Our team at Travel Trade Maldives decided to sit down and gain some insight into the inspiring story of Raffaele Solferino, the General Manager of Grand Park Kodhipparu Maldives.
How long have you been working in the hospitality industry?
I am in the hospitality industry for more than 3 decade, I started from Italy my home country from the Amalfi Coast where the luxury tourism is the main economy and the luxury lifestyle is well known to celebrities, with spots like Amalfi, Capri, Positano, Sorrento. I worked all over Europe, in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, Monte Carlo. Middle East, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Lebanon and Asia Pacific Indonesia, Singapore, Bali First time I came to Maldives was in 2010 in Baa Atoll. I tried to go away and spend 2.5 years in Bali, Park Hotel Group, brought me back to the Maldives with an exciting project to open the group’s first property in the Maldives. Maldives is basically home for me now… it’s a nice place. I am very happy to be back in this lovely paradise.
What was so different about Maldives that you decided to stay?
What I found interesting about Maldives is that… first, it’s a place of innovations. It’s a place where you can set new standards and you can be creative. The market is very challenging and competitive, so you have to always find something different, something that gives an edge over competitors, which in turn gives additional opportunities to express yourself.. As a destination I think it has good continuity, it’s a solid destination and will grow more and more, there is a lot to do. We don’t need to go anywhere in the world if we are here. Some colleagues like challenges in cities like Bangkok, Singapore, Milan, London, Paris. That is also something nice but I am not missing anything, I am very happy here.
Give us a quick intro about Grand Park Kodhipparu.
Grand Park Kodhipparu used to be a picnic island for locals. It has been developed, with 60% original island and 40% was reclaimed. We have 120 villas, 102 on water, 18 on island. We have 3 food and beverage outlets, 1 amazing spa. A top dive center and so many watersport options. Kodhipparu has everything; nothing is missing here. We’ve even got celebrity chefs for unmatched fine dining experiences.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement during your career in hospitality?
I don’t like to talk too much about myself, maybe its best other people judge my achievements. I am happy doing what I do with passion If I look back, there are at least four GMs that reached this level… let’s say, under my education. That makes me proud. At the same time, opening a resort like this in 4 months… that is quite something. It’s really an achievement I can be proud of. People don’t believe it when I say so. We arrived in March 2017, hotel was open on 8 June, 2017. Though we celebrated with a grand opening party in December 2017, we checked-in the first customer in June. That was something that makes people go “wow”. However, I can’t take all the credit. Whatever I do, I am never alone. I always have a good team behind me.
What’s the best advice you can give to those looking to join the hospitality industry?
They have to look at the hospitality industry as something that still is growing; it has a lot more to give. It’s a solid industry so if you approach the hospitality industry there will be a period where you have to understand and decide where you want to go. Into operations or sales to reach to management level. After that, when you find your way, you need to make it on your own with passion and never, ever give up. You should always aim for the highest level, never stop working towards achieving excellence. Aim for the top. You must have big dreams and clear objectives to make it in this industry.
What’s in the future for Maldivian resorts and the industry in general?
I think the Maldives will have two scenarios for the future, for the speedboat distance records there will be more integrated resorts, with reclaimed land similar to Crossroads, Fari Islands. In that direction also with spectacular structures, challenging Dubai spectacular architectures with underwater developments and other attractions driving still luxury but more volume tourism. While for those resorts at seaplane distance you will see more small boutique resorts on natural islands for a more relaxing and in a sense more original Maldivian tourism where the Islands are natural with the related natural forests and barefoot experience, with Maldivian cultural heritage, adventure and sports.