Please share with us your journey in this industry.
My hospitality career started over 16 years ago, I didn’t always know I wanted to be in hospitality, but I am happy with where I am now. A few career twists led me to where I am today. After completing my O’levels, I found myself stuck between finance and hospitality management, and after careful consideration I chose to study hospitality.
I graduated at the age of 21 and started my hospitality career as a telephone operator, working 11 to 12 hours a day. I knew I wanted more from the career I had chosen and checked the newspaper every day for job openings. My determination paid off, and after a year as a telephone operator I approached the management of Meeru Island Resort & Spa to further my training and development through Crown & Champa Resorts’ development programme. I was offered the opportunity to study overseas and received my higher diploma in hospitality. On completion of my studies, I was given the opportunity to use my skills and received on the job training in Meeru’s Front office before being promoted to front office manager and eventually guest services manager.
I have always been passionate about learning and continued my studies while working, and at the age of 25, I received my bachelors. I took the opportunity to intern with Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort and then moved to Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa as a trainee, before going into F&B, followed by Sales & Marketing, after which I returned to Meeru.
At Crown & Champa Resorts I once again was at the benefit of the company’s development programme due to my determination and commitment. At Meeru, I was promoted to recreation manager and then executive housekeeper, before being promoted to rooms division manager, and later I was transferred to Vilamendhoo Island Resort & Spa as director of operations.
I saw an exciting opportunity to diversify my skills and decided to enroll at a school in Paris school, where I improved my oral and written French before joining the pre-opening team of Amilla Fushi. My need to evolve my hospitality skills took me to Abu Dhabi where I worked at a boutique real estate hotel where half of the hotel operated as a hotel while the other half were apartments.
After a year and a half, I returned to Crown & Champa Resorts as director of operations for Hurawalhi Maldives. I believe Crown & Champa Resorts trusts me. Through the years. I have honed my skills and showed my value to the group which has allowed me to be promoted to General Manager of Komandoo Maldives, an exciting opportunity, where I know I can make a difference.
What are some of the challenges you have faced during your years in the hospitality industry?
I have filled in a lot of job positions in this industry. As somebody who was used to living with family and spending time with friends every day, it was difficult for me to adjust to living with complete strangers and staying away from my loved ones. In addition to this, people are often stereotyped in the hospitality industry. When I first enrolled in hotel school, some of my relatives pointed out that I was going to be a chef. After stepping into the industry, I realized that there were some barriers and perceptions I would have to overcome. People often grouped Maldivians unfairly due to these stereotypes, however, over time these perceptions have shifted as cultural understanding has evolved. Maldivians are very determined and dedicated, and I was determined to prove this and be a part of this. I think the industry is growing. I also want to help others grow in the industry.
I have personally sacrificed a lot; you have to be immensely dedicated to your job to lead an international workforce. The hospitality industry is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a 24 hours operation. Hospitality is a way of life. You are either in it or not. You cannot be halfway in.
You are arguably the youngest general manager in the Maldives. That is a massive achievement in itself. Putting your current position aside, what do you consider as your biggest success?
I have over 16 years of expertise, during this time I have worked in 14 different roles. Having filled so many roles, I understand the daily struggles my team faces, mainly because I have personally been there myself. I work very closely with them; For me, they are family, I want to see my family succeed. At Crown & Champa Resorts we are all very close, we cheer for each other’s successes, and we take care of one another. I think this culture comes from our owners. Irrespective of which resort they visit within the company, they know the names of all the staff employed at the resort. I would love to continue this culture, and I try my best to instill this within my team as well.
You have a lot of experience working at different hotels. On a managerial level, what do you do differently in comparison to other properties?
I started at Komandoo very recently. We have a lovely atmosphere between the guests and my team. There is a very close bond between all of us. Some of our employees have been with us for as long as the resort has been open – 20 years! They have a very close-knit relationship with all of our repeat guests. It makes me very happy to say that in some weeks we host over 60 repeaters, which was the case during the second week of September, 2018. I want to build on what we have and take it to the next level.
What is your advice for young hoteliers who seek a career in this industry?
If you want to work in hospitality, understand that hospitality is not limited to F&B, customer service or marketing, it is very broad. You need to educate yourself on a lot of matters that affect service culture. We have guests coming in from different parts of the world. You need to start learning about their cultures and understand them. You have to foster trust. Understanding plays a significant role in building a community.
Do not be limited to a singular department. You need to be disciplined and continuously work towards becoming the person you want to be. Find a mentor and always be open to learning.
I look forward to the day when the majority of the workforce in the hospitality industry is held by locals.