Nina Nizar is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Sun Siyam Travels, one of the first travel companies in the Maldives. Our team had a chat with Nina to find out more about her illustrious career, how she maintains a work-life balance, and the ways in which we can encourage greater participation of women in this industry.
My career thus far has been quite a long ride for me. I started my career in tourism at a very young age, way back in 1998 at Bandos Island Resort as a Receptionist. I have done various jobs at the front of the house, which I must say has added greatly not only to my experience but also to gain a holistic understanding of the entire operation of a resort. This paved the way for me to step to greater heights within the field and thus commenced my career in the sales sphere in 2007, here at Sun Siyam Travels, which was branded Sun Travels & Tours at the time.
My greatest inspiration was my father, who was an engineer and had worked in many resorts as an engineer as well as chief engineer, later in his career. My aunt Shardha and my elder sister Nazneen were also great influencers in my heading on my chosen path in this field. I must admit it was extremely challenging to work at a resort those days, being a woman. It was out of the norm and considered taboo for women to work in resorts or hotels. Hence, there weren’t many women who were open to the idea of working in tourism. While things have changed now and there is more acceptance for women in this industry, there is still a bit of a negative perception, which I believe we have to work hard towards wiping away, if not for the better of women, then for the betterment of the industry. Women certainly do have much to offer.
It is certainly not easy to keep a balance in both, though we do strive to do so, to be fair to both my company and my family. I used to work long hours before becoming a mother, but I have been forced to place certain restrictions on myself for the benefit of my little daughter. While I give my all during my working hours, my eve belongs to my family. It’s a different kind of joy for me to spend that precious time with my daughter, helping with her homework, feeding her dinner and putting her to bed. The relationship we build through these little actions with our children does play a large part in their grown lives, which too I look forward fervently to being a part of.
Off the cuff, I would say my greatest achievement is my daughter. But since it’s my career that is the topic, I would say the many people, especially girls, who I have inspired to achieve more and pursue careers in tourism are my greatest pride. As I mentioned, while the path has been difficult, my life now in a senior role might seem quite glamorous to many youngsters, what with the incessant meetings and constant travel involved. There are many of them who do approach me with questions on how they might also follow a path in my industry and guiding them has been one of my personal little joys in life. Is not seeing them prosper, an achievement worth cherishing?
I believe it’s all about educating people and conducting more informative sessions for the younger kids at schools. At the same time, the parents should be educated and their mindsets changed to accept that this great industry of our nation is not just for men, but equally the realm of strong women. I would also like to suggest that we allow the younger ones to get a feel for the industry in their early years. Maybe each resort could offer around 10 internships of 10 days duration for teenagers during their summer holidays, to stay on and experience firsthand, each department of a resort. This I am sure will leave a lasting impression on their young minds and plant a seed of tourism to germinate for their older years.
I will suggest three things. Hard work, hard work and hard work, with a touch of dedication and discipline. Hard work and dedication are the keys to success in any industry. You have to also be passionate about your work. Though my road has been long and rutty, I have enjoyed every bit of my journey. I have strived to prove my worth at every turn and I must say, it makes the achievement even sweeter.