NewsDecember 3, 2023

In Memoriam: Mohamed Rashad’s Enduring Legacy in the Maldivian Hospitality Industry

Amidst the serene beauty of the Maldives, where sapphire waters caress pristine shores, the recent passing of Mohamed Rashad leaves behind echoes, concluding a life intricately woven into the fabric of the Maldivian tourism industry and one of the country’s prominent conglomerates. From his early days at QIM Maafannu Villa to steering the course of Villa Resorts, Rashad’s journey is a testament to his indomitable spirit, playing a pivotal role in shaping a multi-billion-dollar tourism industry in the Maldives.

Born in an era when the Maldives was yet to unveil its splendours, Rashad emerged as a stalwart during the nascent days of the Maldivian tourism boom in the 1980s. Joining Fun Island Resort & Spa as a Cashier in 1986, Rashad’s ascent within the industry is a tale of dedication and rapid progression. This was a time when backgrounds in hospitality were not prerequisites for leadership roles. It was an era where leaders were made, and individuals like Rashad had to step up, learn, and adapt quickly, navigating uncharted waters with no precedent. In a landscape devoid of established norms, this generation of pioneers laid the foundation for the thriving Maldivian tourism sector we see today.


“In those uncharted territories, Mohamed Rashad emerged as a leader, navigating the challenges of those early days with an indomitable spirit,” reminisced a long-time associate, Ali Rasheed, the current Director of Sales and Marketing for Villa Resorts, who witnessed the genesis of Rashad’s extraordinary career.

Rashad’s instrumental role in the opening of Fun Island Resort & Spa in 1988, the first resort under Villa Group, reflected his foresight and his sheer willpower in transforming dreams into reality.

“I think one of the biggest challenges for me was the preopening experience at Fun Island. We built a team by recruiting locals with no previous experience in hospitality. Some notable experiences I recall include consulting locals to help develop souvenir shops, managing waste, and improving communication and culture shock with the boom of tourist arrivals to the Maldives. We faced many challenges but overcame them,” reflected Mohamed Rashad during the 2021 interview.

Rashad shattered the glass ceiling, challenging the prevailing notion that only foreign managers were suitable for steering a resort to profitability. His groundbreaking leadership at Fun Island Resort showcased his dedication and served as a transformative moment for Maldivian hospitality. By demonstrating that Maldivians were not only capable but excelled in leading their teams and driving profitability, Rashad opened doors for countless individuals. His success became a beacon, inspiring a new era where local talent could confidently take the helm, contributing to the prosperity of resorts and the broader Maldivian tourism landscape.

Villa Group’s Chief Operating Officer, Muaviyath Umar (MU), shared his profound experience working alongside the late Mr Rashad, commencing his journey with Villa Group in 1995 at Fun Island Resort for industrial training right after completing school. At that time, Mr. Rashad was the resort’s General Manager. MU fondly recalls the rigorous efforts required to ensure the smooth functioning of business operations, emphasizing the dedication it took to ensure the property was functional and served its purpose for both team members and guests.

“I realised the immense scope of a General Manager’s role by witnessing him operate daily – from managing intricate infrastructure like pipes and electricity to overseeing transportation, food, etc. Witnessing Rashad execute these tasks with such finesse was truly inspiring. It taught me the importance of practical knowledge in this dynamic field, teaching me the true value of learning on the go, something I believe can never be taught in a classroom.” – Muaviyath Umar (MU), Chief Operating Officer, Villa Group.

Over 8 years at Fun Island, MU’s career blossomed under the insightful guidance of Mr. Rashad. Starting humbly as a trainee, he progressed from a waiter to a supervisor, eventually assuming the critical Food & Beverage Manager role. As MU advanced further, eventually becoming the COO at Villa Group after an illustrious 4-year tenure as General Manager at Royal Island, the unwavering respect shown by Mr Rashad continued to resonate. For MU, this enduring respect was not just a professional courtesy but a testament to Mr. Rashad’s humility and lack of ego, setting an exemplary standard for leadership within the industry.

“Mr. Rashad was not just a mentor but an institution within our company. Every moment spent with him was cherished, a testament to his profound impact on my professional journey. From working under his guidance and being nurtured for numerous years to the unforeseen transition where roles reversed and he reported to me regularly, Mr. Rashad remained a constant presence in my professional life. He has been there from the first day I joined Villa Group, and everyone in the company holds him in the highest regard. We miss him dearly” –MU.

His leadership at Fun Island Resort & Spa laid the foundation for the resort bohemians of current Villa Resort properties like Villa Park, Villa Nautica, and Royal Island.

“In Rashad’s hands, Fun Island became a testament to the possibilities of thoughtful hospitality—a pilot project that paved the way for the unique charm that defines Villa Resorts today,” remarked Khadheeja Sana, the current Director of PR & Marketing for Villa Resorts, emphasizing the lasting impact of Rashad’s pioneering efforts.

In the twilight of his illustrious career as the Resort Manager of Royal Island Resort, Rashad embraced a new role as a mentor. His commitment to nurturing the next generation of hospitality professionals transcended traditional managerial duties, enduringly impacting the industry’s future leaders. “After developing my knowledge and leadership skills within the company, my passion now lies in sharing my experience and developing the next generation of leaders,” Rashad expressed in his 2021 interview.

“Mr. Rashad’s office was more than a managerial space; it was a classroom, and his teachings transcended textbooks. His legacy is not confined to the resorts he managed but lives on in the countless individuals he inspired,” reflected Muaz Abdulla, a protégé who worked alongside Rashad as the General Manager for Royal Island Resort for 5 years. This sentiment resonates among many who, like Muaz, recognize the profound impact Rashad had on shaping the future of Maldivian tourism, inspiring those who, just as Mr. Rashad did, would carve paths for the industry yet uncharted.

Rashad’s legacy not only touches those within Villa Group but also extends to those who benefited from his profound insights and wisdom. His life’s work, characterized by dedication, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to nurturing talent, will persistently influence and shape the industry for generations. In reflections on Rashad, the acknowledgement of the void he leaves within Villa Group, a company that embraces its members as family, is evident. While his absence will be profoundly felt, Rashad’s spirit and teachings will remain a guiding force, ensuring his legacy lives on.