Cluster general manager, Hurawalhi Island Resort & Kudadoo Maldives

Bradley Calder is a Kiwi, mentored by several hospitality professionals as he worked around the world, but none more so than Brian Clivaz, a respected and renowned figure in British hospitality. Brad was into tourism from the get-go and jumped a chance to work in London quickly after finishing studies in Auckland.

His journey has also taken him to a couple of island destinations including Fiji and Bali and he made his mark in the Maldives at Gili Lankanfushi. Brad isn’t too keen on mass tourism but he believes Crown and Champa Resorts (CCR), who owns Hurawalhi and Kudadoo, will survive the ‘onslaught’ of new openings.

Hotel Insider: You studied hospitality management in Auckland, New Zealand and you went to the UK soon after graduation. What led to that big move?

Bradley Calder: Yes, London was where I learnt to apply my trade, so to speak. Because at the time in New Zealand (late 90s-early 2000s), hospitality was still in the early stages. The café culture was just starting to catch on. Prior to that, you’d be limited to big hotels with their restaurants and that was it.

So, I went to London and I stayed there for six years. I worked for a private members’ club called Home House for four of those years. The managing director of that establishment, Mr Brian Clivaz, previously of the Savoy Hotel in London was a very good mentor [note – Clivaz is famous in hospitality circles and is a Fellow at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts]. I learnt so much from him about luxury hospitality and serving discerning clientele. After six years in London, I came back home to spend time with family and spent two years in Auckland with Stamford Hotels & Resorts formerly the Regent Hotel.

Hotel Insider: Another city hotel.

Bradley Calder: Yes. I was working in a city hotel in Auckland and I’d done that in London as well.

After getting married on the tropical island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, I thought ‘why am I working in a city hotel? Resorts are much more fun.’ [laughs]. And people in resorts are generally happier than people in city hotels.

There was a VIP who was staying at my hotel in Auckland and one day, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I wanted to work at his resort in Fiji. So, yeah, I did three years in Fiji, as director of food and beverage at the Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa. Looking for a new challenge I moved to a Hard Rock Hotel in Bali next, and worked first as a director of F&B for a year, then as an executive assistant manager [assistant GM] for four years. The owning company, HPL, decided to transfer me up to the Maldives to work at Gili Lankanfushi and I spent three wonderful years there as resort manager.

Hotel Insider: That’s cool. I’d like to know a bit more about your Fiji experience, though, as the Maldives is sort of similar.

Bradley Calder: I’ve got a saying about going from London to Fiji. In London, people have everything that they want but they’re not always the happiest people. Then you go down to Fiji and they have very little but they are the happiest people day in and day out. But then, coupled with that is their work ethic. It’s not at all like the Maldives.

Hotel Insider: [laughs] What do you mean?

Bradley Calder: [laughs] Well, they’re very friendly but not that efficient. It’s almost like steps on a ladder, you know, from Fiji to Bali to the Maldives. I think here in the Maldives you have some of the most service focussed staff that you could desire for a destination. And generally, most resorts in the Maldives get excellent comments [on review platforms] and that’s all down to the Maldivian people. They’re very dedicated and proud of their hospitality product. They really want to make sure that guests have a good time. These are good attributes, especially if your main business is hospitality. Maldivians are very hospitable people. I mean, for me, I’m a director. I can say ‘walk this way’ but if people don’t understand the vision to follow, then I’m just a guy taking a walk, you know? [laughs]. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed in the Maldives and I’ve been here six years.

Hotel Insider: You scooped up quite a few titles at Gili Lankanfushi.

Bradley Calder: Yes, we were number one in the world [TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards 2014] and number 2 Luxury Hotel in the world [TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards 2015].

Hotel Insider: And then you came here to Hurawalhi. This is your first GM position isn’t it?

Bradley Calder: Yes, and I took on the Kudadoo project as well and did its pre-opening. And now I’m GM of Hurawalhi and Kudadoo, which doesn’t leave much time for diving [laughs].

Hotel Insider: Kudadoo is fifteen rooms and extremely private.

Bradley Calder: Yes, fifteen rooms. And it’s the first ultra-all-inclusive in the world really. Everything is included from unlimited spa treatments, six different champagnes, private diving, private excursions. No one’s doing an all-inclusive of that calibre. And it’s proving a really popular concept – you pay just once and that’s it. You’re on holiday and you don’t have to think about anything else. I saw this opportunity in the market in the Maldives. Some properties are guilty of price-gouging people for extras. But that’ll all going to change in the coming years, now that mass market tourism is coming with all these big chains. And they’re probably prepared to operate on a lower rate and still be profitable. So, yeah, you’ll find a new rate equilibrium in the Maldives over the next one to three years. Which is a bit of a shame, really, because I personally believe the Maldives would have benefitted more by presenting itself as a luxury destination.

Hotel Insider: Yeah, but these new properties are still going to be four-star or three-star properties at the very least, aren’t they?

Bradley Calder: Yes, and speaking of three-star, CCR [Crown & Champa Resorts] just opened its three-star property as well – Innahura. So, we’ve got a good portfolio of properties ranging from three to six stars. CCR really delivers on the value proposition in each of the segments and all of them are all-inclusive. CCR has done a lot of great things in the market and I think they will survive the onslaught of new properties.

Hotel Insider: What are your thoughts on that? The onslaught, I mean.

Bradley Calder: The Maldives has a one-island one-resort concept. So, you’re never going to get built up, which is a good thing. But there’s logistics. There are seaplanes, domestic planes, boat transfers, and of course, the international airport. If they can keep up with the pace of development then it will all be OK. But ultimately we need to keep finding new source markets and we need to invest significantly in destination marketing to keep all the resorts filled.

Hotel Insider: So, what’s it like being in Lhaviyani Atoll? It’s far enough from Male to be outside the kind of frenzied activity in the atolls nearby.

Bradley Calder: I like being up here, it’s very peaceful. There’s a limited number of resorts just on the perimeter, and very spread out. The sea life is incredible, we had about five whale shark sightings around our resort last year. And we were joking that they’re leaving Baa [Atoll] because it’s too busy [laughs].

Hotel Insider: [laughs] And it’s really chilled out here, plus you do great food.

Bradley Calder: Yes, we’re very food focussed. You can see it in the range on offer from fine dining at our 5.8 Undersea Restaurant to an ever changing buffet with its own plant based offering to exciting Asian Street food and our new concept J.F.K. (Junk Food Kitchen) which offers gourmet junk food for meat eaters and vegans.

I also think that Maldives has the sophistication of service and cuisine which sets us apart. It’s a European sophistication because hospitality in the Maldives has been catering to Europeans for most of its life. So, we’re very different from the islands in the South Pacific or the Caribbean, say. People who come from America can’t believe it, and people from South Pacific and Asia are just as impressed.

Hotel Insider: Thank you Brad, it was great chatting with you.