Taj Exotica: ‘five-star’ for guests and staff

“They were like part of our family.”

“… the staff at Taj Exotica is really warm and hospitable. They go all out to ensure that your experience is like none other.”

“… I have not experienced anything like that anywhere else.”

Those are just a few comments made by those who have visited the pristine island resort of Taj Exotica Resort & Spa. Like them, every guest that sets foot on the island paradise goes home happy, knowing that they had been well taken care of. Not just because they have had their ultimate holiday experience, but also because they had been offered the best of Maldivian hospitality, all thanks to the dedicated staff at the resort.

Quintessentially Indian in its fabric, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces is recognised around the world over for delivering a unique flavour of hospitality that offers world-class refinement. With over 100 hotels in 62 locations, Taj offers guests the refined luxury of heritage, the effortlessly efficient service and amenities, and a local experience with the assurance of quality.

Taj Exotica, located just a 15-minute speedboat ride away from capital Male, is the epitome of that vision maintained by the Tata-owned company. But it is no easy feat; the success and most importantly maintaining its reputation amongst industry professionals come with months of meticulous planning and a deep-rooted commitment to ensure the well-being of its employees.

“We have formed five different houses amongst the departments. Each house has its own captain and vice captain. Activities for the staff for the entire year are being drawn out with the involvement of the captains and vice captains. Every month there is a minimum of two major activities; one indoor and one outdoor. For example, it could be a futsal tournament,” says Prabhakar Kumar Singh, Director of Human Resources at Taj Exotica.

Those activities have become an integral part of the daily life of the employees of the resort. After a busy day’s of work, they occupy themselves with fun activities that promote staff engagement. It ranges from major activities that are carried out on an organisational level to intimate gatherings; futsal tournaments to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, indoor games like chess and carom, night fishing trips followed by a BBQ on the staff-only beach from the night’s catch, and movie nights.

‘Five-star’ staff facilities

Taj sets itself apart from other properties with a simple, yet important philosophy; employees need to have the experience of five-star service in order to provide five-star services to their guests.

From the moment they join the “Taj family”, each and every employee is given a warm welcome. A representative from the resort goes to the airport to fetch the new recruit and brings them to the island where they are checked into a guest room. A night’s stay as a guest with full amenities and service opens the new employee’s eyes to the experience expected by guests from the resort.

Taj Exotica prides itself in having top-notch facilities for the staff. They have access to an exclusive beach area on the island where they can grill their own meat and fish. Meals are provided for the staff in a restaurant that is like any other dining restaurant on the island and complete with waiters. In case, an employee missed the buffet meal, they have the option of buying food items ranging from snacks to main dishes from a cafe dedicated for the staff.

“We also firmly believe in work-life balance. Therefore, we have boats going to Male four times a day. I think we are amongst the few resorts doing that now. Associates can book a limited number of seats on a first come, first first served basis and travel to Male after work to spend time with their family,” Prabhakar says.

“We have also added one more staff guesthouse. Any associate can bring their family for a 10-day period and they can stay at the guesthouse with free service. Both the guesthouses we have on the island are fully booked for the entire year.”

Investing and empowering local talent

Taj Exotica is part of the Taj group’s online training service for employees, enabling them to participate in month-long training programmes in various fields of hotel management and operations and get certified. Associates and executives also have the opportunity to have cross exposure training in some of the Taj group’s flagship properties across India.

These “investments” in developing human resources translate into empowerment of employees, especially the staff from local communities. At Taj Exotica, Maldivians have stepped into fill several managerial posts left by expatriates. They enjoy, as Prabhakar describes it, the resort’s willingness to let even the most junior staff take decisions pertaining to their work environment. “For example, a waiter can instantly decide to give a guest a unique experience by going the extra mile. He won’t have to talk to the restaurant manager before doing that,” he says.

“At Taj, we don’t care about titles. Everyone is an equal member of our staff. We focus on mutual respect, which is a core value at Taj.”

That autonomy comes with added privacy too.

CSR with a purpose

Part of Taj Exotica’s staff engagement programme is entwined with the resort’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. As part of its “giving back to the community” strategy, Taj Exotica selects a nearby island every year, and once a month the resort’s employees travel to the island to clean up the place. This year, the nearby island of Gulhi is the beneficiary.

It is complemented by another CSR programme, which involves a visit to the Special Needs Centre in the nearby island of Guraidhoo at least once in every two months. Taj Exotica’s management and staff visit the centre, meet its residents, and donate food items and other goods needed for the centre’s operations such as air conditioners and washing machines.

“It’s another activity that is well-received by our associates. Through these activities, they feel like they’re also part of the society despite the fact that they live and work on an isolated island,” says Prabhakar.

“I don’t think I heard the word ‘no’ the entire time we were there,” a guest, who had spent nine days with her husband at Taj Exotica last month, says on TripAdvisor. That and similar compliments about the resort’s staff have been echoed by almost every visitor. What lies behind that exemplary service experienced by visitors at Taj Exotica is the fun, loving work environment that exists in the island resort. It is a place that offers the best of facilities available for employees, all the while promoting their personal growth and career development.

“People don’t want to leave us. They want to stay with us, as Good human relations not only bring great personal rewards but are essential to the success of any enterprise,” says Prabhakar.

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