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Amit Majumder: leading Jumeirah Vittaveli’s constant evolution

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In India, the early 2000’s were marked by an expansive growth in sectors such as banking and insurance. Several brilliant young minds shifted their careers to those fields, leaving behind traditional service industries such as tourism and hospitality.

It was true for Amit Majumder and his fellow students, too. Most of his colleagues that had started out in the hospitality industry with him left to pursue careers in banking and insurance. But Amit stayed and his resolve has been highly rewarded; with a career spanning more than 16 years, Amit has climbed up the ranks to become the General Manager at Jumeirah Vittaveli in the Maldives, one of the most renowned luxury resorts in this world famous island paradise.

Maldives Insider sits with Amit to speak about his career, Jumeirah Vittaveli’s evolution and his perception of the Maldives tourism industry.

It might seem like a short journey, but it has been a fantastic journey filled with lots of learning, experience and joy!

Maldives Insider: What made you join the tourism industry?

Amit Majumder: For my graduate studies, I enrolled in economics. But I thought I should do something more vocational for my post-graduate studies. That is why I chose to enrol in Hotel Management. I have always had a neck for cooking and had dreamed of becoming a chef. But being young, I lacked the kind of discipline needed to head a professional kitchen. So I moved to something close to that — food and beverage service.

I started right out of Hotel Management School in India when I was just 19 years old, joining Oberoi Hotels and Resorts. It was a fantastic experience. I learned more in my first job than what I had learned during my studies, and that influenced me so much that I never had the desire to change my career path after my first job in the industry, unlike many of my friends who left the hotel industry and chose different paths like banking, insurance and call centre postings, which were booming at the time in India.

MI: What was your career progress like after joining Oberoi?

AM: After two years with Oberoi, I joined Jumeirah for the first time in 2002 at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and later moved on to Madinat Jumeirah as part of its opening team. I spent five years in Dubai before coming to the Maldives in 2007 as the Front Office Manager at Kanuhura Maldives (then known as One&Only Kanuhura). I then left the Maldives for Singapore to serve as the Front Office Manager and Rooms Division Manager at Mandarin Oriental.

After about four years in Singapore, it was like the stars just aligned, and I was back in the Maldives, this time rejoining the Jumeirah Group as the Resident Manager at Jumeirah Vittaveli. From there, I moved up the ranks, finally assuming the role of General Manager in August 2016.

It might seem like a short journey, but it has been a fantastic journey filled with lots of learning, experience and joy!

MI: How different is the Maldives from other places that you have worked at?

AM: It is absolutely different — even in the basics. In the Maldives we are not managing a hotel; rather, we are running a small city. We are ultimately responsible for not just the utilities like power and water, but essentially for the well-being of each and every guest that stays with us as well as of all our colleagues. We need to ensure that the staff are motivated and that they have good facilities in terms of accommodation, work environment and welfare. In other places, you do not really have to care about living conditions and leisure facilities of your team after they leave work. But here we have to be very conscious of that all the time.

On the other hand, although people say that things like procurement are especially difficult in a remote island location such as the Maldives, I find this part of the business actually quite easy because you can either get your goods from the local communities or import them through one of the many shipping companies with branch offices located in Male. The key here is to plan ahead and be aware of longer lead times when receiving goods by cargo ship.

The fact that I have spent most of my career in the Maldives speaks volumes. I have done city hotels and resorts in other countries, but the Maldives, and in particular this island, is very special to me.

A two-bedroom beach villa at Jumeirah Vittaveli. PHOTO/ JUMEIRAH

MI: What is your main focus area at Jumeirah Vittaveli?

AM: If you have access to enough capital, anyone can build beautiful properties anywhere in the world. But the core of any establishment remains the colleagues. Here at Jumeirah Vittaveli, we continuously focus on improving facilities and implementing engaging activities to keep our colleagues motivated, so that when they serve the guests they put in their best to provide a genuine hospitality experience. I often hear from our guests that one of the major differences between our resort and other hotels they have visited is the genuine warmth expressed by our colleagues – service does not appear as staged, but is felt like an experience with the right attitude and aptitude.

At the same time, there are many beautiful properties coming up around the world and in the Maldives as well. So we should always keep ours fresh through innovation and creativity while keeping true to our core values.

MI: What is being done to keep Jumeirah Vittaveli fresh?

AM: It is a never-ending process. We started fully operating in 2012 and here we are sitting in 2017, and every year we have added something or done something new. From 2014 onwards, we have been on a path of very vigorous and fantastic changes all around the resort. We have added an airport lounge, the Family Beach Villas, our new restaurant Swarna, and renovated our main restaurant.

This year, we finally unveiled something we have been working on for a while; the all-new five bedroom Royal Residence. I have studied all the large villa categories in the Maldives, and I can safely say that ours is quite unique.

MI: What’s the idea behind the Royal Residence?

AM: The idea behind the Royal Residence is to create a private space which is unique and opulent. I think we have achieved that. The best part was that everybody came together with ideas of what we could do. We have taken inspiration from not just our colleagues, but also from our guests. We constantly listened to our guests and understood what their expectations would be if they were staying in a place like that. This led to the inclusion of a dedicated restaurant, a separate professional kitchen, air-conditioned living and dining pavilion, and not only 1 but 2 private swimming pools, to name only a few of the many unique highlights of our Royal Residence.

The reception has been fantastic. I cannot reveal the revenue figures, but I can say that we have already made quite a big fraction of the amount we spent on construction and interior décor.

The Royal Residence at Jumeirah Vittaveli. PHOTO/ JUMEIRAH

MI: Can you highlight the CSR programmes and eco-friendly initiatives undertaken by the resort?

AM: For the third year in a row, we have achieved the Green Globe certification this year. A team from the Oceanographic Museum in Germany also constantly help us assess the quality of our house reef and advise us on what can be done to protect the corals.

We are trying to reduce plastic in every way possible. In 2013, we established a bottling plant on the island to decrease the amount of plastic bottles given to guests. But we realised that we still had to purchase a lot of plastic bottles for colleague consumption. So we have now expanded that initiative and distributed free reusable water bottles especially for our colleagues. New water dispensers have been installed so that colleagues have easy access to the fresh island made bottled water throughout the back of house area.

We have also replaced items like sugar sachets with cubes kept in enclosed jars. All our drinking straws will soon be replaced with stainless steel ones.

In terms of our CSR programme, we are working on bringing all of our CSR projects together under one umbrella in order to have a more focused approach. We have been working with the center for people with special needs in Maafushi and the orphanage in Villingili for a number of years. I have personally been there on several occasions. Just recently, we also visited the Autism Centre in Hulhumale and established a permanent collaboration with them.

We are also a partner of UNDP Maldives, and keep our doors open for any kind of vocational training programmes for students from local communities.

The Swarna restaurant at Jumeirah Vittaveli. PHOTO/ JUMEIRAH

MI: How do you see the growth and changes in the Maldives tourism industry?

AM: Maldives still is a huge attraction for people all around the world. It is on many people’s bucket list — they want to visit the Maldives at least once in their lifetime. However, those that come here with the intention of visiting just once often keep coming back. Very few places in the world can compare with what the Maldives has to offer from a nature’s perspective — the breathtaking views, the vibrant underwater world and the all-year round pleasant climate.

It is good for the economy that money is being pumped into the country through the tourism industry. We have not yet realised the full potential of tourism, and I think there is still a great potential for expansion in the industry, especially in terms of more airlifts resulting in more tourist influx into the country. More international flights are now coming in to the main airport as well as other domestic airports that are slowly being converted into international arrival and departure points. Additionally, the main airport is being expanded to offer more facilities and services for a larger number of travellers. This is all going to help.

I do not see the number of new hotels coming up as a threat – with increased entry points and facilities, there will be space for a large enough market to sustain the existing and any upcoming hotels. I believe that the whole infrastructure of the country that supports this industry will also move towards where the Maldives should be.

MI: What should be done to attract more tourists?

AM: Not just the government, but the whole industry should focus on new markets with the support of airlines, so that we can bring in more flights. Despite China being one of the most important source markets, there are very few direct flights from China. Another example; India, being very close to the Maldives and having an increased level of outbound travel over the past few years, can be another market to look at to increase air connectivity.

MI: How is Jumeirah Vittaveli being positioned to adapt to the new trends in the industry?

AM: Jumeirah itself is a relatively new, modern company. We have a set brand identity and brand vision, but we are not bound by age-old traditions. So we are always trying new and innovative things.

In terms of Jumeirah Vittaveli, we are constantly upgrading our property and refining our service. We do things differently while still keeping our core culturally connected. We will keep on developing our surroundings and coming up with creative ideas to maintain our position as a market leader.

We are already developing a new category of villas, and constantly adding new F&B venues. We are looking into setting up a new restaurant, which will be based completely on organic food. We are also building a wedding chapel for those who want to renew their vows or who just want to take excellent photographs. We have a very exciting project too, which started as joke; an ice skating ring. Whoever we talk to about it tells us, ‘Oh! You must be joking!’ But we are not joking. We are already building it.

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Prime Surf Season in Maldives: Niyama Welcomes Back Surf Pro Brad Gerlach and Surf Photographer Junior Gracia

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At Niyama Private Islands Maldives, surfing is a way of life. And with peak surf season fast approaching, two renowned surfies – Wave-Ki founder and instructor Brad Gerlach and whiz-behind-the-lens Junior Garcia – are set to take up residence.

Niyama Private Islands Maldives is the ultimate surf destination. Guests can jet in with their boards or get fully outfitted at the Rip Curl boutique, set up camp in one the specially outfitted surf villas, then hit the waves – including Vodi, a powerful and sometimes hollow wave that breaks right on shore. Afterwards, chill time awaits at the Surf Shack with rum and reggae, or at Drift Spa with a recovery back massage and sunburn-soothing aloe vera wrap.

In residence 10 March – 20 April to offer his revolutionary method of coaching is Brad Gerlach, the world’s #2 in 1991 after dominating the leader board for the majority of the year. He is the founder of Wave-Ki, a land-based method to perfect surf skills favoured by pros like Parker Coffin, with a martial art-like focus on slow, precise movements which create kinaesthetic motor memory for improved surfing once in the water.

There to capture guests mid-wave will be photographer Junior Garcia, at the resort 8 March 8 – September 30. Originally from Brazil, and now based in Bali, Junior has spent his life chasing the ultimate wave and the ultimate shot.

“The return of Brad and Junior to Niyama is epically exciting,” says Nathan Kemp, Surf Development Director at the resort. “Their unrivalled talents, combined with the perfect surf conditions and absolutely incomparable backdrop that is the Maldives, guarantees an unforgettable experience for all who will be staying with us during this time”.

While surfing in the Maldives can be enjoyed year-round, peak season runs from March to November. Brad can be booked for private or family coaching, first on land (USD 249) then in the water (USD 447). There will also be regular group land sessions (USD 74). Packages include a year’s access to Wave-Ki online, with video lessons, live sessions and Q&As, plus the option of one-on-one virtual coaching. Sessions with Junior begin at USD 249 per hour, or USD 489 for a week.

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Bunny hop to an Easter playground at Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton

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Easter is the calm before the storm, the perfect time to jet off for a memorable family holiday before the summer rush floods in. Balmy, warm beaches, long spells of sunshine, colourful reef and glimmering lagoons must be on the top of your agendas for this Easter especially with the incredible line up of festivities and events lined up at Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton.

Easter here is a very special holiday filled with energy and enthusiasm for adventure-making for the toddlers, teenagers, adults, or grandparents (or all of them). The secret ingredient to it all is embedded in the brand ethos itself.

Kid-Friendly, Teen Approved, Roxity Kids Club ™ & Teen Spirit ® Club for This Easter

Who says grown-ups get to have all the fun? Kids need a place where they can have an adventure that’s exclusively theirs. Hard Rock Hotel Maldives signature, kid-friendly hangouts are part of an adult-free zone, each with its line up of exciting Easter activities. Start your day with the Bunny Dance Fitness session at the Pool Deck, where you can groove to the rhythm and get energized for the day ahead. As the sun sets, join the Easter Sundown Ritual, a harmonious celebration of the holiday spirit against the perfect tropical sunset backdrop.

Indulge in a Mexican dinner at The Elephant and The Butterfly, accompanied by live band performances that will set the stage on fire. The family favourite Easter Pool Party, is a must try on the list where you can make a splash and enjoy the beats of the Bunny DJ I-MJAN. For the little ones, there is plenty of fun with Roxity Mini Fun Fair, Easter Bunny Cookie Making, and the Roxity Easter Egg Hunting. For the ultimate thrill-seekers, take on the Easter Limbo Challenge at the Pool Deck or try your hand at the Bunny Silk Climbing Aerial Class at The Stage. With live music, delicious dining experiences, and exciting activities for all ages, Easter at Hard Rock Hotel Maldives promises to be an unforgettable melody of fun and excitement.

Koimala & Maalimi’s Junior Beach Club and Camp’s SAiiSational Easter Line-Up

Celebrate Easter with a touch of heartfelt charm at SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton. Start your day with a snorkeling house reef tour, where you can explore the vibrant underwater world of the Maldives. Join Saii Lagoon for Aqua Zumba and Water Polo at the Beach Club Pool, perfect for guests of all ages to enjoy some fun in the sun. Unwind with a cocktail-making competition and pool volleyball, promising exciting prizes for those who participate. For aspiring chefs, the SAii Master Chef Competition sets the perfect stage, where they can showcase their culinary skills and win fantastic rewards.

As the day winds down, indulge in the Easter Dinner Buffet at Tera and Mray, offering a delightful dining experience with live music. With its relaxed atmosphere and genuine hospitality, Easter at SAii Lagoon Maldives promises to be a truly SAiiSational experience, where every moment is a chance to reach out to the blue and embrace the beauty of the island.

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Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) holds its 34th Annual General Meeting

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The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) held its 34th Annual General Meeting at Kurumba Maldives today, with a total of 100 members in attendance. 

The day’s events began with a welcome address from the Chairman of MATI, Mr. Mohamed Umar, who also presided over the session. The agenda included an address from the Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Nazeer, the review and approval of the minutes of the 33rd AGM, the review and adoption of the Annual Report and Financial Reports for 2023, the approval of the 2024 budget, the appointment of auditors for 2024, the welcoming of new members and election of executive board members to the two vacant positions (by-election).

In the member discussion session, the following topics were covered: the Government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2023 and renewable energy generation in the Tourism Industry, new terminal of Velana International Airport and developments, employment challenges, the Industrial Relations Act and trade unions, environmental conservation and the significance of creating and executing efficient management plans for protected areas like the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).

Following the official proceedings, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Ibrahim Faisal and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Hon. Mohamed Saeed joined the forum. The Ministers provided remarks and engaged in a Member Q&A session. This session provided members with the chance to directly engage with the Ministers and delve into crucial industry topics. The queries focused on the Economic Outlook, forthcoming development plans and  immediate challenges and issues affecting the Tourism Industry.

A video presentation was also showcased that delved into the extensive work undertaken by MATI in 2023. The video also touched upon the Tourism Industry’s performance over the past 5 years, as well as the current and projected human resource capacity of the sector.

In his closing remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing industry challenges and called for greater unison amongst industry stakeholders, ending with an acknowledgement of the promising start to the year in terms of arrivals.

Executive Board Members elected to the 2 vacant positions (by-election):

  1. Ibrahim Shareef, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited
  2. Renato De Olivera, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and representative of Marriott International
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