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Laurens Kritzinger, a Different Kind of Hotelier



Maldives Promotion House – “I’m South African,” he said to me. Of course he was South African, not that you would know from seeing him. It wasn’t those first words, but the strength and the conviction the words carried that sparked my curiosity. This was a man who had spent his life doing exactly what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it.

Mr. Laurens Kritzinger, grew up in a small farming community in South Africa. He now holds the remarkable position of Hotel Manager for W Retreat & Spa Maldives. But there was something different about this particular Hotel Manager. Something that you notice when you first meet him, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. So I listened, intently, to his story, determined to figure out what made him different.

Laurens studied from Central University of Technology, in Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. “I studied business management, which is almost like a general business degree ranging from financial accounting to mercantile law to economics to administrative management to general management,” he said.

He also told me how he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life. Laurens knew that he wanted to go into management. “When I was studying, I was also working in a restaurant as a part time job, and that is where my interest in the hospitality industry started. It comes partly from studying business management and partly from being a casual waiter working on the weekends.”

Almost 15 years has passed since then. Laurens has been working full time in the hotel industry for about 12 years. Once he finished his studies, he was offered an opportunity to go straight into hospitality and tourism.

Mr. Kritzinger’s background is also unique and very different from the average hotelier. He brings with him a more adventurous background. One that is filled with the thrill of following your dreams despite not knowing for certain what the future holds.

“It was during the end of 2000, right after I had finished my studies. Someone called me and said to me that they need an Assistant Front Office Manager for a game lodge. They told me that I had the right qualifications,” he said.

So, like a man on a path to find meaning in life, Laurens drove 7 hours to the game lodge, met the front office manager the Human Resources team and the General Manager. He had gotten there at 10 in the morning and by 2 in the afternoon he had started working.

“That was my first company, and it was a fairly big company in South Africa. They had 40 or 50 of these places. I worked my way up to become the manager in one of the properties in Kruger National Park for a couple of years. Then I went on to Botswana. I spent about seven years in the safari industry,”

From there Laurens followed another opportunity and went back to South Africa. He became the General Manager of a small country estate. But Laurens, who had gotten accustomed to being thrilled by nature and excitement, deeply disliked it. Simply because it was too normal. “I like nature. So for me I prefer to go into areas that are a bit more rural, a bit more natural and a bit less populated,” he says.

Luckily after a few months he found himself in East Africa. He became the director of a beach resort, located on the northern tip of the remote island of Pemba, Zanzibar. “Zanzibar is pretty similar to Maldives. Even the culture is similar but the islands are bigger. I thought to myself ‘sharks, lions, it’s pretty much the same thing, right’. That was going to be for a year or two but that became a couple of years,” he explained.

“Zanzibar is much bigger and has two main islands. One is Zanzibar the other is Pemba, which is like a forgotten island 60 km long and has a population of 300,000 people. I think the similarity to Maldives comes from the close proximity to the same trade routes and the geographical location. They are also a 98 percent Muslim community and it’s almost the same climate with two seasons,” he said.

From East Africa Laurens began to wonder about his next destination. The traveller’s urge in him kicked in, and all of a sudden Maldives just made sense. “I’ve worked in these safari places where it’s quiet funky and a bit retro. I wanted to find something similar in a bigger scale and then I thought the W Brand is where I can be myself,” he said.

He wanted a more permanent future. But he was more than just a Hotel Manager. What made him complete and whole, was ability to be himself. And that mix of intellectual honesty, talent and willingness to be better was perfect for the W Brand. Laurens had also been fascinated by the W Brand, and had been eyeing them for a while.

“At W I can be a slightly unorthodox manager and still have a long term future, so I found out about the vacancy with W and with my experience it was a perfect fit. By then I had really wanted to work for W. I had followed their growth for many years. It’s been more than year and a half since I came to Maldives,” he said.

What Laurens dislike about most hotels is the typical approach to luxury. Hotels that were just the same everywhere frustrated him. For him, there has to be some creativity, some flexibility in bringing out something special. He believes that the hotel must be built around what the guests want. “Each guest must have an individual experience. We try very hard here at W to give the guests something that would surprise them,” he said.

“There is something that we don’t talk about W. But also something that is very important. It’s the natural beauty of the island, and the excellent house reef that surrounds W. We also have a separate private island, where you can spend a night.”

Thrilled and excited Laurens prepared for his arrival in Maldives. But nothing in his old life had prepared him to see this property. It was also the first time he had taken a sea plane. “If you talk about the actual geography of Maldives it’s when you land here the first time that blows your mind. You research, trying to get a feel of what it’ll be like, and when you land you actually realise that Malé and the airport are actually two different islands. Then you begin to figure out how small the land mass is. This was a place where you see more beauty snorkelling, than you seen anywhere else while diving. Maldives is a whole different level of tropical bliss. So it’s a very different experience for me,” he noted.

What mesmerised Laurens more than the geography of the Maldives, were its people. He describes Maldivians as impressive. “Maldivians are well educated proud people and good people. I think people might be a little bit shy at first. But it’s nice to know that most people you meet are actually interesting people, who you can have an intelligent discussion with. These are people who know what’s going on around the world. They are well read and well learnt,” Laurens says.

“I remember the trip around the island when I first came here. I just remember the guy that showed me around the island, I felt that these people were so full of energy. The people, or as we call it the talents are so friendly and made me feel so welcome. They respect you for the bit of knowledge and experience you have.”

Unlike most foreigners working in Maldivian resorts, Laurens explains that he rarely gets bored. “I can understand why people say that they get bored after a while. But I like to be outside a lot, and I’m very active, and that is probably why I don’t get bored,” he said.

Laurens is also an active sportsman. He likes excitement and exercise. During the end of March he went back to South Africa and ran a half marathon, a 21 km run. He explained that the training for that took a lot of his time. Very often he trains twice a day, and during mornings and afternoons he spends his time running or swimming.

“Now I’m going to start training for a triathlon which is running, swimming and cycling, which I will probably try and do in October. I just started to do windsurfing, it’s cool but it’s difficult. The first day it seems so easy, but when it gets windy you realise how difficult it actually is,” he said.

For Laurens his experience of a place is defined not by work, but by what he does in his spare time. The fulfilment of his hearts desires, replaces his boredom. The need to live in the moment drives him. “I feel that where ever I am, six days a week I would be busy working. So my day off is what makes a difference for me, between working here or anywhere else,” he said.

In the end, Laurens becomes special because he doesn’t need to be told what to think, what to believe and what to do. He is a man who looks for the best in people. He is also a man who is truly certain of himself. He lives in the moment and strives to make the best of life. He borrows from conventional wisdom, yet builds his own path. As he puts it, “everything in life is temporary, so I feel that while I’m here I might make the best of the facilities and possibilities here.”

An Insider

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.

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An Insider

Hamzath Ameen: Elevating human resources



In the fast-paced and thriving hospitality industry of the Maldives, where exceptional service and guest satisfaction are paramount, there are individuals who stand out for their dedication, expertise, and leadership qualities. Hamzath Ameen is making his mark as a proficient human resources professional in island resorts of the Maldives. With an impressive career trajectory and a passion for excellence, Hamzath has become a respected figure in the industry.

Hamzath Ameen was born and raised in Addu Atoll, a region known for its stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture. Following his schooling, he pursued his higher education at Cyryx College in Male’, where he successfully completed an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for his future career in the dynamic world of hospitality.

Hamzath embarked on his professional journey at Dhonveli Beach Resort, where he assumed the role of Accounts Officer. This initial foray into the hospitality industry allowed him to gain valuable insights into the financial aspects of resort operations and the importance of maintaining accurate records and efficient systems.

Eager to expand his horizons and broaden his skill set, Hamzath sought opportunities at various reputable companies and resorts throughout the Maldives. His determination and exceptional work ethic caught the attention of industry professionals, leading to his appointment as the Human Resources Officer at Furaveri Island Resort. Recognizing his potential, Ameen quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager, and subsequently, Human Resources Manager.

During his tenure at Furaveri Island Resort, Hamzath made significant contributions to the establishment’s human resources department. He spearheaded various initiatives to enhance employee engagement, streamline recruitment processes, and foster a positive work culture. Under his leadership, the resort witnessed an increase in employee satisfaction and a notable reduction in turnover rates, solidifying Hamzath’s reputation as a skilled people manager.

In 2022, Hamzath accepted an exciting new opportunity and joined Rihiveli Maldives Resort as the Human Resources Manager. With his wealth of experience and proven track record, he assumed a pivotal role in overseeing the resort’s human resources functions, including recruitment, training and development, performance management, and employee relations. Hamzath’s strategic approach and ability to build strong relationships with staff and management alike have made him an invaluable asset to the resort.

Hamzath Ameen’s journey from an Accounts Officer to a respected Human Resources Manager exemplifies his commitment to personal growth and professional excellence. Through his hard work, dedication, and leadership abilities, he has successfully carved a niche for himself in the competitive Maldivian hospitality industry. Hamzath’s passion for nurturing talent, fostering positive work environments, and delivering exceptional guest experiences continues to make a lasting impact on the resorts he has served.

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An Insider

Chef Mohamed Niyaz on celebrating authentic Maldivian flavours



Introducing the culinary genius who brings alive Kaagé specialty restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere

Chef Mohamed Niyaz is the Maldivian Chef who has breathed life into VARU By Atmosphere’s signature restaurant – Kaagé. In this interview, he speaks about his love for local cuisine and his inspiration. He also shares words of wisdom for budding chefs in the Maldives.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Ha. Dhihdhoo, in the Haa Alif Atoll, Maldives.

When did you first fall in love with cooking? Even when I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom. I was so intrigued by her amazing cooking skills and how she would prepare all sorts of delicious dishes. I would eagerly watch and learn from her every time she cooked. That’s what inspired me to become a chef myself.

What motivates you? Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a deep passion for both art and cooking. My mother, who is incredibly creative, would whip up imaginative meals. I would often tell her that one day, when I grew up, I would become a chef and cook a special meal just for her. I’m proud to say that I’ve fulfilled that dream.

Tell us a little bit about your journey in the hospitality industry. In 2002, I had the chance to embark on my journey in the tourism industry when I began working as a Commis at Hulhule Island Hotel. Over 16 years, I climbed the ranks and eventually held the position of Chef De Partie at the same hotel. Then, in 2019, an exciting opportunity came my way as I joined VARU by Atmosphere as a Sous Chef. Currently, I am honoured to be working as a Maldivian Chef at the renowned Kaagé restaurant, which is the first of its kind in Atmosphere Core.

What are some of your achievements and awards? Throughout my 20-year career, I have had the privilege of receiving nominations and winning various awards in different competitions and ceremonies. The most recent and special achievement was when I was honoured with the CGM Chefs Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2022. The year 2016 proved to be another successful year, I achieved remarkable accomplishments in international competitions. Securing second place in the Team Challenge and first place in the Foreign Team Challenge at the Chinese Foreign Hotel’s cooking competition, CCTV ‘The Greatest Chefs.’ In addition, I have been participating in the Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge from 2012 to 2022 and have received 12 gold, silver, and bronze awards over the years.

Can you describe Kaagé restaurant for us? Kaagé is the signature Maldivian restaurant at VARU By Atmosphere.  The restaurant is designed as a traditional Maldivian house adorned by heritage photographs and video storytelling. Guests can relish local flavours presented with a progressive twist. We use traditional home cooking methods to ensure the food is fresh, aromatic, and flavourful.

As a chef, what are your preferred local ingredients? Coconut, pandan leaves, Maldivian chilli, and curry leaves hold a special place in my culinary repertoire.

Which dish would you highly recommend to all guests at Kaage? There are a variety of local dishes on our menu. I would recommend guests try Gulha, a deep-fried pastry ball filled with smoked tuna or vegetables and flavoured with finely chopped onion, grated coconut, and chilli. And Kandu Kukhulu, our renowned Maldivian tuna curry, stands out as the most exceptional and beloved dish. It is one of our signature specialties and the rich flavours are sure to leave a lasting impression on our valued guests.

What are your plans for the future? At present, Maldivian cuisine is exclusively available in restaurants within our nation. My aspiration is to present Maldivian specialty cuisine on a global scale.

What guidance would you offer aspiring Maldivian chefs? To the younger generation, I would like to emphasize that Maldivian Cuisine is truly distinctive, and with unwavering dedication and perseverance, you can achieve remarkable heights. In line with a Maldivian saying, “Fass enburi nubala abadhuves hih varaa eku kuriyah dhaan masahkaeh kuraashey, ehves masahkathaky hadi masahkatheh nooney” (loosely translated as, always strive to move forward with courage, without dwelling on the past, as no task is ever considered insignificant).

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