Could you please give us an introduction about yourself and how you started in the tourism industry and your journey towards becoming the General Manager of Hurawalhi island Resort?
I grew up in a small country town on the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand. After completing my degree in hospitality management, I went to London to apply my trade, where I started work at an event center in London’s financial center, looking after numerous corporate events. Subsequently I was head hunted for the position of Private Parties Manager at London’s newest and most exclusive Private Members’ Club Home House. I spent colourful years there looking after celebrities and successful business men and my boss at the time, Former Managing Director of the Savoy Hotel, Mr. Brian Clivaz took the time to mentor me on the finer side of hospitality.
Following my time in London, I decided to come back to New Zealand briefly. Shortly after coming back home, I decided to venture off to Fiji, and thus began my island experience. I worked in Fiji for 3 years, after which I moved to Bali, where I worked for 5 ½ years, until I was asked by my company in Bali to come up and work in the Maldives. I started my journey here as the Resort Manager at Gili-Lankanfushi, where I achieved many things with a wonderful team by my side. After 3 years with Gili Lankanfushi, Crown and Champa offered me the opportunity to manage two of their most recent properties – Hurawalhi Island Resort, and Kudadoo Private Island, which was still on the drawing board at the time but is now open for a few select guests. My short period in CCR has been wonderful so far, and considering how much I have enjoyed my time here at Hurawalhi, I really look forward to the challenges of Kudadoo, which is officially open from December 1st.
I have worked in the industry for around 22 years now, and whilst managing a resort is hard and challenging, my team has been wonderful and I believe they are the most important asset of Hurawalhi as you will see from majority of our TripAdvisor reviews, which highlight how terrific the staff are. As a General Manager of a resort, my job is to not only look after the guests, but it is also to look after our staff. If you look after your team, they will be more inspired to look after your guests.
What are some of the challenges you have faced within your line of work?
As I have worked in different parts of the world, I have faced a mountain of challenges, including bombings in London, a government coup d’état and a cyclone in Fiji, a major terrorism threat during my time in Bali. By comparison, my time in the Maldives so far has been very peaceful. With each of these experiences, I have learnt a lot. While I was working in Bali, I had to work through earthquakes and potential tsunami threats, and as a result, we learnt a lot about disaster management. I had learnt a lot about security due to the potential terrorist threats. We underwent a lot of training in security and keeping our perimeters safe. Each and every challenge is a learning curve, and you only get stronger from the challenges you come across.
Can you share with us some of your successes and achievements?
One of my biggest achievements was receiving the ‘Best Hotel in the World’ on TripAdvisor with the team at Gili-Lankanfushi, all of whom contributed to the success. Following that, I would note that achieving 2nd place for the ‘Best Luxury Hotel in the World’, helped us lay the foundation to continue on, and Gili-Lankanfushi to this day is a great product with an impeccable team. At the end of the day, hospitality businesses really come down to the team.
What do you do differently at the resort compared to other properties?
From the day I joined Hurawalhi Island Resort, I said to my staff that I wanted them to have a genuine interest in our guests and I wanted them to see how they can make a difference to their stay. One year later, this specific message actually shows on our TripAdvisor reviews, where guests are commenting that ‘the staffs had a genuine interest in my stay, and tried hard to make a difference and make my stay better’. I thank my team for the work they have done and I can actually see that the seed I had planted on my first day here has now flowered and we are now receiving its’ merits.
Could you share with us a particular guest experience that is different from others, and stands out from the rest?
As you may recall, Egyptian footballer, Mohamed Salah stayed at Hurawalhi very recently. He just wanted to be treated like a normal person, and did not at all wanted to be treated as a celebrity. Such people – they all have very busy lives and during my time at the Private Members Club, I had learnt that, they often want a place where they can be normal and be free from the shackles of being a celebrity. In Maldives, where you have a ‘one island, one resort’ policy, there is already the opportunity for them to come and get away from the celebrity lifestyle and especially when you have an island like Kudadoo, where it is 15 residences maximum, with a total of 30 guests staying and hence is the perfect place to get privacy.
What is your advice for young hoteliers who wish to seek a career in the hospitality industry?
Always do more than what is asked of you. That is something I have personally done in my career; I have always taken on responsibilities outside my job description, and that has helped me progress. Doing this not only helps you along the way but it also prepares you for when a position becomes available. Your seniors would then recommend you as you have already proved yourself.