Michelle Flake in Love with Maldives
Maldives Promotion House – Meet Michelle Flake from UK, who has spent most of her life in the tourism industry. From, hotels, major International Tour Operators to Travel Agents both UK and now her in the Maldives. She has spent over 10 years living and working in Maldives and considers this her home.
“I first came to Maldives in the year 2000 as a Rep/Administrator for Kuoni on six months placement living on Kurumba and looking after the Atoll Explorer. Kurumba was known as Kurumba Village back then and I loved it especially looking after the Atoll Explorer. Six months soon turned into 1 year then I finally decided to head back to the UK. I always knew I would come back to the Maldives but thought for a holiday not to work but that all changed and I got the opportunity to return in 2003. Again I initially came back on a six month placement but I’m still here so I guess six months has turned into 9 years,” Michelle said.
Michelle returned in 2003 with Kuoni Travel, but this time as their Destination Manager, a role she held for 5.5 years. However after almost ten years of working in Kuoni she left the company in 2009. Though her passion towards her work never died, she had fallen in love with Maldives and she was determined not to leave. She continues to work in the tourism industry promoting the Maldives.
“I worked for Kuoni as the Destination Manager until 2009. As with any Tour Operator you work from season to season and they can move you at any time and i April 2009 I was told that they were considering moving me to Egypt for a three months placement. This was a destination I had previously worked and whilst I enjoyed my time there and loved the destination I know that three months can turn into much longer! So after much thought, I decided now was the right time to do something a little different. As I had to work two months notice I decided I would email partners and colleagues in advance (most people tell you they are leaving the day before they finish) and let everyone know in advance that I had taken the decision to leave Kuoni Travel, however although I had no fixed plans in place at that time, I was staying in the Maldives.”
“Whilst still working my notice for Kuoni I was approached by a new company who were just setting up and was asked if I would like to join them and help launch the company and this is how I came to work for my current employers Scaevola Travel,” she added.
Scaevola Travel is a local Maldivian inbound Agency and Michelle’s position is Contracting & Marketing Manager. Though her main role is to contract the resorts and build up good professional relationships with them, she also deals directly with clients; giving them suggestions and helping them plan their trips. According to Michelle, Scaevola Travel major market at the moment is the Chinese market and they have their own dedicated Chinese Agent in Shanghai promoting Scaevola Travel. “The majority of their clients book luxury accommodation and travel as couples or families but not groups”, says Michelle
“One of my first clients was from China and a well travelled lady that enjoys writing blogs about her experience. I didn’t know this at the time, but then all of a sudden we started to get all these enquiries from China and a people asking for me by name and knowing I was from the UK. Some clients sent me the link to the blog and I used Google translator to see what Ariel (my client) had said and whilst the translation was not brilliant, the comments were very positive. This is how we started in the Chinese Market. Then I booked a client’s honeymoon for him and he was so impressed with the service and efficiently that he decided he wanted to work with us, and this is how we came to have an agent in China” Michelle said.
Whilst working for two major international Tour Operators Michelle has also had the chance to experience some of the most remarkable destinations in the world, including, Spain, Greece, France, Switzerland, Egypt and Thailand. However when asked if she has seen anywhere more appealing than Maldives, she replied saying that Maldives is so unique. She also said that there is no place she would rather live in, other than Maldives.
“Lots of people ask me how I’ve managed to live in Male for so long when I’ve had the opportunity to work all over the world including Dubai. I tell them that you can’t get what we get here in Maldives anywhere else in the world. Whilst Malé is busy and overcrowded and not the nicest of places to live, you have to think beyond Male. The Maldives is not Malé and you have all these beautiful resorts and islands all around you. You just have to take time out and enjoy them,” Michelle said.
Michelle was in the Maldives also during the 2004 Tsunami. She described it as a challenging and sad experience. She also said that it was a wonderful feeling to know that you are there to help people who need support. She also added that she has seen major changes from when she first came to Maldives.
“When I first came to Maldives, Malé was very different. It has changed a lot since then. I didn’t like coming to Male when I lived on Kurumba as I felt quite intimidated as most people would stare at me, not in a rude way or anything. It was more because of curiosity, I think. These days I don’t seem to notice it anymore. Malé has also improved and developed,” she said. “You can find more selection of foods in the supermarket which has been imported and more and more restaurants have opened up giving more choice. I also feel that Maldives has changed me as a person. I’m less materialistic and don’t really worry about the future. What will be, will be. Plus I feel safe here, even safer than I feel when I’m at home,” Michelle humoured.
Michelle hasn’t only helped people plan their dream holiday or honeymoon, she has also helped the island communities across Maldives. While she is passionate about her work, she also loves Maldives from the depth of her heart. For her Maldives has more to offer than just the natural beauty.
Michelle also co-founded Volunteer Maldives, an organisation that brings in volunteers and tourists to help improve social areas such as education, health and sports, in local communities. Volunteer Maldives has worked with other nongovernmental organizations and island organizations, setting up programs in various islands.
“Scaevola Travel is my full time job and something I am very passionate about, as I love to help people plan and enjoy their dream holiday or honeymoon, but I enjoy being able to help communities through the projects we do with Volunteer Maldives and absolutely love the local island community spirit and think more tourists should experience it for themselves and by having guest houses on local islands this will open up more opportunities for tourists to experience the real Maldivian hospitality and culture,” she said.