Idu Ribeiro – General Manager at W Maldives

Our team had the privilege of interviewing Idu, a highly accomplished hospitality professional with over 26 years of experience. As the General Manager of W Maldives, Idu’s remarkable career journey has taken him from Brazil to the United States and eventually to his current role in one of the world’s most extraordinary luxury resorts.

Known for his unwavering commitment, exceptional leadership, and accolades such as being voted one of the Top 5 Best GMs in the Maldives, Idu shares valuable insights on teamwork, guest experience, sustainability, industry trends, and his vision for W Maldives in our exclusive interview.

Could you provide us with insights into your professional background and the significant milestones that have led you to your current position as the General Manager of W Maldives?

I started my career in the hospitality industry when I studied Hotel Management and Business Administration in my home country, Brazil. I then moved to the US for my first-ever hospitality job as a Valet Parking attendant at the Marriott Vacation Club Boston Custom House. It was then that I realized that what I had was more than just a job, it was a career. From then on, I seized every opportunity to develop myself and gained my first leadership position as a Front Desk Manager. This role propelled me to assume various leadership roles in many different areas, where eventually I became a Director of Operations and then attained my first General Manager role at the age of 34.

This year marks my 26th year working in the industry, and my professional journey has taken me to see the world through six countries across three continents. Now, serving as General Manager at W Maldives has undoubtedly offered the most exceptional working and life experience I have had the privilege to encounter. Leading a team and working in a luxury resort in such a remote and idyllic destination creates the ideal environment for an extraordinary career as a General Manager.

As you choose a career instead of merely a job, you will definitely devote your time and energy to advancing at every opportunity. By actively seeking out and embracing new experiences, you will then create strong foundations for your career growth and realize that constant evolution is indeed essential.

What I believe contributed to my development up to this point in my career is the unwavering commitment to never give up under any circumstances. It is crucial to persist and maintain focus on your desired achievements, break down barriers and persevere towards success.

Being voted one of the Top 5 Best GMs in the Maldives, how do you foster teamwork and collaboration among your staff to ensure seamless operations and a cohesive guest experience?

First of all, it is truly an honour to be recognized as the Best General Manager in the Maldives by Travel + Leisure 2023 Asia Pacific Luxury Awards. Also, Maldives as one of the top luxury destinations in the world has attracted the best talents there are in the industry, and I am truly humbled and proud to be recognized with this accolade, but what I am most happy for is really for my team at W Maldives. You can’t be recognized as the best General Manager if you don’t have the best team behind you—and I have the best one as they always go all in to support and work towards our goals and commitments. Teamwork and collaboration are at the heart of our day-to-day routines, this is indeed important especially when you are working in a remote island.

Being a hands-on leader and through my years of experience and my capability to adapt, I based my leadership on setting clear communication and strategies and put my trust in my team to execute those strategies while giving them room to explore and develop their talents. I also truly believe that people make a difference and that guest expectations are met within the small details of the services that we provide. Positive guest experience has always been and will always be our main objective as a team. This is what has been instilled in every talent in our team here at W Maldives.

Balancing guest delight and business success is crucial. How do you strike the right balance at W Maldives?

Getting the right balance of guest delight and business success starts by taking care of my team. The core value of our company—“We take care of our associates, so our associates will take care of our guests, and guests will come back and recommend us to others.”—is the secret ingredient of what we do. This may be quite cliché, but when you bring this to every action you can and in your daily business practices, this value will indeed become a mantra that can make the impossible, possible.

Another important thing is also at the hiring stage of your team members—you always need to hire the right person for the right position. However, this will only account for 50% of the success in striking the balance. The rest of it comes in cultivating the team you have through training, development, and motivation. Having the right team in place is fundamental to going through adversities and overcoming challenges towards our goals.

Finally, having the right plan and strategies is key. As it is the road map that will guide and maintain your focus in the right directions whilst also maintaining certain flexibilities to adapt, adjust and change quickly as the wind never blows in the same direction and you will always need to adjust the sail!

What measures have you implemented to ensure that W Maldives remains a preferred choice for luxury travellers?

We have seen that there has been a shift in the definition of luxury travel. It is no longer just about providing a physical embodiment of luxury, but more of the intangible sense and personal experience. It is more important than ever to focus on guests’ expectations and understand how to place your product and services to attract the right customers. For us, we do this by going beyond what is expected. We ensure that every guest who stays with us departs with a memorable moment that lasts.

W Hotels is an active brand that gives each property the freedom to activate and live out its passions. At W Maldives, we ensure that our weekly programming offers a variety of experiences to cater to our guests’ interests and highlight their passions. Additionally, reinforcing operations skills for the team to deliver a high level of service and create meaningful connections with guests is also important. Through the training and development of each team member, they will understand the flow of guests’ journey and will therefore be able to provide the right service at the right time and place.

Sustainability and environmental stewardship are important in the Maldives. How does W Maldives prioritize these values in its operations?

Sustainability plays an important role in our daily operations, especially since our resort also hosts one of the best house reefs in the country—we have to take extra measures to ensure that our operations have the minimum impact on our surroundings. We have for a year been implementing a no-plastic bottle policy as well as removing single-use amenities. Our hot water supply is provided through a recycling process from our chillers and we are looking towards implementing solar energy in the future for cleaner energy solutions.

Apart from that rigorous recycling initiatives are taking place every day at W Maldives ensuring that we minimize waste as much as possible. This idea of sustainability is also applied to our collaborations with other parties like our exclusive merchandise with Mazu resort wear brand, where we present a collection of shorts and rash guards that are made with recycled plastic bottles.

Additionally, for our food consumption, we always strive to make purchases of local fish and support the Maldivian fishing community that surrounds our resort. We also ensure that the fishing methods are also sustainable through line-caught fish and catch of the day.

As a leader, how do you stay informed about industry trends and incorporate new ideas or innovations into the operations of W Maldives?

I always keep an eye on the movements of trends within the industry and also always encourage my team to do the same. New ideas and innovations are also at the forefront of how we operate as at W Maldives we always strive to set new benchmarks and move the bar higher in terms of providing the best guest experience. Therefore the implementation of innovations and new ideas has become second nature for us here.

What advice would you give to aspiring general managers aiming to excel in the hospitality industry and create exceptional guest experiences?

Focus on your development as well as the development of your team. You will need to be constantly learning new things and be highly adaptable, to improve, teach and guide others. Listening to what your guests have to say is of the utmost importance, Guests are like the GPS of your business that can show the way to success. Have your plans and execute them with the right pace, this way, when the unexpected is coming your way—and it will come—you will be able to manage better. All that being said, above everything else, is to take care of your team. You are nothing without them.

Looking ahead, what are your plans or goals for W Maldives, and how do you envision further enhancing the guest experience under your leadership?

Moving forward and going into the future I envision creating an even more inclusive, engaged, and diverse space within the team to provide the best guest experience there is. Also, W as a brand is undergoing an evolution—we have always been driven by a spirit of reinvention and new/next philosophy. That said, we are turning our views inwards to evolve for the next generation of luxury travellers.