Ursula Schoefl: Inspiring Through Dedication and Friendliness

Maldives Promotion House – History teaches us that opportunities don’t always come running after us. It also teaches us that they don’t always last. While one human century maybe short, it is our efforts that grant us the long and fulfilling lives that makes great people.  As gravity pulls us down, we must climb up, ever so slowly, up the ladder of success. Ms. Ursula Schoefl is one of those people who earned respect and greatness through hard work and kindness and friendliness to others.

Ms. Ursula Schoefl is the newest General Manager of Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa. After over two decades of hard working, Ms. Schoefl has become the person that most of us dream of becoming.

After graduating from the Hotel Management School Schloss, Klessheim in Salzburg, Austria, Ms. Schoefl began her career in 1988 at Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel. However that is not where her story begins. During an exclusive interview with Maldives Promotion House, Ms. Schoefl told us of her tale of success.

“Well, I started more than 20 years ago, in the hotel industry at the Frankfurt Airport in Europe, the largest airport hotel,” she began. “But I developed a taste for the industry much much earlier. I had to do a technical training and an internship when I was 17, in a hotel.”

Her internship was what sparked her interest in the industry. As her young age fuelled her curiosity and desire to explore life, she took the opportunity to experience the hospitality industry. Since then she set a goal in her mind, and went on with her journey to achieve it. Never turning back, and never giving up hope.

“I truly enjoyed doing it. There were two reasons, first of all I was 17 and I was allowed to leave home for three months. So being a teenager that’s an opportunity to explore life, and then I had a job which I truly enjoyed. So I came home from this practical training, saying ‘that’s what I want to do’,” Ms. Schoefl continued.

She then joined a Hotel Management School Schloss, Klessheim in Salzburg, Austria, where she studied for two years. She got her first job in Sheraton Frankfurt in Germany in the food and beverage department. After she switched to front office she also worked for night audit to receive two years of assistant controller training. When she returning to front office again she became Assistant Front Office Manager.

“I spent two years in a hotel management school in Austria before I started at Frankfurt airport hotel. I spent a lot of time there and I learnt quiet a lot. Then I spent some time rebranding a hotel in Germany for Arabella Sheraton, before I started moving internationally,” she said.

After ten years with Sheraton Frankfurt, she took up the position of Front Office Manager at Arabella Sheraton Pelikan Hotel in Hanover, Germany. Since then she has been to Egypt, Tanzania, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

“My first overseas was in Egypt, because Egypt isn’t far from Europe, so in case I got home sick, I could hopefully get on a plane. That was the first reasoning behind it, so to say. I really enjoyed it and I’d say that’s where I was bitten by the travel bug. Ever since then, I have been travelling the globe,” Ms. Schoefl further explained.

Prior to commencement of her leadership role at Sheraton Maldives, Ms Schoefl was Hotel Manager at Le Méridien Chiang Mai and served as Deputy General Manager at Sheraton Lagos Hotel & Towers, the only international five-star hotel in Lagos, Nigeria.

For Ms. Schoefl, being assigned to Maldives was like a dream come true. While this is her first time in Maldives, she confidently says that Maldives is beyond her expectations. “Maldives has always been on my list of destinations that I would like to visit as a tourist but I never expected I would get a chance to visit and work in Maldives. While I have never been to Maldives, when I was asked to come here, I said of course quickly, yes,” she humoured.

“Maldives is better than I expected. To be quiet frank, I think it has to do with the colours of the Maldives. I mean, when you look at the pictures, you know they can be adjusted and edited. So you don’t expect much, but when you sit here and when you look at those sun downs, you look at the day light set with all those colours, and on a sunny day how the sea changes its colours, it’s just amazing. It’s just breathtaking. It’s just beautiful,” Ms. Schoefl said.

She explained to me how she spends her days in Sheraton. “It starts simply in the morning when you walk here through the island. I usually would come here early in the morning and look at the surrounding and all you would see is the blue skies and the blue water and all the different shades of blue, obviously which is marvellous, and all the peace and quietness because no one is awake yet. Except maybe you’ll see a little bit of the wild life,” she marvelled at the beauties of Maldives.

However, enjoying herself and spending time alone to breath in the glamour of Maldives is not what she desires most. For Ms. Schoefl, the best part of her job is the time she spends with the guests and her team.

“After I go to my office, reality kicks in. I read my e-mails and then there comes the best part of my job, which is meeting guests and spending time with the team, and honestly I wouldn’t be able to count how many guests I meet,” Ms. Schoefl said.

Ms. Schoefl thinks of everyone working at the resort as one big family. If one link in the chain fails the chain has failed. She also observes her team very closely and looks after them.

“It’s like a big family. I make time for all the members of the team. I get to interact with them even if it’s a quick interaction. I get to ask them how they are. But I always get the same answer which is very well, but when you look in their eyes sometimes you see something very different. But I guess that’s part of the culture, but then again Maldivians are very humble and a little bit shy, I would say,” she said with a smile.

When asked about the various departments, their importance, and how they are trained, she simply replied saying that they were equally important.

“The whole team is equally important. It’s like a watch, you know, it like a clock work, if one piece doesn’t work the rest fails,” Ms. Schoefl said. “We take training very seriously but we do it by walking the talk. I observe them and if they do anything wrong, then I make sure that their supervisors are aware of it, and I have a little chitchat with them and work it out.”

When asked about her job as a General Manager and about the difficulties faced she pointed out that the rain is a major issue faced by the resort.

“Rain is one of the difficulties I would say but that’s something you can’t control. There are good days and bad days, so when you have a bad day in operations, you try to recover as much from it as you can, and you make the best of it,” Ms. Schoefl said. “But the rain here is warm rain so if the sea is not rough you still can go snorkelling and diving.”

She also noted that even the rain does not take away the beauty of Maldives but adds more flavour to it. “Again talking colours, it’s amazing what you see when the rain starts moving in. When it starts getting dark you can see the colour of the sea changing,” she added.

Speaking about how the resort handles their guests she said that it’s not difficult because of the nature of the resorts. “I have worked in secluded places but this is my first island resort. It’s easy to handle even a large number of guests because they come in boats. So we do the usual, we welcome them and immediately make them feel at home. Then we check them in and take them to their rooms,” Ms. Schoefl said.

Ms. Schoefl also admits that she has much to learn about the Maldivian culture, its rich heritage and its wonderful geography. “I haven’t explored so much so far but I have been to a couple of resorts so far and I know my way a little bit around Malé. But there’s so much more still to explore and to get to know,” she noted.

She also expressed her feelings about the opportunity to work in Maldives, saying that “things couldn’t get any better.”

“Having the opportunity to come to Maldives and work here, well things couldn’t get any better. It’s the best job you could ever ask for because this is the best place to be having a job as a general manager,” Ms. Schoefl said.

Ms. Schoefl also gave an inspiring message to those who want to become successful. Speaking from her own experience she speaks of passion as a path to achievement.

“It’s not difficult to run a resort, not when you have the passion for it. I think it doesn’t matter whether it’s a resort or whether you work at a post office or where ever it is. You need to have the passion for what you do, and as long as you have that you will enjoy what you do, when you have no passion anymore than its going to get difficult,” Ms. Schoefl said.

Ms. Ursula Schoefl’s story teaches us that while we can’t always have what we desire, our efforts will never leave us empty handed. Life is never a straight road, and success can be achieved with much hard work. You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do, and plans are only good intentions unless they are modelled into hard work. You may not always win, but you can always stand up and try again, but above all, whatever it is, try it with passion.

We at Maldives Promotion House congratulate Ms. Ursula Schoefl on her achievements and wish her more success in her career. We also welcome her to Maldives and hope she finds us to be hospitable hosts. We thank her for her words of wisdom and advice and for her kind gestures, hospitality and time. Thank you.

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