Naziya Hassan – Senior Sales Manager at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

We had the privilege of sitting down with Naziya Hassan, the Senior Sales Manager of Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, as part of our International Women’s Day interview series.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into Naziya’s experiences as she generously shares insights into how she has built and maintained credibility and the myriad challenges she has faced and triumphed over as a woman navigating the hospitality landscape.

What sparked your interest in the hospitality sector, and how did this interest guide your path to assume the role of Senior Sales Manager at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives? 

My interest in the hospitality sector was sparked during my early career days when I ventured into the tour operating industry as an assistant fresh out of school. Exploring the uniqueness of our islands and witnessing the expansive potential of the Maldives within the hospitality realm captivated my intrigue. However, my journey took a detour when I transitioned to one of the largest telecommunication companies in the Maldives, and It was during this period that my fascination with sales and marketing began to blossom. 

Navigating through various roles within the trade sector, I eventually found my way back to my passion for hospitality when I joined a pioneering tourism establishment. Over the course of 12 remarkable years, I steadily climbed the ranks from an assistant to eventually assuming the role of a regional sales manager. Along this journey, I had the privilege of contributing to the pre-opening teams of prestigious properties, enriching my experience and knowledge within the European and UK markets. 

However, a pivotal moment arose when I decided to momentarily step away to pursue further academic endeavours, culminating in the completion of my MBA in Strategic Management. This academic pursuit not only broadened my understanding but also paved the way for my current position as the Senior Sales Manager at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, a property under the esteemed Hyatt corporation umbrella. 

In essence, my journey within the hospitality sector has been a tapestry of diverse experiences, each contributing to my growth and ultimately leading me to a fulfilling role where I can continue to thrive and contribute to the industry I hold dear.

As a successful woman in the hospitality sector, what specific challenges have you faced, and how have you navigated them?

As a woman in the hospitality sector, I’ve encountered several challenges along my journey, but I’ve approached them with resilience and determination. One significant challenge has been breaking through traditional gender biases and stereotypes prevalent in the industry. In many cases, there’s been an assumption that certain roles or positions are better suited for men, particularly in leadership or managerial positions. 

To navigate these challenges, I’ve focused on showcasing my skills, expertise, and leadership capabilities through consistent performance and results. By demonstrating my value through tangible achievements, I’ve been able to challenge these stereotypes and earn respect within the industry. 

Additionally, I’ve actively sought out mentorship and support networks, both within and outside of my organization, to provide guidance and encouragement along the way. Having mentors who have navigated similar challenges themselves has been invaluable in providing perspective and advice on overcoming obstacles. 

Overall, while there have been challenges as a woman in the hospitality sector, I’ve embraced them as opportunities for growth and learning. By staying resilient, seeking support, and advocating for change, I’ve been able to navigate these challenges and achieve success in my career.

Can you share insights into how you’ve built and maintained credibility, especially in leadership roles?

Establishing and upholding credibility, particularly in leadership positions, requires a multifaceted approach centred around trust and integrity. A leader serves as a beacon of inspiration and accountability, both internally among colleagues and externally with partners. Trust isn’t merely cultivated through words alone but is solidified through consistent actions that align with one’s values and commitments. 

Throughout my career, I’ve prioritized leading by example and embodying the principles I espouse. This entails not only articulating a vision but actively living it out in my daily interactions and decision-making processes. It’s about demonstrating authenticity and transparency, fostering an environment where trust can flourish. 

Moreover, credibility extends beyond the confines of the workplace to encompass relationships with partners and stakeholders. By cultivating open and honest communication, delivering on promises, and consistently delivering results, I’ve been able to forge enduring partnerships built on mutual respect and reliability. 

Nevertheless, maintaining credibility is an ongoing endeavour that requires diligence and dedication. It’s about continually reaffirming trust through actions and remaining true to one’s values even in the face of challenges or temptations, I’ve been fortunate to have a supportive network of colleagues who has been integral to my journey, standing by me regardless of the paths I’ve chosen to pursue. 

What steps do you believe resorts can take to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in leadership roles within the hospitality sector? 

In paving the path towards inclusivity and support for women in leadership within the hospitality sector, resorts can undertake several strategic measures. While acknowledging that there’s still progress to be made in the Maldives, recent trends signal a positive shift, particularly with the emergence of hybrid roles for women leaders—a development previously uncommon pre-pandemic. 

To further advance this trajectory, resorts can focus on fostering an environment that embraces diversity and empowers women to thrive in leadership positions. This may entail implementing targeted initiatives such as mentorship programs, leadership development workshops, and networking opportunities tailored specifically for women professionals. 

Additionally, promoting a culture of flexibility and work-life balance can be instrumental in attracting and retaining women talent in leadership roles. Providing options for flexible schedules, remote work arrangements, and supportive policies for parental leave can help alleviate some of the challenges faced by women balancing career advancement with familial responsibilities. 

Furthermore, actively challenging gender biases and stereotypes through awareness campaigns and training sessions can help dismantle barriers to women’s advancement in the industry. By fostering an inclusive and supportive culture where women feel valued, respected, and empowered, resorts can unlock the full potential of their workforce and drive greater innovation and success in the hospitality sector.

How do you envision women contributing to the future of hospitality, and what positive changes have you observed?

Women are revolutionizing the hospitality industry, contributing diverse perspectives and skills across all levels of operations. The increasing presence of women in leadership roles signals a shift towards a more inclusive and dynamic workforce. Their influence fosters innovation, nurtures talent, and drives positive change within resorts. We’re witnessing a departure from traditional gender norms as women confidently embrace roles once deemed male-dominated. This trend not only enriches the industry but also sets a precedent for future generations. As women continue to excel and break barriers, the hospitality sector is poised to become a more balanced and vibrant space. By championing diversity and empowering women in leadership, resorts can unlock untapped potential and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

What advice do you have for women aspiring to excel in this field?

For women aspiring to excel in the hospitality industry, embrace your innate hospitality traits and don’t confine yourself to narrow roles. Explore diverse opportunities within the field and challenge yourself to reach new heights. Your determination is key to unlocking your potential. Remember, you can balance multiple roles—be it as a mother, sister, or wife—while still thriving as a leader in hospitality. Stay resilient, seize opportunities for growth, and believe in your ability to make a meaningful impact. With dedication and perseverance, you can carve out a successful and fulfilling career path in this dynamic and rewarding industry.