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A taste of success: Ahmed Azzam on creating memorable F&B experiences at Le Méridien Maldives



Imagine starting as a humble waiter and working your way up to leading the food and beverage team at the luxurious Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa. That’s exactly what Ahmed Azzam has accomplished through his passion, dedication, and hard work. In this heart-warming interview, Azzam shares his incredible story, what drives him, and offers some words of wisdom for young Maldivians dreaming of a career in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Back in 2004, Azzam embarked on his hospitality journey at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa as a waiter. Over four exciting years, he sharpened his customer service skills and delved into the fascinating world of food and beverage. Azzam fondly remembers, “I was always eager to learn and grow, and I knew that the hospitality industry offered endless opportunities for those who were willing to work hard.”

In 2008, Azzam’s hard work paid off as he was promoted to F&B Supervisor at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa. Here, he managed a team of F&B Assistants and oversaw the resort’s dining operations, laying the groundwork for his future success in the industry.

Azzam’s career soared to new heights when he joined Jumeirah Dhevanafushi Maldives (now Raffles Maldives) as an F&B Supervisor in 2013. In this role, he played a vital part in training new hosts, ensuring guest satisfaction, and upholding the resort’s exceptional service standards.

In 2014, Azzam joined Centara Hotels & Resorts, where he quickly climbed the ranks from Assistant Restaurant Manager to Senior Restaurant Manager and eventually Assistant Food and Beverage Manager. During his tenure at Centara, Azzam was responsible for planning, organizing, and directing the overall operation and administration of the restaurant, ensuring excellent standards of service and efficiency.

Fast forward to May 2021, Azzam’s dedication and perseverance led him to become the Food and Beverage Manager at Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa. In this prestigious position, Azzam leads a talented team to create unforgettable dining experiences for guests. “My focus is on creating memorable moments for our guests while maintaining the highest standards of quality and service,” Azzam says with a smile.

When asked about his motivation, Azzam shares, “I am driven by my passion for the hospitality industry and my desire to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. I believe that success comes from a combination of hard work, dedication, and a genuine love for what you do.”

Azzam has some heartfelt advice for young Maldivians aspiring to join the tourism and hospitality industry: “The hospitality industry offers a world of opportunities for those who are willing to work hard and learn. Be open to new experiences, embrace challenges, and never stop learning. With determination and passion, you can achieve great things in this industry. Remember, success is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace the challenges, learn from your experiences, and never stop striving for excellence.”

As a leader, Azzam emphasizes the importance of teamwork and communication. “I believe that a successful team is built on trust, open communication, and a shared commitment to excellence. I encourage my team to share their ideas, learn from each other, and work together to achieve our common goals.”

During your stay at Le Méridien Maldives, indulge in a variety of exceptional dining experiences. Tabemasu, the resort’s Japanese restaurant, offers breathtaking views and a relaxed atmosphere, with a Teppanyaki experience that is not to be missed. Waves Café, a hidden gem, focuses on organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, providing a peaceful spot for mindful dining. Inspired by the bustling boulevards of southern Spain, Riviera Tapas & Bar is a beachside playground where infinite ocean vistas are fused with warm Catalonian style. The newly enhanced restaurant brings authentic Spanish-style dining to the shores of Maldives. Riviera Bar, an adults-only haven, boasts stunning sunset views, poolside service, and a lively atmosphere with a DJ on select days.

Latitude, located within Le Méridien Hub, serves as a social spot for coffee, tea, and small bites, transitioning from a relaxed café to an evening apéritif destination. Velaa Bar & Grill, a favourite among guests, offers a laid-back setting with sea views and a diverse menu of international dishes with a Maldivian twist. Finally, Turquoise, the resort’s main restaurant, caters to guests on a half-board package with buffet-style meals and daily changing special dishes based on a theme.

From casual cafés to fine dining, Le Méridien Maldives offers a range of culinary experiences to suit every palate, ensuring a memorable and satisfying stay for all guests. Azzam and his F&B team are there to ensure that every dining experience at Le Méridien Maldives is a memorable experience.


Vakkaru Maldives welcomes Sampath Hewawala as New Head Sommelier



Vakkaru Maldives has announced the appointment of Sampath Widana Hewawala (Sam) as the resort’s new Head Sommelier.

Sam’s appointment promises a new level of unparalleled wine experiences at Vakkaru, where he will oversee the award-winning Vakkaru Reserve wine cellar as well as orchestrate wine programmes across the resort’s six restaurants and bars. Moreover, Sam is set to elevate the team’s expertise through innovative wine educational programs.

With over a decade of experience as Head Sommelier at some of the most prestigious resorts, including One&Only Reethi Rah and Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, Sam is the epitome of excellence in his field. Holding certifications such as WSET Advanced Level 3, Court of Master Sommelier Level 1, and B & G Château Wine Certification, he brings a wealth of knowledge to the resort’s ever-evolving wine culture.

Speaking about his appointment, Sam said, “I am thrilled to join the team at Vakkaru Maldives. My mission is to create a top-tier wine philosophy that aligns with Vakkaru’s distinctive brand identity. With Vakkaru Reserve’s expansive wine portfolio, I believe our collection opens up opportunities for an innovative, immersive and high-class experience that will make Vakkaru stand out in this highly competitive industry.”

Besides hosting a regular wine tasting and wine degustation dinner at Vakkaru Reserve, Sam also introduces a new event, the Sunset Sandbank Wine Tasting, an unforgettable sensory experience in an idyllic setting of the natural sandbank. Just a mere boat ride from the resort, the pure-white sandbank located within Vakkaru’s lagoon will transform into a wine lover’s paradise. Here, Sam will curate a selection of fine wines from the Old and New Worlds, accompanied by an array of delectable cheeses and charcuterie, promising an extraordinary journey of taste and luxury at Vakkaru Maldives.

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Learn from the best at Soneva with rare experiences by Daniil Medvedev and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston



The legendary British sailor and international tennis icon are both set to host exclusive coaching sessions in the Maldives this November

As part of Soneva’s upcoming Winter Collection in the Maldives, tennis icon Daniil Medvedev and renowned British sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston will be visiting Soneva Fushi, the award-winning barefoot luxury resort in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to host a series of exclusive guest experiences.

From November 22 to December 1, 2023, Sonevians of all ages at can take part in one-on-one coaching sessions and friendly matches with Daniil at the resort’s openair or covered Olympic-sized tennis courts. Currently ranked world No. 3, the 27-yearold Russian player and former world No. 1 made history in 2022 by becoming the first player outside of the ‘Big Four’ to claim the top spot in over 18 years. This year alone, Daniil has already won the Rotterdam Open, Qatar Open, Dubai Tennis Championships, Miami Open as well as the Italian Open, which is regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious clay tennis tournaments, and reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon.

To continue this stellar line up, from November 23 to December 1, 2023, guests at Soneva Fushi will also be able to join celebrated British sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to hear thrilling tales from his voyages and take part in one-of-a-kind sailing lessons aboard the luxury 23-metre Soneva in Aqua, exploring the waters of the Indian Ocean like never before. Sir Robin is renowned for taking on the legendary Sunday Times Golden Globe race and becoming the first man to sail non-stop solo around the world by finishing on April 22, 1969, after 312 days at sea. In 1994, he won the Jules Verne trophy, alongside Peter Blake, for the fastest non-stop circumnavigation of the world in just 75 days. Knighted in 1995, he went on to create the Clipper Around the World Yacht Race a year later, offering amateur sailors the chance to experience the thrill of ocean racing. He also became the oldest yachtsman to complete a round-the-world solo voyage in the Velux 5 Oceans at the age of 68.

Sir Robin first sailed onboard Soneva in Aqua in 2017, experiencing Soneva’s signature hospitality combined with the freedom of a private charter first-hand. Setting sail from Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, the luxury two-bedroom yacht is available for bespoke voyages that range from serene day trips to longer, liveaboard adventures complete with an experienced crew that includes a dedicated Barefoot Guardian for 24/7 butler service, a private chef and wellness therapist.

These are just two of the many rare experiences on offer as part of the ever-evolving Soneva Stars calendar, which features culinary pop-ups by Michelin-starred chefs, coaching with sporting legends, wellness journeys by acclaimed therapists, and much more.

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Marriott International names Jan Wagelaar Market Director for Revenue Strategy in the Maldives



Marriott International has announced the appointment of Jan Wagelaar as the Market Director, Revenue Strategy for its portfolio of resorts in the Maldives. With an impressive industry experience spanning over 15 years, Jan’s journey with Marriott International began in 2007 as an Inventory Manager with Marriott’s London hotels. His dedication and exceptional performance led to multiple internal promotions, and in 2014, he moved to Dubai to spearhead revenue strategy and analysis for 9 hotels, showcasing his versatility and expertise.

Most recently, Jan served as the Director of Revenue Strategy for The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore where his strategic acumen helped to consistently deliver outstanding business results across all key performance indicators (KPIs). His accomplishments were recognized with the prestigious APEC Revenue Strategy Leader of the Year for Luxury hotels award, which he won twice in 2018 and 2022.

Jan’s appointment as the Market Director, Revenue Strategy for the Maldives follows the successful tenure of Frank Ehret, who held the position for four years before moving for an internal promotion. Commenting on his appointment, Jan expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “I’m thrilled to begin my new role working along the talented sales, marketing & revenue teams for the Maldives. With seven stunning resorts in the island nation, each with its unique offerings, I am excited to collaborate with the resort teams on revenue strategies to continue driving exceptional results in the Maldives.”

Outside of his professional endeavors, Jan indulges in his passion for travel, exploring new culinary experiences at restaurants and bars. Additionally, he is an avid cyclist and takes an interest in collecting sneakers.

Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of resorts in the Maldives comprises of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa, W Maldives, Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, and The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort each located on their own private island and offering the ultimate dream getaway.  For further information, visit

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