Our team at Travel Trade Maldives decided to sit down and gain some insight into the inspiring story of young Thomas Boeringer, Resort Manager at Naladhu Private Island.
My name is Thomas, I am the resort manager of Naladhu Private Island, one of the islands Minor Hotels manages here, together with Anantara Veli and Anantara Dhigu. I am 27 years of age, still very young to be a resort manager but very passionate about what I do. I’m Swiss and I started my career in hospitality school in Switzerland and ended up in this wonderful place called Maldives.
What other properties have you worked for?
I studied in Switzerland at an international hospitality management university. After that I started my career as an Assistant F&B Manager at a local property in my hometown, offering lots of different food and beverage options. The hotel featured a restaurant with a Michelin star during my time and now has 2 Michelin stars. It also featured banquet facilities as well as meeting rooms, plus a normal à la carte restaurant with bar and room service, so I was managing over five outlets almost by myself, as I was reporting directly to the General Manager. It was a very valuable experience.
After that I realized that I needed some more international experience so I went to Thailand. I started working as an Assistant Manager for a 4-star superior property on Koh Yao Noi, a little island between Phuket and Krabi. I was there for 3 months and after that short time they actually offered me to take over the position of pre-opening resort manager for their 5-star luxury property that they were building directly next to it. Of course, very enthusiastically I said yes. I told them that I would be excited to take on this assignment, but to bear in mind that this would be my first pre-opening experience. I would not have perfect experience like other candidates, but I’m definitely eager and 200% enthusiastic to actually do it. So, I opened a property called TreeHouse Villas Koh Yao, which consisted of tree houses directly on the beach. A beautiful property and adults-only. I stayed there for almost 2 years and after that I got the opportunity to work here in Maldives. It’s a truly exceptional assignment being a Resort Manager at Naladhu Private Island and I very much enjoy it.
Let’s talk about some of the challenges you have faced during your career.
I think one of the biggest challenges for me was the preopening experience and getting kind of thrown into the cold water. Being still very young at that time, they literally just told me to open the resort and it was a privately-owned company. So, there was not a lot of structure in place, there was not a lot of assistance in place where you could go to corporate office and ask them for what you needed and where to get certain products or services. It was literally starting from scratch and building your own hotel. The only thing that was given to us was the architecture, consisting of the rooms and furniture. Based on that they literally threw me in the cold water and said: turn this into a luxury resort property. I didn’t know where to start. Do you start planning concepts? Do you start ordering glassware or do you start ordering bedding or what? So, I had to find my way, figuring out what it actually takes to open a resort and realizing very fast that it’s very complex and that you have to put in a lot of effort because it’s not a little thing to open a resort, especially for a privately owned property. It was very difficult, and with almost no assistance whatsoever. Yes, I had the GM looking over my shoulder, ticking off boxes saying yes this is perfect, go ahead and do this, but I was given a lot of flexibility. I would say it was one of the biggest challenges ever for me. I had to build a team from the local team members that we had at that time as well. Sometimes there’s little to no English experience, no experience in hospitality whatsoever, so we had to teach staff that a fork will go to the left side and that a knife goes to the right side. So really started with hospitality basics again. And the toughest part of that, I think, was the delay in the opening. We had a specific opening date that was planned, but in the end, we had to postpone it for another month, then an additional month and we already had a quite a lot of bookings on hand. So, it was up to me in the end to really phone up all the agents and all of the guests and say that unfortunately we cannot accommodate you at the moment because we are just not ready yet. That was a really tough one.
Approximately 150 to 200 room nights we had to move around and try to reschedule our guests’ holidays and try to arrange something different. An experience from which I have learned a lot on how to deal with people, how to understand their sentiments as well, trying to make them understand in what kind of situation you are in. We faced the challenges, overcame them and in the end, the entire thing was a very successful operation. It was fantastic for all of our guests that we had at that time there as well.
What do you consider your biggest achievement during your career in the hospitality industry?
The most notable achievement I think is being here at my age. I am very grateful that I got the opportunity and that the previous General Manager of our properties here gave me this chance, especially here with Anantara. For Minor Hotels to allow someone as young as me a chance to run their best resort… that really is a big achievement for me. And for us here collectively, we have been voted as Condé Nast’s best resort in the Indian Ocean for the 3rd consecutive year. I can’t say that the first two wins were due to my effort because I wasn’t here at that time but now guiding this one for a 3rd year in a row, I think shows the efforts we put into this place. Shows the experience that our guests are actually getting at Naladhu Private Island and shows that our team that we have is really fantastic and going above and beyond. Without them it would not have been possible. So, I am very proud that I am able to achieve this at a very young age.
What’s the best advice you can give to those looking to join the hospitality industry?
For me I think, for hospitality you are either made for it or you are not. It is something that has to do with passion. As Steve Jobs once said, ‘If you love what you do, you don’t have to work a single day in your life.’ I love to jump out of bed in the morning and I am so happy to be working in hospitality and having this positivity towards it. A positive attitude is one of the most important things in hospitality, and what I realize is that it’s important sometimes to take a risk. However, you also have to be mindful about taking risks. I just try things sometimes, because you will not know how it will come out if you don’t just give it a try. So, trying something may sometimes lead to success, sometimes may lead to failure, but the most important thing is learning from the experience and from everyone you meet. If you want to learn, you will get the support from the people around you and they will push you forward to help achieve what you want in life. So it’s all about driving yourself forward, having your dreams in front of your eyes and just pushing towards it.