On the occasion of  International Women’s Day, Travel Trade Maldives spoke with local women at the forefront of the Maldivian hospitality industry. Their contribution is magnitude in elevating the tourism experience, reshaping the industry for future leaders, and ensuring gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Amara Shafeeq completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing from Malaysia and joined the Bank of Maldives as a Social Media Coordinator. She then moved to Bristol, United Kingdom to do her Masters in Marketing Communication which made her realize how vast the Marketing field is.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started your career?

I wanted a career path that allowed me to do what I loved whilst also being able to contribute to the environment and marine conservation. During an educational seminar, I met coordinators of the Protect Maldives Seagrass Campaign. I happily offered my time and resources to the cause as a volunteer and assisted them with seminars, marketing efforts and creating awareness. My career in the hospitality industry really took off that very same year as a Marketing Communications Coordinator in one of the resorts and there was no looking back from there.

Being a female Hotelier, do you think that it is easier than before? How did the Maldivian Tourism Industry change over the last few years?

Absolutely! Seeing a woman in the hospitality industry was rare in the past, almost taboo. It makes me proud to see more and more female hoteliers taking over the industry nowadays and I believe that people’s perspectives are changing, and albeit a few, we are more accepting of women in the hospitality industry. The Maldivian Tourism Industry has become less male-dominated, more respectful, diverse, more accustomed to treating women as equals and empowering women. I would not call it perfect yet, but we have come a long way and hopefully are on the right trajectory towards equitable opportunities and treatment for all.

Do you think it is possible to maintain a work-life balance for female hoteliers with families and what is your take on this?

I am truly blessed to come from a supportive family with very strong female role models and know several strong female colleagues as well. My mum and sister, who always keep me grounded, and my aunts are my biggest female inspirations. I have watched the women in my family juggle their wonderful careers and loving families in perfect harmony. I absolutely believe that female hoteliers with families can maintain a harmonious work-life balance because I have personally seen how my friends and colleagues balance their careers and home. Of course, there are challenges, but having the drive, patience, support, and right mindset goes a long way. I am confident that if I choose to have a family in the future, I would not have to give up on being a hotelier.

What is your biggest personal achievement so far?

I have always set personal goals for myself, throughout my life. I am proud to be able to say I have achieved all of them so far. The biggest personal goal yet was for me to take on a leadership role when I turned 30. Funnily enough, it was time for a change and I decided to end my journey as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator just days before my 30th birthday. I looked for better opportunities and I was hired as a Marketing & Communications Manager at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa –just two months later! Taking on a leadership role at an established global hotel brand at 30 has been my biggest personal achievement so far.

What are the main challenges for a female hotelier?

As women are inherently perceived to be more caring and nurturing, and therefore the more sensitive and emotional of the genders, I think people tend to underestimate the strength and capability of female hoteliers.  Our upbringing and the perception and mindset of our society have really projected a lack of confidence in women as capable of having both a career in hospitality and a family. Yet, women have been resilient throughout and proved otherwise. The way we have been brought up, the opportunities and level of access we have available in order to shine and make our voices heard, the role models we have, the expectations of people and the criticisms we have faced, the choices we have made, the support or lack thereof we have received all contribute to our perception of what we can and cannot achieve and how far we can go.

What advice would you give to other ladies looking forward to starting their career in the hospitality industry?    

I am a huge advocate for female empowerment and I want to see more women finding their rightful place in this industry. I truly believe that women can move mountains. Having a strong and confident character goes a long way; people respect you regardless if you really try to just be yourself and apply your skills and talent to the best of your abilities. Mindset is key; never letting anyone else bring down your spirits and believing in yourself will take you farther than you ever think you could go. Take the time to ease into your surroundings when you start your career in hospitality, learn, and absorb as much as you can, from your peers, your superiors. Be punctual, respectful, and disciplined. Keep your head held high and never stop reaching for the stars!