Maldives Travel Awards honour 10 outstanding tourism personalities

Maldives Travel Awards – People’s Edition, the first event held this year under the Maldives Travel Awards platform, has recognised 10 individuals for their immense contributions to the development of the Maldives tourism industry.

Nominations for the People’s Edition were open till June 30 from any individual with at least five years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry. Third parties were also allowed to submit nominations on behalf of eligible individuals.

Ten winners, individually referred to as Tourism Personality of the Year, were selected by a panel of veteran judges from sectors across the industry, and announced at the Travel Trade Maldives (TTM) Gala Night at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi Thursday evening.

Here are the winners:

Aminath Mamshooga

In a career spanning over 24 years, Mamshooga has become one of the most courteous sales representatives in the aviation industry, having worked at the then Maldives’ flagship carrier Air Maldives and leading international airline Emirates. Now a marketing representative for Turkish Airlines, Mamshooga has studied from various institutions, including the prestigious Emirates Aviation College, and is involved in training sales representatives to ensure top notch customer service.


Yousuf Riffath

A visionary that saw the potential of Maldives as a leading travel destination in its hay day, Riffath founded Capital Travel and Tours, one of the most successful tour operators in the country. In a career spanning over 35 years, Riffath has been involved in founding and leading MATATO and Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM), and has served as the President of the Maldives Chapter of American Society of Travel Agents and the Association of Travel Agents. He has also contributed to the growth of the industry as a Board Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

Hussain ‘Sendi’ Rasheed

A name synonymous with Maldives’ diving industry, Sendi has trained over 1,600 divers in his three decades of service. Being the first and only PADI Dive Course Director in the country, Sendi is a pioneering force in developing several industry standards, including the National Diving Regulations. He has also been involved in developing the Coastguard Diving Unit, the first locally-owned dive centre at a resort and the Marine Faculty of Villa College where he served as the dean for two years.

Rasa Sangheran

A Sri Lankan born Chartered Accountant, Rasa serves as the Director of Finance at One&Only Reethi Rah, one of the finest resorts in the Maldives. In his 15-year long service to the Maldives’ tourism industry, Rasa has made Reethi Rah the most tax compliant resort in the Maldives. He has also taken several notable steps to empower both local and expat employees, including changes to the minimum wage and average service charge, and equal pension benefits for all employees at Reethi Rah.

Qaisar Naseem

A beacon of hope for aspiring local hospitality executives, Qaisar has climbed up the ranks from a receptionist to become one of the few local General Managers in the industry. A school dropout, Qaisar, while leading Paradise Island Resort, has earned post-graduate education in hotel management and business. He has won several local and international recognitions for his leadership and dedication to teamwork, including the award for the Best General Manager in Indian Ocean by World Luxury Hotel Awards.

Renato W. Chizzola

A global hospitality leader, Renato serves as the General Manager of Cheval Blanc Randheli as well as the Vice President of Operations, Asia and the Middle East for Cheval Blanc, LVMH Hotel Management. He has helped Randheli achieve the highest RevPAR, LQA score and service charge in the region. Renato, whose previous experiences in the Maldives include serving as the General Manager of Constance Halaveli, has won several accolades, including the Friendliest General Manager award by Traveller Made, Science of Talent by Talent Plus and a Personal Recognition award by Entrée Travel Publiction.

Ibrahim ‘Don’ Ali

Since starting his career in 1979 at the age of 17 as an office cleaner in Baros Maldives, Ali has overseen the development and renovation of several tourist facilities in the Maldives, including the construction of resorts from scratch. A self-taught man except for a few short courses abroad, Ali was appointed General Manager of Mookai Hotel and Mookai Suites in  capital Male in 2013, after overseeing their development.

Abdul Rasheed ‘Absy’ Ali

A voice loved by Maldivians and tourists alike, Absy has dedicated most part of his four-decade long entertainment career to promoting the Maldives’ culture amongst tourists. A founder of popular bands ‘Amazon Jade’, ‘20 th Century BC’ and ‘Out of Door Maldives’, Absy has released a solo studio album which has sold over 1,600 copies to tourists. He continues to perform two regular gigs a week with Out of Door Maldives, entertaining tourists and helping them connect with the local culture and lifestyle.

Ali Rasheed

A computer programmer by training, Ali bumped into the hospitality industry by accident while developing the reservations and sales software for Paradise Island Resort in 1995. In his capacity as the Director of Marketing and Sales at the Marketing and Operations Department of leading local resort operator Villa Hotels, he is now responsible for overseeing the daily operations and marketing requirements of five resorts in the Villa portfolio. Ali has also contributed to the growth of the industry as a former Executive Board Member of Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) and Maldives Tourism Advisory Council at the Ministry of Tourism.

Zeenaz Hussain

An educator and mentor, Zeenaz pursued a career in the kitchen at the Paradise Island Resort right after completing her studies at the Hotel School (now known as the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies). While working in the industry, Zeenas instructed at the Institute of Hotel and Catering Services as a trainee food production instructor before taking her first teaching job at the Hotel School in 1997. Since then she has been instrumental in producing the future generations of hospitality executives, which led to her appointment as the Dean of the Faculty in 2011.

Initiated in 2012 by MATATO, Maldives Travel Awards celebrate and honour the best tourism and hospitality products in the Maldives, while fostering relationships with suppliers and local travel agents. From 20 categories in 2012, the awards have now expanded into three editions totalling 55 categories.

In 2016, the awards saw unprecedented judging transparency with a service agreement signed with KPMG to tally the final results. A record number of nominations were also received with the grand gala in Olhuveli Beach and Spa resort attended by dignitaries from relevant government authorities and the tourism industry.

This year, MATATO has for the first time branched out the prestigious awards into three categories; the People’s Edition, which recognises successful pioneers and long serving individuals in the tourism industry, a Guesthouse Edition, which celebrates the outstanding performance of the up and coming guesthouse sector, and the Grand Gala, which is exclusive for winners in the categories for resorts, airlines and liveaboards.

The Guesthouse Edition will take place in capital Male in September with the Grand Gala following in November.

The non-profit will also combine the Grand Gala with the travel conference happening a day before at Bandos Island Resort, bringing an international audience of industry experts.

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