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Neil Shorthouse on inter-resort collaboration, training locals in Maldives fast-growing tourism industry



When Neil Shorthouse first arrived in the Maldives in early 2008 as the Cluster Director of Human Resources at Anantara Resorts Maldives, the Maldives tourism industry was an altogether different story. New investments, tightly controlled and directed by the government, were made mostly by a handful of seasoned local and foreign hoteliers. Growth was impressive and return on investment was unmatched. But for travellers, accommodation options were limited to luxury resorts that cost tens of thousands of dollars for a night’s stay.

Fast forward 10 years, and the industry has inevitably evolved. A plethora of new properties has come into play, with the backing of a combination of local and international entrepreneurs and seasoned hoteliers. Dozens have forayed into new and untapped segments of the market, greatly expanding the scope of an industry that was previously exclusive to luxury tourism. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million milestone and is on course to reach an ambitious target of 1.5 million.

This rapid expansion in a short period of time poses several challenges, especially in getting enough skilled individuals to fill up managerial positions. Resorts are forced to bring in professionals from abroad to an industry already dominated by expatriates or promote individuals without giving them proper training and guidance.

“Some people will pick up very quickly and are very good at that role. But some people are put there because there is no one else to do it and they don’t necessarily have the skill set to do their job. This means that if they go to another property, they may actually fail,” Neil, whose 20-year long career in hospitality involves working with a variety of top luxury brands such as Regent Seven Seas, The World, Soneva, Six Senses, Anantara Resorts and Cheval Blanc Randheli by LVMH, says, in an interview with Maldives Insider.

Neil poses for a photo with the participants of a training programme he conducted at the Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH) in Maldives. PHOTO/ HIH

Smaller resorts have to bear the brunt of the current deficit in getting skilled Maldivians for senior positions, as international hotel chains have the luxury of moving employees within its hotel portfolio. For new resorts, especially those owned and operated by up and coming local hoteliers, apprenticeship programmes run by industry leaders could be the answer.

Apprenticeship programmes for the hospitality industry are growing in popularity in countries such as the UK. In the Maldives, Four Seasons and Minor Hotels have been running their own apprenticeship programmes for years, and leading local resort operators such as Universal Resorts are formally getting into the game with their own apprenticeship and internship programmes for aspiring locals. These programmes have already enabled several young Maldivians to enter into the industry; starting at the very bottom and climbing up the ladder to achieve their goals.

“It’s all about getting to understand that when you start from the bottom and move up the ladder in the right pace, you appreciate it far more and you have a better understanding of the operation. So, if you want to be a chef, you start as a commis or in any other similar position. This way, they understand what it’s like to work at the very bottom and to move their way up,” Neil explains.

“What a great place it is to study hospitality when you have over a 100 resorts to get your work experience from. Almost every international brand is here. The experience students will get here in the Maldives is phenomenal.”

Neil conducts a training programme.

However, apprenticeship programmes are not enough to bridge the gap that currently exists, especially in light of the number of new resorts opening up across the Maldives. With dozens more expected to come into market in the next few years, Neil believes that resorts should collaborate with established local educational institutes such as the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Studies of The Maldives National University to offer courses as well as internship opportunities.

This collaboration needs to extend to inter-resort cooperation as well. Industry stakeholders should come together, and share information and ideas in an attempt to find ways to better adapt to the fast-changing trends.

“When I first came to the Maldives 10 years ago, it was very collective. Everyone spoke to each other. Everyone was involved and willing to assist. Nobody would say we can’t do this, we can’t do that. We had that trust and respect for each other,” Neil, who has worked in countries such as the UAE, Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Seychelles and the US, says.

“Nowadays it has become very secular in the sense that only some properties will talk to certain properties, or if there is a request for information, people don’t want to provide information to anymore. With the market becoming so challenging, it’s almost silly that no one speaks to each other and shares ideas. It maybe because it’s growing so big, that there are so many resorts, that it’s becoming more difficult to coordinate. But we need to have the inter-resort collaboration we used to have.”

Despite the challenges, Neil, who now runs his own hospitality consultancy firm Shorthouse Hospitality International (SHI), believes that training locals to take over managerial roles is the only way forward. Having worked with some “phenomenal” Maldivians who have gone onto become General Managers and HR Managers at reputed resorts across the country, he says that Maldivians can do every single task just as well as their colleagues from abroad if given the right skill set and opportunities.

“If you go to Thailand or any other destination, you can see a lot of locals in senior management positions. So, even from the guest perspective, having more locals in your workforce, especially in senior positions, is key. They are coming to the Maldives and they want to see locals. I think guests get more excited when they see that the resident manager is a Maldivian, or when they see a Maldivian chef or a Maldivian GM,” he explains.

“Those of us who are foreigners working here, are here as a guest. We have been given a work permit to work. I try to make sure that there is always a local capable of taking over my position. In my view, it’s all about giving back. It’s all about giving the skill set that they may or may not already have so as to ensure that they succeed.”

Neil (R-5) attends a networking session organised by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in London. PHOTO/ SHRM

The expansion of the tourism industry is set to continue, as local hoteliers and international hotel chains keep announcing new developments almost every month or so. With these developments, the uniqueness of the Maldives is changing as well; it is no longer the luxury, high-end destination that can only be accessed by the ultra-rich from the world over. New segments such as the booming guesthouse sector have opened up the Maldives to budget travellers and made the luxury resorts more affordable as well.

In this fast-growing industry, cooperation amongst properties and developing a capable workforce comprising a local majority are the key to survival. As Neil says, “We all make mistakes, but we need the opportunity to make mistakes in our career. If you don’t give the opportunity to locals, you won’t know their capacity.”

Editor’s Note: Shorthouse Hospitality International (SHI) is a luxury management and consultancy company headquartered in London, with operations across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Indian Ocean and South Pacific Islands. SHI provides a hands-on approach to services focused on operations, corporate audits, human capital, and significant projects. Specialty vertical markets include boutique hotels and resorts, cruise lines and private member clubs, yachts and residential estates. Working from an individual project basis to full retained consultancy, SHI assists in identifying “who you are”, “where you want to be” and “how to get there”. The international hotels and resorts and luxury properties are not only each exquisite in their own way; but are all culturally authentic, emotionally compelling and completely unique. SHI was founded by Neil Shorthouse in 2014 following more than two decades of experience in creating industry-leading, revenue driving platforms for companies from start-ups to Fortune 500s. He has launched business endeavours for multi-national corporations and led world-class teams of hospitality professionals.  His portfolio includes The Walt Disney Company, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas, The Soneva Group, The World, Six Senses Hotels & Resorts and Cheval Blanc Randheli by LVMH-Hotel Management.


Maldives Madridistas: Patina Maldives, Fari Islands Nets Exclusive Football Camp Partnership with the Real Madrid Foundation



Younger guests at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands can embrace new patterns of play this summer at an exclusive, Maldives-first Real Madrid Foundation football camp. From 4 July – 12 August, a youth coach will lead a comprehensive Real Madrid Foundation programme of daily soccer sessions for ages 5-9yrs, 10-14yrs, and 15-17yrs. The coach will be joined by an elite player ambassador from UEFA’s all-time no. 1 ranked football club toward the end of the programme.

This summer’s inaugural Patina Maldives x Real Madrid CF Foundation football camp is the first edition in an ongoing partnership, with additional future football camp dates to be confirmed. Led by a licensed Real Madrid Foundation coach, sessions will focus on developing each participant both individually and as part of the group, in order to ‘Play The Real Way’ – the training methodology that combines play, as well as sports values.

Sessions will take place on a new, purpose-built 6 a side astroturf pitch located near the Fari Marina Village at Patina Maldives.

All participants will receive an official camp football camp shirt, shorts, socks, drawstring bag, sweatbands, and cap; while those completing a minimum of four days’ coaching will also be presented with a Real Madrid Foundation participation certificate.

Real Madrid Foundation football clinics at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands are priced at USD195++ per child per session for guests of the resort. Bookings are also open to guests from neighbouring resorts, from USD250++ per child per session.

Rates at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands start from USD2,054 (approx. GBP1,620) per night based on two adults sharing a One Bedroom Pool Villa including daily breakfast, complimentary Guest Benefits, tax, and service. Terms and conditions apply.

For more information and reservations, please visit or contact For more information on Pathways, please see here.

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A blissful island Easter celebration at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives



Experience unique and enriching getaways at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, as the luxury resort unveils exciting benefits for family getaway packages launching this season. Guests are invited to immerse themselves in the ethereal charm of the Maldives.

Nestled in the pristine Raa Atoll, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives seamlessly blends eco-friendly architecture with contemporary sophistication, complemented by the untouched, rugged beauty of the Raa Atoll. Situated amidst miles of untouched marine life, Alila Kothaifaru invites guests to reconnect with nature in the most extraordinary ways. With spacious villas and private pools, guests can truly experience the essence of a getaway where luxury and adventure harmoniously coexist.

Surrounded by azure skies and the turquoise waters of the Raa Atoll, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives offers an idyllic setting for a family escape during the Easter break. Here, guests can unwind in luxurious, nature-immersed surroundings, embark on exciting adventures together, and indulge in unforgettable wellness and culinary experiences.

During Easter weekend, Play Alila will delight young guests with a diverse range of festive island-inspired activities, including Easter egg decorating, arts and crafts, face painting, and more. For those seeking relaxation, Spa Alila offers enticing packages for parents and children to enjoy quality bonding time.

For the adventurous souls, do not miss the chance to join our Sparkling Underwater Egg Hunt. Hidden throughout one of our nearby dive sites, these eggs hold a special surprise. The lucky diver who discovers the egg with a unique mark will win an exclusive clutch made of Swarovski crystal valued at EUR 1,800!

Embark on an Easter journey to remember at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives. Explore all of the Easter events and activities at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives here 

Family Getaway Package

  • Booking Period: Until 30 October 2024
  • Stay Period: Until 25 December 2024

Experience a family holiday rich with memorable moments. From nature walks to energetic beach activities, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives’ offerings extend to the whole family. Indulge in a host of fun adventures together, or relax while your children participate in creative indoor and outdoor activities. Enjoy special family welcome amenities upon arrival, return seaplane transfers, daily full-board meals, and a special offer on wellness treatments. Experience the beauty of our island while creating lasting memories to be treasured!

Stay with us during the Easter period from 25-31 March 2024 and be treated to a wide range of festive island inspired activities such as Easter egg decorating, arts and crafts, egg hunting around the island and underwater, wellness offering, and many more!

For more information and reservations, please contact or visit

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Love’s Oasis: Siyam World Invites Couples To Celebrate And Embrace Romance On White Valentines’ Day



Romance never ends, get ready to swoon, Siyam World is pulling out all the stops to make this White Valentine’s Day one for the books.  Nestled in the heart of the Maldives, Siyam World invites couples to indulge in a whirlwind of romance and adventure on March 14th, 2024.

Internationally acclaimed DJ Youna will headline the evening’s entertainment, enchanting guests with her signature blend of melodic techno and progressive house music. Against the backdrop of the Maldivian night sky, guests can dance under the stars and create cherished memories with their loved ones. DJ Youna, the rising star of melodic techno and progressive house, is set to serenade you and your beloved under the starlit skies of Siyam World.

YOUNA, an emerging DJ/Producer specializing in melodic techno and progressive house, hails originally from South Korea. Her musical trajectory took an unforeseen turn upon her relocation to Dubai, where she developed a profound affinity for house music—a genre less prevalent in the Asian music landscape. Dedication to refining her craft led YOUNA to cultivate a distinctive sound, skilfully merging emotive melodies with the infectious energy of her compositions.

Despite embarking on her production and DJing journey in 2022, YOUNA has swiftly ascended to prominence on the global music scene. Her debut single, ‘Self-Doubt,’ ascended to the top 14 in progressive house and secured the 4th position on Beatport’s hype chart. YOUNA’s music, characterized by potent beats and evocative soundscapes, transcends cultural boundaries, dismantling barriers and creating a harmonious fusion on the international stage. Get ready to dance the night away and create memories that will last a lifetime with DJ YOUNA

Siyam World has also curated a line-up of experiences that will make your heart skip a beat. Dive into the culinary wonders of the Maldives with our Maldivian Culinary Workshop at Kaage, where you will learn the secrets of local cuisine from our talented chefs.

Treat your special someone to a Destination Dinner or a Special Romantic Dinner, complete with a romantic movie screening to set the mood. And for the ultimate indulgence, why not enjoy a Wine Cellar Dinner? Gift your loved one with chocolates and flowers made available for this special day. Sip on mimosas and savor delicious bites while soaking in the breath-taking views of Siyam World.

Mark your calendars, lovebirds, because White Valentine’s Day at Siyam World is going to be one for the books! Book your romantic getaway now and get ready to fall in love all over again.

For more information, visit Siyam World or follow on InstagramFacebookTwitterTikTok or YouTube. For booking enquiries email:

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