Nestled in the heart of the Maldives, JOALI Maldives is a luxury resort that has captured the hearts of travellers from around the world. At the helm of this enchanting paradise is Shifaz Hassan, the Resort Manager, whose passion for hospitality and dedication to nurturing local talent has made him a force to be reckoned with in the industry. In this exclusive interview, we delve into Shifaz’s career, his motivations, and his vision for the future of Maldivian tourism.
Shifaz’s journey in the hospitality industry began in 2007, when he joined the Four Seasons Resorts at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru as an Airport Representative. Over the years, he has held various positions at prestigious resorts such as One&Only Reethi Rah and Gili Lankanfushi Maldives and eventually, JOALI Maldives. His impressive career trajectory is a testament to his unwavering commitment to excellence and his ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the tourism industry.
When asked about what motivates him, Shifaz shared, “I have always been passionate about creating unforgettable experiences for our guests. The Maldives is not just our home, but a unique destination, and I believe that our hospitality should reflect the beauty and warmth of our islands. My motivation comes from seeing the smiles on our guests’ faces and knowing that we have made their stay truly special.”
As the Resort Manager at JOALI Maldives, Shifaz’s focus is on leading his team to deliver exceptional service and create lasting memories for their guests. “At JOALI, we believe in the power of collaboration and communication. I am fortunate to work with a team of talented individuals who share my passion for hospitality. We call our butlers Jaadhoogar or magician, which literally means a magician. And so, we create magic for our guests. Together, we strive to exceed our guests’ expectations and make their stay at JOALI an unforgettable experience,” he said.
One of Shifaz’s key priorities is the development of local talent for jobs in the industry. He is a firm believer in the potential of young Maldivians and is committed to providing them with opportunities to grow and excel in the tourism and hospitality sector. “The Maldives has a wealth of talent, and it is our responsibility as local industry leaders to nurture and develop this talent. At JOALI, we invest in the growth of our team members through training and mentorship, ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge to succeed in their careers,” Shifaz explained. “I believe that education and mentorship are crucial in shaping the future leaders of our industry. By sharing my experiences and insights, I hope to inspire young Maldivians to pursue their dreams and contribute to the growth and development of our tourism sector.”
His message to young Maldivians who wish to pursue a career in tourism and hospitality is one of encouragement and inspiration. “The tourism industry offers a world of opportunities for growth and personal development. If you are passionate about hospitality and willing to work hard, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Believe in yourself, and never stop learning,” Shifaz advised.
In a rapidly evolving industry, Shifaz’s adaptability and forward-thinking approach have been instrumental in his success. “The tourism landscape is constantly changing, and it is important for us to stay ahead of the curve. We must be willing to embrace new trends and adapt our strategies to meet the needs of our guests and the market,” he said.
Innovation and creativity are at the heart of Shifaz’s approach to hospitality management. He believes that by fostering a culture of experimentation and open-mindedness, JOALI Maldives can continue to push the boundaries of luxury and offer guests an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind. “In the competitive world of luxury hospitality, it is essential to stay ahead of the curve and constantly explore new ideas. At JOALI, we encourage our team members to think outside the box and challenge the status quo, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of the industry,” Shifaz said.
One example of this innovative spirit is the resort’s unique art-immersive concept, which showcases the work of local and international artists throughout the property. This creative approach not only adds a distinctive touch to the guest experience but also supports the global art community. “Art is an integral part of the JOALI experience. By collaborating with talented artists from the Maldives and around the world, we are able to create a dynamic and inspiring environment that resonates with our guests and sets us apart from other luxury resorts,” Shifaz shared.
As Shifaz looks to the future, his vision for JOALI Maldives is one of continued growth and evolution, with a focus on maintaining the highest standards of excellence and sustainability. “Our goal is to build a legacy that reflects our commitment to luxury, innovation, and responsible tourism. We will continue to invest in our team, our facilities, and our community, ensuring that JOALI Maldives remains a beacon of excellence in the Maldivian tourism industry,” he said.
To achieve this vision, Shifaz emphasises the importance of collaboration and teamwork. “Success in the hospitality industry is a collective effort. By working together and supporting one another, we can overcome challenges and achieve our goals. I am incredibly proud of the team at JOALI Maldives and am confident that, together, we will continue to set new benchmarks for luxury hospitality in the Maldives and beyond,” he shared.
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.
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.
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 www.MarriottBonvoy.com/Maldives
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