UncategorizedJuly 10, 2021

Andre Kretschmann – General Manager of Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives

Kuda Villingili is a brand-new luxury resort located in North Male’ atoll of the Maldives. Andre Kretschmann, the General Manager of Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives talked to TTM+ about his career and the tourism industry in the island nation.

Could you tell us a bit about your career thus far?

“My career spans literally forty years now. This is actually my second stint here in the Maldives; I was here about ten years ago to set up another well-known resort and I returned around 2018 to 2019, to set up this new wonderful property, ‘Kuda Villingili’. Overall, I’ve worked in many different destinations and different countries. I think I’ve worked in around 10 countries so far, mainly in Asia. In terms of the importance of the projects and the amount of time I’ve spent on them, I think these two projects have been the most significant in my career, and definitely the most intense to complete. But here we are today, and we have completed a beautiful resort, which has now welcomed its first guests on 6th June 2021.”

Could you give us a quick introduction of Kuda Villingili resort?

“Kuda Villingili is a 25-minute speedboat ride away from Velana International Airport and soon, we will be providing a seaplane option as well. The resort consists of 96 villas in total, out of which 36 are water villas. We have quite a large island here – 15.4 hectares in total. In terms of the offerings we have for our guests, we have a total of 7 dining venues and 3 bars, as well as recreational facilities such as a tennis court, gym, yoga pavilion, beach volleyball court and activity center. We also have a beautiful spa located on its own island, consisting of 8 double treatment rooms. Of course, like most resorts, we also have a dive center and water sports center which was just completed a few weeks ago.”

What challenges have you faced in opening the resort, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic?

“I would say that we were lucky enough to have started preparations during 2018 before the pandemic, so we had most of the building materials onsite. We were able to continue the construction during the lockdown. However, we did face some logistic issues due to global shipping delays and restrictions. This did delay the process a bit as we were originally supposed to open the resort in 2020. But we are open now, and we managed to overcome the difficult situation and complete everything as planned.”

In your opinion, what does it take to be an effective manager?

“I think, to be an effective general manager or leader, one has to have a vision and one has to be able to turn their vision into reality. You have to be able to motivate and support your colleagues and team members to understand and follow that vision and guide them along that path. Support doesn’t only apply during work, you have to be able to support them on a personal level, making sure they feel comfortable enough to approach the GM for anything they feel that is important. Always have an open ear. One more thing I’d like to add is that if you want to create a successful product, you must be consistent in what you do. Without consistency, you cannot achieve excellence, so always strive for excellence.”

What do you consider to be your greatest personal success?

“As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in the industry for about four decades now. On a personal level, I think the greatest success for me is to have been able to live and work in so many different countries and experience different cultures. I have had the privilege of meeting many wonderful guests and colleagues; all the friendships that I’ve gained over a lifetime remain intact until today. Rather than singling out one particular property or moment, I believe the enrichment of life that I’ve gained in this way is my greatest success, personally.”

Can you tell us a little about your experience in the hospitality industry in the Maldives?

“I think the basics of hospitality have not changed as such. Yes, you now have a lot of technological advancements, and perhaps the career paths that colleagues take now have changed. Some may not be willing to spend a decade or more in the kitchen, or another role, to get to the next level. The expectations today are that after a few years, people want to be managers, or they want to be in charge of something. But ultimately, especially when you talk about the luxury hospitality sector, the basics have not changed. You have to acquire knowledge over many years and be aware of the various paths that come together to create a special experience for your guests. Whether it’s Culinary, Housekeeping or Front office, they all come together and work with one another. So, in that sense, I don’t think much has changed.

One thing that has changed, is that students are less willing to go into hospitality now. They would rather have more clerical, administrative positions. That is the only downside, that there are fewer people applying to work in this industry. Even though it is extremely rewarding, it is a very labour-intensive field. You have to put in a lot of hours. Which is why it may not be attractive for some, but hopefully, this will change in the future.”

What do you think the future holds for the Maldives’ tourism industry?

“I think it is already on the map – floating hotels. Not only with villas, but even entertainment facilities attached to those floating devices. I imagine that is something that we will see in the future. I think the concept of private islands, where you only have one family or one guest staying on a single island, is also something that we will be seeing more and more of. It might be attached to an existing resort, but it might be individual properties as well. Especially now with the global situation that we’re experiencing right now, this concept could become quite popular.”

Why do you think Maldives has become such an attractive destination for luxury travellers?

“With the quite substantial number of tourists that have been coming to the Maldives over fifty years, word-of-mouth about the fantastic experiences guests have had play a role in the destination’s marketing. Although the Maldives is well-known to cater to the honeymoon market, over the last decade or so, it has become a family-oriented destination as well. I think a lot of high-profile guests find the Maldives easy and accessible, no matter where they are in the world. Its location and the conditions of its sea and marine life have made Maldives very unique and attractive to a lot of high-net-worth clientele.”

What’s the best advice you can give to those looking to join the industry?

“For anyone who wishes to enter the hospitality industry, I would recommend that you join the best hotel or resort company in the country where you are. Work hard, and find a mentor within the organization that can guide you in your journey in becoming an extraordinary hospitality professional. Again, the same motto applies as I mentioned earlier – always strive for excellence, in everything that you do.”