Art, design, accountancy, marketing: the extensive professional resume of V&C Group CEO Christabelle Camilleri mirrors the Group’s own aptitude for diversification. As V&C ventures further into the hospitality sector, she tells Laura Bonnici how the Group is ‘making things better’ both for Malta and the planet.
For almost 30 years, V&C has trailblazed positive change in Malta across a host of sectors from construction, infrastructure and manufacturing to education, real estate, retail and hospitality.
Although V&C Group is today a key player in so many vital industries, the original V&C Contractors focused solely on construction and Christabelle Camilleri – now the Group’s CEO and, recently, a ‘shark’ on the first investor panel of local primetime TV show Shark Tank – had no intention of joining the family business.
“Instead, I studied for my master’s degree in Accountancy
and worked with PWC both during and after my time at
university,” Ms Camilleri says. Aged just 23, she was offered a lucrative job with a global airline company, which nearly kept construction off her radar – until a chance event shifted her course.
“Something quite extraordinary happened,” she explains. “I attended a business dinner with my father and a prospective investment partner who was pitching a proposal – but, instinctively, I felt their proposal didn’t make sense. In that moment, the penny dropped: I wanted to join the family business, with the intention to diversify and grow it. The next day I joined our Group as Finance Manager and enthusiastically learned the ropes as I went along.”
En route, Ms Camilleri garnered valuable experience in every aspect of the business, which now informs her approach as she oversees the Group’s diversified portfolio as CEO. Yet, her role is not without its challenges – particularly as a woman in what is still a male-dominated environment.
“I view everyone as unique, above everything else,” she says. “I don’t expect special or even different treatment because I am a woman and I apply the same principle to all my tasks and responsibilities; to life itself, for that matter. The fact that the construction industry is male-dominated has simply strengthened my resolve.”
In fact, Ms Camilleri uses this inclusive philosophy to influence her management style and power impressive results at V&C. “I encourage our management and all our staff to view themselves as a team – and it has worked. I am extremely proud to be leading an outfit that has doubled profit margins, increased revenue through targeted acquisitions, secured a multi-million line of credit to expand operations, streamlined financial planning, nurtured leaner management and piloted the Group to win multiple industry awards in all the market sectors it operates in.”
With such a fine-tuned team and growing list of business accolades, V&C Group’s prudent diversification strategy has more than borne fruit. Now, as the Group ventures into the hospitality sector, Ms Camilleri shares the exciting projects in the pipeline. “We wanted to get away from the ‘same old same old’ and not create just another hotel or restaurant – hence, Cesca Boutique Hotel. We say that Gozo is an idyll and Cesca is its home. After stepping into this breath-taking 300-year-old farmhouse, perched on top of the tranquil
Xlendi Valley, we immediately wanted ‘in’. It has 18 rooms, including three suites with spectacular views: the perfect getaway from it all.”
The Group’s efforts have already paid off, with Cesca winning the Best Local New Business, Best Luxury Boutique Hotel and the Best New Business Awards at Malta’s Best in Business Awards. “We hope to spread this vision to create uniqueness in the hospitality sector through our other upcoming initiatives, including a boutique hotel in Rabat and Valletta,” Ms Camilleri affirms.
Indeed, the CEO’s focus on building the V&C brand within hospitality characteristically extends to improving the sector at large – as well as the prospects of Malta as a unique destination.
“The quality of hotels, restaurants and the sector in general has been steadily improving, offering more variety and complementing Malta’s climatic, historical, cultural and natural uniqueness,” she says of the local hospitality landscape. “The boutique hotel concept has now taken root in Malta and I augur that it will continue, not only widening choice for travellers but also helping us restore and upgrade the vast pool of dilapidated buildings.”
However, she sounds a note of caution for the industry: “Becoming complacent and secure in our success would be a grave misstep,” she warns. “Travellers are becoming increasingly discriminating, trends are changing fast and low-cost airlines have turned far-flung destinations into our direct competitors. Our climate, destiny, history and geography have blessed us with the best ingredients to create a unique destination. To do so, our hospitality sector must continue to innovate and diversify, while the entire country must address infrastructure, public services and, let’s face it, aesthetics.”
Meanwhile, V&C Group’s new “making things better” tagline embodies Ms Camilleri’s vision for quality, innovation and sustainability not just in hospitality, but in all the Group’s endeavours across Malta and the globe. “That one word – ‘better’ – is at the heart and soul of V&C Group. We are passionate about doing things better and making our country and our planet a better place for future generations.
We are determined to deliver the best goods and services to our clients through the latest specialised technologies, while respecting our country’s environment and that of our planet. ‘Better’ is the only way to grow, professionalise and diversify; to move from dreaming to thinking big,” the CEO concludes.