My name is Rico Haus; I am 41 years old this year and hail from Switzerland. I have been based in Asia since 2008, working in countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Bali. After my last role in Bali, I chose to work in this beautiful country called the Maldives.
How did you get started with your career?
Being of Swiss descent, I started my career in banking in Switzerland. Although an extremely well-paid occupation, I realized that sitting behind a desk was a bit boring. I felt that I needed a new challenge so I started working at a cinema, which also had a bar. I assisted with the books for the cinema and in the evening, I worked in the bar. I really enjoyed working in the office during the day and in the evenings, behind the bar mixing drinks and talking to guests. It was there that I realized this was the perfect mix for me. It was not simply about working behind a desk, crunching numbers and responding to emails. I felt a need to have direct contact with the guests and believe to this day that this is the most rewarding part of the job. This reward is what I was missing during my time working in the bank. The instant satisfaction of one-to-one conversations with the guests or clients to ensure their happiness is something I treasure and appreciate. This turning point made me decide that I needed to go into the hospitality field.
I registered myself into Hospitality Management School in Lucerne, graduating in 2008. Right after graduation, I traveled to Asia to work in the hospitality field.
What are some hotel brands/chains that you have worked with so far?
I’m more focused on boutique hotels. I started my internship with South Korea with Hilton Hotel, which I thought was a bit too big a hotel for me. I like to work in smaller hotel chains which do not have many rooms as I believe if you have around 60-80 rooms, you can provide a more personalized service to guests. After Hilton, I went to Thailand where I worked for a local group Aleenta, a really nice hotel located in Phuket. After my stint in Phuket, I traveled to Bali where I worked with an Indonesian chain called the Lifestyle Retreats. While working in Bali, I learned about the COMO brand and subsequently applied to the company with the intention of working at one of their resorts located in Bali. Instead, I received an offer to work for COMO’s resort in Maldives. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I gladly took and found myself flying to the Maldives shortly after.
What are some of your notable successes?
I believe that there is success in each day. I find that when a guest leaves the resort, smiling to you saying that they had a wonderful stay and that they will come back, that is a small part of my personal success. Apart from this, I enjoy working with an international team and to see each team member develop is a success in itself. This is an area where I largely focus on and a big part of being successful in a hotel is developing a local team and helping people who are unable to get the chance to obtain the same education as I could. As you know, in Switzerland the education level is quite high. To see someone from a local island with a high level of motivation develop in the profession is also what I consider a success. It is not always about money. I believe the other part is to see your team growing, having happy and motivated team members and seeing that they can support their families, making more money and eventually being promoted. Who knows, they might run their own hotel in the near future. I believe that is success for me.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced?
In the Maldives, I believe some of the challenges here, which I see, is not about the team. The team can be hired from every country which is an easy part. If you need a Thai therapist, one can be hired out of Thailand. What I notice here is mostly the environmental issues. For instance, if I walk on the beach every day, I will see more and more garbage drifting and coming into the beach area. This is something that I consider as a red flag since it is not something that will decrease due to the increasing number of hotels that are going to open in the Maldives. I find this a big everyday challenge for me. We have received more and more feedback from the guests, who have said ‘Oh Rico, I noticed that there is more and more plastic on the beach.’ This has been an on-going issue on the rise in the last twenty years here in the Maldives. This, to me, is something that is unsettling and challenging. The location of our hotel is wonderful, filled with palm trees, which is what we Europeans or from all over the world find as an ideal picture of our holidays in the Maldives. However, what we do not want to see is plastic pollution. I believe that this will be more and more important as a hotelier operating here in this country. How we need to overcome this challenge is by educating people. At COMO Maalifushi, we do not have any plastic bottles on the island anymore. This is but a small step in a grand scheme of eliminating plastic to preserve the beautiful environment around us. The biggest impact will come from educating and teaching both guests and team members about the effects on the business and ultimately, the environment. I find this to be the biggest challenge ahead on a personal level.
What is your advice for young adults who wish to pursue a career in the hospitality industry?
My advice to young hoteliers is that working in the hospitality industry is made up of 50% education and 50% experience. You have education through textbooks and school but ultimately, this is a hands-on job. You need to have a passion to succeed because you will find yourself working well into the weekend. This is not a 9 am to 5 pm job like most office jobs. You have to realize that in order to grow in this industry, you will need to dedicate a lot of your time to the resort and more importantly, your guests.
If you believe your free time is more important, please do not start with hospitality. If you enjoy being around guests and find satisfaction in their enjoyment and satisfaction of a wonderful experience, working in the hospitality industry is right for you. Personally, working my way up to a manager, I believe it is important to go through every stages and department in a hotel. You have to start as an intern, you have to work in the kitchen, work in F&B and FO. Through these experiences will you be able to understand the operation as a whole. You cannot come with your diploma or Swiss Hospitality School certificate and declare that now you are a manager and that you don’t have to work and just give orders. This is not how it works. You have to speak the same language as the people in the kitchen do. In order to learn this language, you have to work there and place yourself in that very environment. If you are ready for all these challenges, go for hospitality. It truly is a rewarding career and wholesome experience for those who are made for it.