Thomas Weber – General Manager at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

Our team had the pleasure of conversing with Thomas Weber, the esteemed General Manager at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives. With a remarkable 35-year career in the hospitality industry, Thomas’s journey began with a deep-rooted passion for culinary arts inspired by a family friend. From his chef apprenticeship to leading roles in renowned establishments across the globe, Thomas brings a vast reservoir of experience and insights to his current position. His unwavering commitment to sustainability, preservation of local culture, and providing unforgettable guest experiences sets Alila Kothaifaru Maldives apart as a top choice for luxury travellers in the Maldives.

What inspired you to join the hospitality industry, and how did you start?

I was inspired by a friend of my parents who was an Executive Chef in New York in the 1970s. He gave my mother a cookbook as a gift, and I still have it on my bookshelf. The front cover of the book features a photo of him and 120 other chefs standing in a row, all wearing white uniforms and toques. The height of the toque indicates the chef’s rank in the kitchen. My parents always emphasized the importance of caring for and treating food with respect, and to this day, I enjoy simple, straightforward dishes.

I started my career with a chef’s apprenticeship at Hotel Pardenn in Klosters and later graduated from the hotel management school Belvoir in Zurich. After running the Höhwald restaurant in Klosters for five years, I started my international career at the Hilton in Hong Kong. Thereafter, I worked in various F&B and management roles with luxury hotels in Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Africa, Kenya, India, Saudi Arabia and the Maldives.

In 2003, I took my first general manager post at Kurland Hotel and Polo Club in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, subsequently moving into the same role with Mövenpick Jeddah Al Nawras in Saudi Arabia, Mövenpick Hotel & Spa Bangalore in India, and Oberwaid in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Then came the start of my journey in the Maldives as regional General Manager for Diamonds Athuruga and Diamonds Thudufushi Maldives in 2016, adding Sandies Bathala to the line-up in 2018. I moved to Dusit Thani Maldives in 2019 and for the last couple of months have been working at the stunning Alila Kothaifaru.

What were some of the significant challenges you faced during your 35 years in the hospitality industry, and how did you overcome them?

I have seen firsthand how the working world has changed over the years. When I first started my career, everything was done manually. We used paper files, calculators and typewriters. But over time, technology has changed the way we work. We now have access to powerful computers, the internet and a variety of software programs that can automate many tasks. We need to be able to use new technologies effectively, and we also need to be able to adapt to new ways of working.

Indeed, the working world is constantly changing, and it is important to be able to adapt to those changes. Being curious and open to new ideas can help us embrace change, and being a lifelong learner can help us stay ahead of the curve.

How has your experience of living and working in the Maldives for seven years helped you in your role as General Manager at Alila Kothaifaru, and what unique insights do you bring to the resort?

During my many years of working in the Indian Ocean region, I have had the pleasure of meeting, learning from, and gaining experience from people who live close to the sea. I have come to appreciate the unique mix of cultures and the generous nature of the Maldivian people. I am passionate about inspiring young Maldivians to be proud of their heritage and to showcase their traditions and handicrafts to visitors and fellow Maldivians alike.

What do you think is the future of sustainable tourism in the Maldives, and how is Alila Kothaifaru adapting to these changes?

Sustainable tourism is important because it helps protect the environment and create a more sustainable future for tourism. Resorts in the Maldives are taking steps to become more sustainable by using energy-efficient technologies, reducing waste, conserving water and supporting local communities. These practices are not only good for the environment, but they can also be good for business. This will only become more prevalent in the next few years, especially amongst the younger guests in their 20s and 30s.

Guided by Alila’s sustainability commitment, we operate to rigorous EarthCheck environmental benchmarking standards and implement green initiatives involving all employees throughout the resort. Our efforts include using solar power, reducing waste going to the landfill, producing our own fresh drinking water through a water-bottling plant system, and much more.

That wasn’t all, we also offer eco-tourism experiences and educational programs on marine and coral life, as well as the local flora and fauna. By incorporating sustainable practices into our operations, we believe we are not only helping to protect the environment but also enhancing the guest experience by offering unique, authentic and socially responsible travel experiences.

How does Alila Kothaifaru contribute to preserving local culture and traditions in the Maldives, and what experiences can guests expect during their stay?

As part of its holistic sustainability framework, the resort is also doing its part to empower the local community through internship, employment and partnership opportunities. Having come across many skilled and passionate hoteliers on these islands, we know there is great talent to be found and nurtured. In addition, Alila Kothaifaru’s bespoke Alila Experiences, crafted with the local knowledge of our Maldivian Safeeru culture ambassador, contribute to preserving local culture and traditions while providing an authentic Maldivian experience for guests.

For example, ”The Art of Coconut” was crafted to immerse guests in a unique cultural, artistic and culinary journey to understand why the coconut tree is revered as the Miracle Tree in the Maldives. In this experience, our local Safeeru hosts share Maldivian stories about the coconut tree that show how every aspect of it is used, whether in food, building materials, creating art or making coir ropes.

Could you share with us your favorite aspect of working in the Maldives, and how it differs from your experiences working in other parts of the world?

With its incredible marine life, crystal-clear water and different degrees of luxury it offers, the Maldives remains one of the most prestigious dream destinations in the world. Its “one island, one resort” concept also makes the Maldives a very unique and popular destination. While living and working here, we are very much part of providing “dream and once-in-a-lifetime vacations” to guests from around the globe.

One needs to have a specific and flexible mindset to work for a prolonged period on an isolated island. Of course, the very close contact with the local community and getting to know its way of life are great joys of living here.

How do you ensure that the resort remains up to date with the latest hospitality trends and innovations, and how do you incorporate them into the guest experience at Alila Kothaifaru?

To ensure that the resort remains up to date with the latest hospitality trends and innovations, several measures can be taken. Firstly, it is important to conduct regular market research to identify emerging trends and customer preferences. Secondly, the resort collaborates with industry experts, consultants and technology providers to stay abreast of the latest innovations and integrate them into the resort’s operations in close contact with the Hyatt worldwide network and support.

What makes Alila Kothaifaru stand out from other luxury resorts in the Maldives, and what plans do you have to ensure that the resort remains a top choice for luxury travellers?

 Restorative Retreat Designed At One With Nature

Not like typical tropical architecture in the Maldives, Alila Kothaifarus’s elegant minimalist architecture by Singapore-based Studiogoto encompasses terraced pavilions, villas and a treetop Spa Alila that are carefully integrated into the existing landscape to immerse guests in the picturesque natural surroundings. The low-rise structures and contemporary interiors feature open-air spaces and a calming palette of island-inspired colours and textures, creating an idyllic setting for complete relaxation and connection with nature. The resort is also built around the island’s natural landscape, conserving up to 70% of the existing vegetation and the maximum number of native trees.

Private sandbank, The Shack

Our private sandbank, The Shack operates a restaurant and is known by locals as Korushi Giri. Guests dreaming of an ultimate castaway experience can set sail in a traditional Maldivian dhoni on a two- to three-hour journey around the Raa Atoll before returning to the resort’s private sandbank, The Shack, a secluded spot for a gourmet picnic, a sunset barbecue or a romantic candlelit dinner under the stars.