Our team at Travel Trade Maldives decided to sit down and gain some insight into the inspiring story of Mohamed Mirsaad who is the Managing Director of Travel Connection Maldives and the owner of Surfview Raalhugandu Hotel.
Could you begin with a brief introduction about yourself?
I have always been working in the hospitality industry even before the idea to create a travel agency came to me. I worked in various posts in resorts and I even worked in the airport, which if not directly is also related to the tourism industry. The resorts I worked in are Kanuhuraa and One & Only Reethi Rah. After that, in 2013, I finally decided that I had gained enough experience to run my own agency and created Travel Connections Maldives.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced while running this agency?
It is never easy running a travel agency back in the days as foreign agents were more preferable to resorts and other tourism facilities. Due to this, we had a lot of difficulty in obtaining suitable rates. They would tell us to get them 150-500 room nights. It might be easy to say this but it is definitely not easy getting that much room nights. However, due to them not taking our investments and time seriously enough, we attended multiple roadshows and fairs abroad, scoring foreign agents and more, until such time that the resorts were forced to come to terms with the fact that we are seriously investing in the industry to get markets.
While speaking of challenges we should also talk about your successes. Which are your most notable ones?
One of the most notable success we as a company have achieved is going from a meager count of 2 staff to employing 20+ staff in the agency. This is a great improvement when compared to the time we began the work of our company. Another notable challenge is us having widened our reach. We now have three offices. One is the local office in Maldives with the other two in Sri Lanka and our newest one, in China. I believe that within 6 years, this can be considered a great feat and I’m utterly proud of that.
Your main market is the Middle East. What issues do you face when dealing with this market?
As with the others, I believe the biggest issue is that our rates collide with OTA’s from the Middle East. Sometimes, due to some issues, you are unable to see the rates submitted by resorts in the Maldives and due to this, we find it very difficult to retain some bookings. I think it is safe to say that Middle Eastern tourists are impatient on some terms and having to deal with resorts, trying to get them suitable rates, could result in us losing the booking as well. Due to their nature, it sometimes becomes an issue when dealing with tourists from the Middle Eastern market.
What do Middle Eastern tourists look for when visiting Maldives?
One of the most important aspects of Middle Eastern tourists is privacy. Whichever reason that they visit for, they would want to stay at a secluded and private resort to fully enjoy their holiday. They also have a tendency to go for places with pools. So, it is safe to say that a Middle Eastern tourist would lean towards a private overwater/beach villa which has its own pool and is secluded from the rest of the island. They also have a tendency to go for trustworthy and well-known brands such as Four Seasons, One & Only, Jumeirah and other renowned brands.
What are the most common types of tourists who arrive in Maldives from the Middle East?
There are several types of tourists who come to Maldives from the Middle East. The most common type would be honeymooners, as is the case of many other markets, as Maldives is now a premium honeymoon destination. Maldives is a dream to many couples and this is no different to Middle Easterners who tend to lean towards more mainstream brands. Others are the travelers who come to relax and spend a luxurious holiday. There are also the families, who come to spend a holiday together and bond with each other to make up for the inability to connect due to their busy lives.
What is your advice for young adults who wish to pursue a career in this industry?
You have to start working from the bottom to reach the top. Work hard and smart, that is the way to go in any industry. As long as you have your ambitions straight and are motivated to work, you can achieve anything.