Rifaath Saeed – Founder of Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants

Rifaath Saeed (Rifaa) is the Founder of Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants. Our team sat down with Rifaa to find out more about her career in the Maldivian tourism industry.

What were you doing before Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants?

My last resort was  Movenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives managed by Accor. I’ve been in the business for over two decades. I was fortunate to be a member of a dynamic sales and marketing team that sold the dream as well as the reality of incredible resorts such as PER AQUUM Huvafenfushi, W Retreat and Spa – Maldives, Dusit Thani Maldives, and Kandima Maldives, to mention a few. As a Director of Sales and Marketing, I have been involved in developing sales and marketing strategies and improving business performance to accomplish projected targets.

Tell us a bit about Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants and why did you decide to move out of resorts to open your own venture?

The Maldivian hospitality sector has changed dramatically in the last few years, and after working with some incredible international and local brands, I believe it is time for me to explore something new, but still within the Maldivian hospitality industry. When I embark on this new adventure, I hope to advance and support the industry that I adore. I’ve been considering starting a hospitality consultancy and believe now is the moment to work for a cause/company that can benefit the destination in general.

What I’ve seen in the previous few years is that when it comes to our destination, there is a huge gap in hiring consultants, particularly a shortage of consulting firms engaged as external support that have a thorough understanding of how Maldives hospitality operates. As we all know, tourism in the Maldives is considerably different from that of other destination.  Most of the time international corporations that lack destination experience and market insights are offered consulting for various projects.

More than ever, we require consultants who understand the destination and have in-depth understanding of the know-how in sales, marketing, and operations to ensure that we collectively reach the intended goals.

What is unique about Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants?

Over the years, there have been excellent locals who have contributed to the development, growth, and success of numerous resorts and hotels in the Maldives. I believe it is time to provide a platform for this fantastic pool of locals with 15-20 years of experience in various aspects of the hospitality sector to deliver high quality results. Our main goal is to hire Maldivian specialists and Maldivian freelancers to consult our clients in areas where we are not experts. In a nutshell, we are a group of industry specialists who are pushing outside of their comfort zone to deliver a service that allows our clients to grow to the next level. Being Maldivians who have been in the sector for so long, as well as our exposure to various eras of the Maldivian hospitality industry, marketplaces, and multiple approaches, enables us to achieve precisely that.

What services will be provided by Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants?

Assist in developing sales and commercial activities, as well as providing insights to resort owners and management teams to find their full potential.

Pre-opening is one of my loves and something very close to my heart, having worked in several pre openings. We provide resort concept creation, market positioning, branding, and assistance to the resort in all aspects of developing an appropriate pre-opening workflow to guarantee that plans are translated into a competent operational framework for a successful launch.

We would also love to be part of multi-layered and actionable concept development whether it’s a new resort or a resort looking for a rebranding or a new face

We will provide in-depth knowledge of the Maldives hospitality business to advise resort owners on the best commercial and operational strategies. To find our customer’s growth opportunities, we do a detailed analysis of our client, competition, and market dynamics.

We will evaluate profit maximization once we have established a strategy to ensure that all actions are consistent with the brand’s identity and essential values and working towards the clients’ growth.

How can the hospitality industry benefit from consultancy?

A consultant can provide an unbiased outside perspective on a resort’s current state, whether it’s sales and marketing performance or operational needs. The ability to innovate and react to the market to scale as quickly as possible is the ability that makes any brand successful – to help with this, a consultant can also provide real-time market insights to develop a realistic strategy and make proactive business choices that will benefit your financial objectives. Although a resort may have a well-defined yearly strategy, smart ways to implement the plan are required – here is where a consultant comes in because they are not influenced by the company’s internal processes and are there to provide market insights and broader viewpoints on areas that they are specialized in

It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. How do you think Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants assist during this recovery period?

During the epidemic, especially in the Maldives, we learned the value of working together autonomously. We have seen encouraging results by working together toward a common goal. After hanging by a thread last year, we made sure to seize each opportunity that could lead to these outcomes, and we are grateful to the tourism bodies, individual resorts, guest houses, and travel agencies who have made it possible for tourism to rebound in the country.

We must not forget that as alternative destinations open up, the opportunities that we have been given will diminish. And having an expert by your side to study these changes in market trends and provide the best solutions, whether it’s sales and marketing or operations, will be critical to the success of your resort.

The epidemic has also affected the way customers pick; instead of being motivated by “prices or specific hardware of a resort/hotel,” their travel decisions are now driven by experiences. We want to seize opportunities that will keep the hospitality industry ready or overcome potential challenges to provide a solid basis for future growth.

How does Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants plan to kick start the business?

We understand that we have a long way to go. Right now, as we are just getting started, our strategy is to secure exceptional projects and few clients. The changing market needs are a perfect moment in time to launch our consultancy. We are in discussions with a few clients, and our priority right now is to create and establish our brand through various marketing platforms.

What’s the long-term vision of Neon IQ Hospitality Consultants?

As a start-up, it is vital that we build our brand as a 100 percent Maldivian consultancy led by Maldivian specialists with years of experience in the field and give quality service to our clients.

We hope to be able to help nurture local talent, especially contribute to the development of women in the hospitality business, very soon. We would also like to create a global platform for local musicians and artists. Many times, I have felt that local musicians and artists are overlooked as part of the Maldivian hospitality sector – it is probably time that we valued them as much as we do resort workers. I’d like to be a part of a journey in which we develop Maldivian artists and singers and help them reach a global audience.