A couple from the UK has grown so fond of a hotel in Sliema that they have visited it 60 times in the past 19 years, with more stays planned for this year.

David Hodson and Margaret Nicholson were left stunned last week when the staff at AX The Victoria Hotel in Sliema put together a surprise gathering to mark their 60th visit at the hotel.

Following this, WhosWho.mt reached out to Ms Nicholson, who said that she and Mr Hodson were both “so shocked and surprised,” but in a good way.

Having become friends with many of the staff due to their frequent visits, they had originally planned to meet Front Office Manager Dorianne Camilleri for a drink and a catch-up, however she tricked them into going up to the hotel's restaurant with her, only to be surprised by the staff waiting for them.

Ms Nicholson said that they have been travelling to Malta since 1988, initially once a year for two weeks in summer, and they have visited a range of hotels.

In 1988 and 1989, the couple visited Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana, prior to it being demolished and rebuilt. Afterwards, they opted for Fortina Hotel, Plevna Hotel, and Park Hotel, all in Sliema. They settled for Preluna Hotel for a number of years, making 12 visits from 1993 to 2004.

However, Ms Nicholson said that they made the move to AX The Victoria Hotel in July 2005 after she claimed that her previous visit to another hotel was "marred by a group of teenagers playing football in the corridor."

They decided to give AX The Victoria Hotel a try after it was recommended to them by a Maltese friend who owned a bar round the corner from the hotel. That year, they visited the hotel in July and November, the first time they had visited Malta more than once in a year.

Since then, they have been coming to Malta three or four times a year.

However, since their first visit 36 years ago, Malta has experienced a plethora of changes. Ms Nicholson said that not every change has been for the better.

From overdevelopment to major traffic congestion, it is safe to say that the country’s image in the eyes of tourists is not the same as it was in the 1980s.

Despite these factors, tourist arrivals have continued to surge since the COVID-19 pandemic, with 2023 being a record-breaking year for the tourism industry, as total inbound tourists edged closer to three million.


AX The Victoria Hotel in Sliema / AX Group

Ms Nicholson said that while she misses Malta’s old buses, the new ones are “much more comfortable and have air-conditioning,” while the Sliema-Valletta-Cottonera ferries and Gozo fast ferry are all good changes.

When asked what she loves the most about Malta and what encourages her to keep coming here, Ms Nicholson said that apart from the sunshine and the hot weather, the main reason is because of the Maltese people, who she said are “wonderful and so friendly.”

“David’s [Mr Hodson] brother-in-law was stationed in Malta in the RAF 1976 to 1979 and when we came to Malta in 1988, he said to us that if you make a friend in Malta, you have made a friend for life. He was so right, as the Maltese people are so friendly,” she said.

Ms Nicholson added that she and Mr Hodson have become such close friends with the hotel staff that they have also attended weddings and a funeral.

“We keep in touch with them and when we visit Malta, we visit the grave of a staff member who died and light a candle in his memory. We can honestly say we have more friends in Malta than we do in the UK,” she remarked.

The couple has visited the hotel 60 times, and Ms Nicholson told WhosWho.mt that their 61st and 62nd trips are already booked for July and November, respectively.

“We have heard so many people say Malta is like Marmite, you either like it or you don’t," Ms Nicholson said, drawing comparisons between Malta and the food product. "But we love it, and neither of us like Marmite. We personally think Malta is an underrated tourist destination,” she continued.

Main Image:

Margaret Nicholson (left) and David Hodson (right) during their surprise gathering at AX The Victoria Hotel / AX Hotels

Read Next: Placeholder

Written By

Fabrizio Tabone

Fabrizio has a passion for the economy and technology, especially when it comes to innovation. Aside from this, he also has a passion for football and movies, and so you will often find him either with a ball to his feet or at the cinema checking out the latest releases.