The facelift of the flat
The words ‘holiday flat’ conjure up the image of cold and bare rooms, cheap, plastic furniture and the most basic of essentials. But that is destined to change in Gozo, with the rise of the so far non-existent five-star apartment for rent.
Try renting a farmhouse in Gozo, complete with most of the amenities you’ve ever dreamt of, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Several properties on the market have undergone an upgrade and if it’s an indoor, heated pool you’re after, or under-floor heating throughout to kill their humidity in winter, all you need to do is ask.
But what if you wanted to stay in the heart of life, within walking distance from the sea and restaurants, and not be cut off in the countryside? What if it was just for two, and four bedrooms, with en suite bathrooms and extensive grounds, would be wasted on you? What if you could not afford that farmhouse, but could go for an upmarket, comfortable – and why not – luxurious apartment?
Then, you would have a problem as, so far, top-quality flats for rental are lacking in Gozo and you are likely to end up in the barest and most unwelcoming of accommodation, equipped with cheap, plastic furniture and the most basic of essentials.
While interior design, quality fabrics, modern finishings, air conditioning and other essential comforts would have been furthest from your mind in the days when you were just about allowed to spend the feast of Santa Marija up in Gozo with your friends, they could be an issue for the more refined and mature traveller you have grown into.
Baron Group operations executive Brian Meilak believes there is an untapped market for the discerning client, who wants self-catering accommodation, but not necessarily a farmhouse.
Luxury holiday apartments – let alone boasting communal facilities and even a concierge service – are seriously lacking, he believes, pointing to the “rubbish on the market”.
That is where its Hillock Residences in Marsalforn, which should be on-stream within the next couple of years, could come in to fill in the gap. Construction should be completed in November and the idea is to keep aside some 20 of the 148 apartments for rental.
It is now the turn of the apartment, after farmhouses have been upgraded over the last five years, with indoor pools, Wi-Fi everywhere and even bathrobes and slippers.
“They’ve been properly ‘winterised’ to cater for the shoulder months and are basically a five-star hotel in a farmhouse environment,” Mr Meilak says.
Wrought-iron beds, once the order of the day, have been discarded, quality garden furniture is important, as are modern sofas and LCD TVs, while masseurs and beauticians go on site, and cooking classes and babysitting services are also available.
Where indoor pools do not fit, private hot tubs are being installed through the European Regional Development Fund to upgrade tourism-related projects, Mr Meilak points out, proud to note that foreigners from nine countries have visited to study the concept of self-catering services and Baron Group has been invited to lend its expertise to develop this in Slovenia.
“We are looking into whether it is feasible, but it is definitely a challenge,” Mr Meilak maintains.
Meanwhile, the challenge is also to give the ‘holiday flats’ a facelift and redefine the words.