GM Utkarsh Faujdar, The Secret Of HIH

Maldives Promotion House – Officially opened in 15th August 2001, Hulhulé Island Hotel (HIH) has gained a substantial amount of fame as an airport hotel. Known best for its culinary achievements and superior service, HIH continues to secure its famous reputation with countless awards.

Some of the awards include the World Travel Award of 2009. During 2006, 2008 and 2011 at the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge, HIH was also awarded as the ‘Best Culinary Establishment’ in Maldives. Other notable awards include the ‘Luxury Airport Hotel’ award at the World Luxury Hotel Awards of 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Part of their success is due to their friendly and highly trained staff. However most of the credit goes to Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar, the General Manager at Hulhulé Island Hotel. Utkarsh joined the property as General Manager in 2004 and has since developed HIH and has succeeded in turning it into one of the best airport hotels, both in Asia and the world.

“I joined HIH during the end of October 2004. Before that I was working as General Manager at the Trident Hilton in Agra. I have also worked with Clarks Group of hotels and the Oberoi Group of Hotels,” the highly experienced GM Utkarsh said, during an exclusive interview with Maldives Promotion House.

Utkarsh studied hotel management at the Institute of Hotel Management in Lucknow, India. Since finishing in 1988 he worked in the industry for 16 years before he was appointed as the General Manager of HIH. By the end of this year he would have worked at HIH for almost seven years.

“If you are in a resort, seven years is a long time to be working in the same place. Normally after a while you tend to become monotonous, because everything is the same. But out here, we have expanded and developed. We have introduced new features such as the spa, the gym and also the beach area. We have also added 51 rooms of much better quality,” Utkarsh said.

According to Utkarsh the constant development of the hotel and the new features and the advancements has kept him going for the past seven years without even a hint of boredom. He also said that those achievements are some of the most satisfying achievements for him.

Over lunch Utkarsh explained to the Maldives Promotion House, the extreme diversity of the hotel’s menu. Unlike many other hotels which are focused on a particular nationality or target group, the menus at HIH aim to cater to all nationalities. With rare cuisines from all over the world, the menu also includes Maldivian dishes such as the ‘Malaafai’, which is currently unavailable in any other tourist hotel in the country. The ‘Malaafai’ consists of different varieties of Maldivian tastes brought together in a single dish, and is very popular among locals and tourist.

“There are lots of locals who come here to the restaurant for special occasions. Especially in Ramadan we have to deal with huge numbers of local customers. So I feel that by catering to the local tastes we also get much closer to the community. That is also the reason we keep the prices very economical,” he said.

“We also aim to create new experiences. Rather than copying something someone has already done, we create something new. That is what we have done with the ‘Malaafai’. It is Maldivian, yes, but there is no other resort or hotel that provides this dish. It contains most of the Maldivian tastes. And because it is our creation, we are confident about it,” he added.

While the culinary experience at HIH is a must have experience, there is more to the hotel than just the food. Hulhulé Island Hotel is more than just an airport hotel. It is just as luxurious as any resort and the friendly service adds to its grandeur. However this also creates a lot of challenges for Utkarsh and his team.

“Most of the travellers are very avid travellers, and short trips have become more common. Then there is the internet, where they can find out more about the hotels and destinations. So we have to be better than everyone else. We can’t just sell a product and tell them to be happy about it,” Utkarsh said.

“So the main challenge of running an airport hotel is that, travellers will usually stay here while they are in transit, or before they travel to the resorts. And since resorts these days have become extremely luxurious, we have to offer the travellers a product that matches with that kind of luxury. We need to maintain our competitive edge,” Utkarsh said.

Utkarsh believes that the vacation experience should start from the moment travellers land at their destination. He added that the idea was to not only to compliment but to surpass the quality and luxury offered by the resorts. However in order to cater for the up market, HIH had to be expanded. Despite being his first airport hotel Utkarsh succeeded in bringing about these major changes that has transformed the hotel into one of the most luxurious airport hotels in the world.

He also explained that the hospitality industry is not something someone can be pushed into. He noted the importance of having the passion to go into the industry. To be successful in the industry one must choose to be part of it. One must have the desire to serve. He further added that if taken lightly as a job, not only will you fail, but that you cannot survive as part of the hotel.

“I wouldn’t mind working for 24 hours a day. Of course, at the end of the day, it is a tough job. And if you just join in for the glamour, you will not survive. You need to be passionate about it. On the outside it might seem like a glamorous job. But that is in the perspective of the traveller. The Truth is that this industry is a very challenging, and for those who have passion, a very satisfying industry. If you are good at what you do, success will always follow you and no one can stop you,” he added.

Utkarsh is also a very fond sportsman and loves cricket and follows tennis and soccer. He is also a fan of the famous tennis player, Roger Federer. Apart from his sportsmanship he is also a fan of music and the songs of Bony M. When asked about his future plans Utkarsh said that he has no plans of leaving the industry, and that he would continue to work on his current assignment.

An extremely friendly man with a joyful personality Mr. Utkarsh Faujdar is a model for the tourism industry. In his time at HIH he has shown true dedication to his career. He has uplifted the entire team, pushed the hotel beyond the margins of the conventional airport hotel and has turned it into one of the best hotels in the country and the world.

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