Raffaele Solferino, General Manager of Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives on adaptability in hospitality, ethical profitability and why true grit drives results.
2020 has been an incredibly challenging year. There have been many learnings and silver linings for the hotel industry, but what long-term impact do you think they’ll have?
Yes, it has been a very much unprecedented situation, even though in the beginning everyone was comparing it with SARS, 9/11 or 2007/2008 financial crisis. During this period, we learnt the importance of staying calm, and keeping ourselves up to date with, and adhering to, the latest policies and guidelines issued by the official authorities. We also put ourselves in the shoes of our team members and business partners and remain available for assistance when needed. I am glad everyone appreciates the effort we put in, as well as the value we bring to them. I believe that when things go back to normal, we will reap the rewards of building a meaningful rapport with them.
How did Grand Park Kodhipparu navigate its way through pandemic, the travel restrictions around it and the ensuing sharp decline in tourism?
Well, the Maldives has responded well, with a lockdown for three months. We are now seeing enthusiastic travellers visiting the paradise again. We have established our own Covid-19 Task Force Team, consisting of experts who are trained to handle emergencies of all aspects, to gain guest confidence. We showed empathy at every point and supported our business partners and tour operators through the challenges they faced. We continue to remain flexible and engaged, and provide assistance where we can throughout this period.
We also involve our team members to develop solutions and this gave them a sense of belonging, which resulted in high participation and engagement. Everyone was comfortable with the decision made and worked towards the same goal. To be able to welcome guests again after three months, it was like being reborn. A high level of energy and excitement was felt throughout the resort, from both guests and team members. While ensuring smooth operations, our team also took the opportunity to develop new experiences to enhance a guest’s stay.
It’s undeniable that the landscape of travel has shifted significantly this year – what have been your personal observations of changing traveller trends thus far?
Travel will return in stages. We are seeing leisure travellers at this point, MICE and corporate travellers with be the laggard. As international borders will largely remain closed or restricted in the short-term, and also with the high adoption rate of virtual meetings and events, we do not see a shift in this observation for now. We have been receiving positive feedback from travellers, noting that they enjoyed the relaxing stay surrounded by our natural environment. People are also starting to look at destination weddings, as they no longer wish to postpone their event further. Travel and tourism are now pivoting towards the digital economy and we should take this opportunity to upskill and relearn.
As we edge towards a time of vaccines, and therefore a hopeful return to normalcy, what are your predictions for 2021?
Well, I touched on how travel behaviour will be affected for a few segments of our guests over the next few months. At the same time, I see potential in the luxury and budget brands, as well as co-sharing spaces. Tourism has a huge contribution to the Maldives economy and we know that people cannot wait to travel again after months of pent up demand. If we can build synergy between business strategies, partnerships and digital transformation, we will be able to do better.
So, let’s more about Grand Park Kodhipparu… You’ve been at the property for four years now – what was the initial vision and mission, and what do you hope to achieve next?
Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives is the first resort by Park Hotel Group, a leading hospitality company in Asia Pacific, and I am privileged to be selected to open this property in December 2016. After six months of pre-opening planning, the resort opened its doors in June 2017, and had its grand opening in December the same year. We managed to achieve this within a considerably short timeline and it is a remarkable achievement. The resort had a successful first year, where we saw positive business performance and great brand reputation with good recognition from our guests and partners, and this continued until Q1 2020. This stellar performance was possible thanks to the support from HQ, as we continue to be guided by the company’s triple bottom-line business strategy, focusing on Profit, People and Planet. Of course, my team at the resort is also a key factor as I cannot achieve this on my own. I hope to continue to maintain such excellent results and good relationships with all stakeholders. I will also be planning ahead to uncover more opportunities that the destination can offer to our guests. We have demonstrated the capability of our resort and now it is time to bring it to the next level.
The Maldives is in abundance of beautiful five-star resorts, so what sets GPK apart from its peers? Let’s drill down to the nitty gritty of what makes it great.
Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives differentiates from the rest [of the resorts] with our personalised and private service, meaningful engagement with guests, distinctive design by world-class Hirsh Bedner Associates, and the continuous enhancement to our products. The property is also only a 20-minute ride by speedboat from the Velana International Airport. We have won many awards over the years, including the recent 2020 World Luxury Awards. And in just three years, The Spa has accumulated seven prestigious awards, which is testament to the dedication and commitment of our team members. Celebrities and chefs from Michelin-star restaurants visit us periodically.
Our resort is certified by Green Globe, a recognition for our sustainable management and operations, and we are working on various environmentally-friendly initiatives, including working with organic and eco-friendly cosmetic brands. In addition, our team members are known to deliver warm and genuine hospitality to our guests, and they are provided training opportunities year-long to grow their skillsets. All in all, we are committed in delivering the best service standards to our guests.
Assuming a guest has just 24 hours at your resort, how would you suggest they spend their time to truly maximise their five-star GPK experience?
Book one of the full-day wellness packages at The SPA, enjoy the sunset view at the private beach, and complete the day with a private dinner under the stars by the beach. Looking ahead again, what developments can guests expect at GPK in 2021? We provide pre-arrival assistance and will continue to enhance our safety measures according to the latest official advisory. We will also offer new experiences, such as new water sports and activities, and introduce attractive packages for our guests throughout the year.
A few more personal questions… What would you say makes a good GM?
A good GM builds teams and takes good care of them, invests in learning and development, empowers their team members to pursue performance excellence, is passionate about what he is doing, should not settle for mediocrity, focuses on guest engagement, and never forgets he is a businessman while having to manage the expectations of the stakeholders.
What gives you the passion for your role?
A long story, started 40 years back, in a few words; hospitality is a world which allows you to create, innovate, compete, work on challenges, meet many people from different cultural background, and travel the world.
Do you have a philosophy that you’ve subscribed to throughout your career?
Actually, more than one. The first, “If you focus on delivering quality with excellence, positive financial performance will be the result.” The second, “If you accept mediocrity, you are mediocre.” And lastly, “If you don’t look after your guests, someone else will.”
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in the hotel game?
Adaptability. You’ve got to adapt yourself to changes, to others, to expectations, to judgments, but you always need to keep your objective alive and never, ever give up.
Lastly, what piece of advice would you give an aspiring GM?
Never forget the base and foundation of the role, invest in people, and with any operating decision always protect the planet, and deliver an ethical profitability. Be ambitious and remember that grit drives results.
Note: The above interview has been reproduced as it is from Destinations of the World News. The original article can be found here.
Award-winning Grand Park Kodhipparu Maldives launches indulgence winter offer
Grand Park Kodhipparu Maldives recently announced scooping up the title of “Best Boutique Resort in Maldives” for the second consecutive year, awarded by the Travel Trade Maldives which comes as no surprise as it is one of the best destinations to experience the unreal sunsets you will ever see while projecting extravagant character and easy-going exotica.
What’s really shaking things up this holiday season at this cozy luxury boutique island resort is that you will be spoiled for choice with one beach for every day. That is right – home to four beautiful beaches, Wai, Veli, Dhigu, and Divehi, all with their unique character – letting you sunbathe, snorkel, windsurf, and cycle overwater around the island to your heart’s content. Touching down at Kodhipparu, adventure seekers can revel in countless opportunities for wild coral reef dives, parasailing up the sky for a bird’s-eye view of the lagoon, or even simply zen out to sunrise and sunset with the resident yogi.
To celebrate the win, and to rev up the appetite with seaside excursions, the resort announced the launch of the exclusive “Kodhipparu Indulgence” offer with an unparalleled dining experience and a consequential gourmet coma that is fully worth every penny you’ve spent on your extravagant holiday.
Set your seaside expedition dreams to a reality, with attractive offerings from the resort-owned marine sports centre as well as the luxury overwater spa, that will have you wanting to extend your holiday. What’s more, you get to enjoy complimentary roundtrip speedboat transfers saving you quite a few pennies on your vacation.
The little explorers with big dreams are welcome to stay and dine free of charge sharing the room with the parents, whether it is by spending their time decorating some yummy cupcakes or catching a kiddies movie under the stars with popcorn.
If you are looking for a romantic touch, with an ample amount of floating rose petals in your pool, or a swoon-worthy proposal set up at a secret corner of the island out of bounds to others or even a candle-lit dinner on the secluded beaches with you and your beau, all you have to do is message your lifestyle host to work the magic and make it happen for you. With the Kodhipparu dedicated lifestyle host service, everything is just a message away.
As is all good things, this offer is only for a limited time period, so make use of this exclusive indulgence package at Grand Park Kodhipparu comes with an amazing 35% discount on all villa categories.
Simply head over to https://www.parkhotelgroup.com/north-male-atoll/grand-park-kodhipparu-maldives/offers/winter-getaway/ to book your holiday with a flair of fun, freedom, and serenity that is promised to make you keep coming back for more!
Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry
In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.
Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.
After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.
Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.
In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.
As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.
Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.
Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.
As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.
A remarkable tale of wanderlust: Naito Takashi’s 103rd journey to the Maldives
The azure waters of the Maldives have long been a magnet for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. Among these wanderers, one name stands out – Naito Takashi, a Japanese tourist whose boundless enthusiasm for the Maldives has led him to visit this tropical haven a staggering 103 times. His unwavering love for this island nation, coupled with its mesmerizing beauty, has turned his visits into a remarkable testament to the allure of the Maldives.
For the past 24 years, Naito Takashi has visited Maldives between three to five times annually, embarking on a journey that has spanned more than two decades. His tale is one of dedication, passion, and a deep-rooted connection with the captivating landscapes that the Maldives offers. Each visit is not just a vacation; it’s a renewal of his profound relationship with the natural wonders that have captured his heart.
Naito Takashi’s 103rd arrival to the Maldives was met with a warm and heartfelt welcome from none other than the Tourism Minister himself, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. This gesture symbolizes the deep appreciation the Maldivian people have for their loyal and devoted visitors. The ceremony held aboard the M/V Blue of the Fun Azul Fleet was a fitting tribute to a traveler who has become an honorary ambassador of the Maldives.
The M/V Blue, Fun Azul Fleet, holds special significance for Naito Takashi. As an avid diver, he has found his perfect companion in this cruise boat specialized in diving charters. The vessel offers schedules tailored to explore the best dive spots around the Maldives’ islands, making it an ideal partner for a diving enthusiast like Naito Takashi. The crystal-clear waters of the Maldives have witnessed countless underwater escapades orchestrated by this intrepid traveler.
The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism has lauded Naito Takashi’s enduring passion for the nation’s beauty. Their tweet acknowledging his multiple visits serves as a testament to his unique and cherished relationship with the country. He has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of the Maldives, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant marine life, and has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry.
Naito Takashi’s story also reflects the profound impact that travel can have on an individual’s life. His unwavering commitment to exploring the Maldives has not only enriched his own experiences but has also brought attention to the natural wonders of Maldives. It stands as a reminder that the act of traveling is not just about ticking off destinations from a bucket list; it’s about forming connections, fostering appreciation, and creating lasting memories.
As Naito Takashi continues his journey through the Maldives, his story resonates as an inspiration to fellow travelers and a tribute to the unyielding allure of this island paradise. His 103rd visit is not just a numerical milestone; it’s a celebration of an extraordinary bond between a traveler and a destination, a bond that has grown stronger with each passing year and promises to endure for years to come.
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