotel is a collection of unique and innovative design concepts executed on four historical buildings by three world-class design studios: A-Cero from Spain, Autoban from Turkey, as well as Malta’s DAAA HAUS. The result of this collaboration is an eclectic masterpiece that offers guests an unexpected and unforgettable experience. Iniala Malta will have 23 rooms and suites that will cater for all, varying in size from 21 square metres Deluxe Rooms to Signature Suites measuring up to 162 square metres. With Valletta’s quaint East Street on one side, and the impressive Grand Harbour and the fortified “Three Cities” of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua on the other, each one of these rooms and suites enjoys authentic and impressive views. While some suites feature their very own plunge pool, the hotel itself incorporates an indoor pool as well as a gym, a yoga room, a spa, an exclusive bar for guests and members only and a superb rooftop restaurant with outstanding views. Although each house reflects the distinctive personal style of its designer, they each share the same extraordinary level of service and experience. Combining their industry expertise and passion for exceptional service, Iniala staff continually strive to exceed all expectations. Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by their House Manager, who is entrusted to ensure that each and every experience is truly bespoke and unforgettable.
Your company has invested substantially in the Valletta project. What is the long term vision for this investment as a quality destination?
We invested around 40 million Euros in Malta, but today that has grown to a portfolio of over 100 million Euros. Our hotel will open its doors soon and this will establish Iniala Group as the top luxury group on the island. We hope to expand on that and create a few more luxury projects over the coming years.
Reports claim that you are planning further investment in Malta (building along Hastings and Canberra House on St Paul’s Street, Valletta). Any further plans to share with us?
We will open two new office developments in 2020 and 2021 in Valletta. One is Canberra House next to Castille which will be beautiful boutique offices, perfect for companies in the financial and gaming sectors.
You’re obviously an exceptionally busy man, what do you love to do to relax?
I love to travel and always visit new places. In 2019, I will have visited Georgia, Latvia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the Azores as well as several other places. I like to visit places off the beaten track. I am also a huge football fan and visit the Etihad stadium regularly to watch Manchester City.
What are your favourite places to eat in Malta?
Ali Baba in St Julian’s is excellent and all the Marvin Gauci restaurants.
Can you tell us about your philanthropy work?
In 2002 I lost my fiancée, Annika Linden, in the Bali bombings. I was devastated, however, I knew that Annika wouldn’t want me to focus on hate or fear. She would want me to do something good. The following week, I donated all of my business’ revenues to the people that had been affected by the bombings. This was the seed to the Annika Linden Foundation, which I officially founded in 2003 and which has, over the years, grown into a leading grant-making foundation, now known as Inspirasia Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to funding and supporting exceptional projects in health and education for marginalised communities and people with disabilities. Since Iniala’s inception in 2013, philanthropy has been at its very core. Iniala Beach House donates 10% of room revenues and 5% of all other revenues to the Foundation. The foundation now supports 13 organisations in Indonesia, Thailand and India. Inspirasia also extended into Malta shortly after I relocated there. Since 2015, the foundation has collaborated with Iniala Giving to organise a number of philanthropic and charitable events in Malta. These include forums that explored and inspired high impact giving, as well as gastronomic charity events, which have raised over €100,000 for local charities. In 2016, Inspirasia Foundation joined forces with The Gasan Foundation to launch the Malta Social Impact Awards (MSIA). MSIA provides opportunities for local changemakers to receive financial and non-financial support to develop an initiative that has a positive social impact on Malta while inspiring others to give and give well. Over the years, MSIA - with the support of businesses and individuals - has awarded over €250,000 in grants, with around another €75,000 of funding to be awarded at MSIA 2019 in November. Earlier this year, Inspirasia also donated €15,000 to support a Valletta Research Project (conducted by the University of Malta for the Valletta Local Council) to assess the needs of the Valletta community. The results of the research will be used to create the basis for future projects aiming to improve the lives of the Valletta community. Inspirasia Foundation, Gasan Foundation and Level Up have recently collaborated to launch the Academy of Givers, a first of its kind in Malta. The Academy of Givers is a platform which brings like-minded people together to learn, inspire and be inspired, with the aim of improving philanthropic and corporate social responsibility efforts in Malta. In addition to supporting Inspirasia, Iniala places a strong emphasis on its corporate social responsibility. In Thailand, Iniala Beach House organises regular beach clean-ups and has also recently invited children from Home & Life orphanage and students from FED (the Foundation for Education and Development) for a fun and educational activity day at the hotel. Every year since 2016, Iniala has sponsored between 10 and 15 children from challenging backgrounds in Malta to attend Valletta FC nursery. Iniala has also donated a sum of money annually to San Ġorġ Preca College - Valletta Primary School for books and refurbishment. Iniala is, and always will be, committed to giving back to the communities it finds itself in.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Launching the Annika Linden Centre in Bali which has enabled me to change so many lives for the better.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I expect to be out of active investing within the next five years. I hope to be focused on teaching philanthropy and inspiring others.