Ever wondered what goes behind the operations at Maldives resorts? At the helm of every resort, there’s a person to motivate and lead the team to success. And that’s exactly what Abdulla Fathhey, the General Manager at the renowned Sun Island Resort & Spa does.
MVHOTELS caught up with Fathhey to get a behind the scenes look at the Villa Hotels & Resorts property. His decades-long career gave us an in-depth view of what it’s like to be a General Manager at a resort in the Maldives. Read how Abdulla Fathhey tackled challenges to stand as a key figure in the Maldives’ hospitality industry today.
1. How did your career lead up to Sun Island Maldives?
Abdulla Fathhey: I began my career in the tourism industry as a receptionist in the year 1994, and from a receptionist, I have held various hospitality-related positions since, and in 98 I was very excited to join a newly developing property by Villa Hotels which is Royal Island. Once the property fully completed, I started to work as an acting front office Manager. Then, in the year 2009, I took a small study/work experience break with an international Hotelier and rejoined Villa in the year 2009 at Paradise Island as the Rooms Division Manager. During my employment at Paradise Island, I filled up different managerial posts at the property and in the year 2018, I took the position as the GM of Sun Island Resort and since then I have been here.
2. Sun Island Maldives is known as the largest resort running in the Maldives as one island one resort. In terms of operations, is it any different than another resort? If you can break it down, how do you ensure everything runs smoothly for guests and staff?
Abdulla Fathhey: Resort operations are quite similar in the Maldives as we have the One Island One Resort concept. Running a resort of this size is not as easy as resorts with fewer rooms. The scale of operations separates us from other resorts. For example, keeping the island best prepared for the guests at all times, the number of guest service facilities we provide.
To do so, we are required to have an excellent team to execute, and we are very fortunate as our team here in Sun Island is fantastic, and we are very proud to have dedicated locals who are well experienced and focused.
Our philosophy is “We are one family” and we rely on each other for achieving our goals. Hence, we have a team built on the foundation of trust and compassion.
3. Closing of the Island would have never come to anyone’s imagination. We can assume there would be close to 1000 staff, with no ongoing daily job, no guests, no proper logistics or flight movements. How did you manage to look after the staff’s well-being, emotional stress, and physical health?
Abdulla Fathhey: Yes, the current situation has been one of the most challenging hurdles that we have ever faced globally. Once we saw the situation getting worse, we supported each other in various manners. However, we as a team wanted to focus and make a negative scenario a positive one. We kept our team active and engaged involved our team in new developments also with various recreational activities. We have reopened Sun Island on the 1st October 2020. Thankfully, things are looking much brighter for all of us.
4. Most of the businesses and resorts took the lockdown to rethink many of their strategies, principals, and services. If you can, what will be new after reopening
Abdulla Fathhey: We believe true hospitality can only be delivered based upon evaluating guest needs as aspirations and we have made a significant effort to make ourselves better both structurally and on the service side as well, we consider our guest feedback while doing so. Hence, the strategy is very simple, we have baked the sense of safety and security without compromising the experience to all guest services. and of course, as we always do, we will continue exceed guest expectations. We want their holiday experience to be a lifelong memory.
5. Safety and Hygiene, your guests arrive at the airport, takes a domestic flight to reach the island. How do you ensure social distancing, sanitization, and other measures are in place?
Abdulla Fathhey: Luckily, our transfer flight provider belongs to our parent company. At the group level, we take guest and staff safety equally and maintain the same standard. Hence, we are sure of all protocols for safety are followed. Our guests have already recognized and appreciated our efforts on the safety and hygienic measures we have implemented, and it is shared on all communication mediums including social media platforms. We are following our resort SOP which is formulated specifically for COVID-19 and it includes HPA and WHO guidelines as well.
6. In terms of occupancy, how do you see the coming season and new year? What are the themes and activities planned?
Abdulla Fathhey: I believe we will not have any major issues with the occupancy as the Maldives resorts are geographically dispersed. So, what better place is there in the world to enjoy a tropical holiday with very natural social distancing. As for the festive activities, we do have some exciting plans for our guests to enjoy without any fear or stress. We prefer to keep it as a surprise.
7. Villa Hotels has been known to support locals, how do you keep up with all the skills, training, refreshers in different areas? Do you have trainers coming down? Are they given certification for the training they undertake?
Abdulla Fathhey: Villa Hotels is constantly scouting for passionate talented Maldivians as we believe an authentic Maldivian Holiday experience could only be delivered by locals.
Training and development are a key part of this operation and we evaluate training needs from different departments and identify key indicators. Based on those indicators, we formulate the training plan to enhance the skills and talents of our family members.
Besides our in-house trainer, we do bring outside trainers both locally and internationally.
8. Eco-Tourism is important for every traveller today, what is your opinion on that and how is Sun Island fulfilling the eco journey?
Abdulla Fathhey: Sun Island is a naturally unique Maldivian Island, it is a breeding ground for different kinds of exotic wildlife. We do not only offer beautiful sandy beaches and crystal-clear lagoon there is so much more to Sun Island. Its ecosystem is beaming with life. We only try to preserve and nurture what we are blessed with. We believe sustainability is the key.
Within the last two years, we have reduced our carbon footprint drastically. We have opted to use glass bottles instead of plastic this means more than a million plastic water bottles is saved from going into our landfills, we have also omitted the use of plastic straws, etc. to go greener we have planted more than 300 mango trees and more than 200 coconut trees. We also do our gardening of herbs and certain kinds of fruits and vegetables. Our main goal is to preserve and give back to the next generation to come.