Hotel Insider visits a classic Maldivian property, Embudu Village in South Male Atoll, to have a chat with Ramsay Perera, Group General Manager, KAIMOO Resorts and Hotels. In hospitality since the late 80s, Ramsay was recently recognised by MATATO. We talk about his award, and move on to the shifting hospitality landscape, how a resort like Embudu survives in an ecosystem with major international brands and more in this edition of Conversation.

Hotel Insider: Let’s start off with the award you received from MATATO recently. It’s well deserved – you’ve been in the industry for so long.

Ramsay Perera: Yes, I have to admit it’s a great honour for me. I’ve worked for 32 years in the Maldives and I’m very proud to have my contributions to the hospitality industry recognised by MATATO.

Hotel Insider: What do you think are your biggest contributions?

Ramsay Perera: Well, in my tenure with KAIMOO I’ve helped them grow from a company with one resort to one with three resorts and two city hotels in Male. Our properties are highly rated on review platforms and I believe I’ve helped maintain a standard of excellence. Also, we have some longstanding staff with us who’ve grown with the company while others have learned from their time with us and gone on to do great work elsewhere.

Hotel Insider: What sort of guests were you getting when you started out? Has the guest demographic changed much since?

Ramsay Perera: I joined KAIMOO in 1987 and tourism was very different then, we didn’t have international brands, everything was local. At the time, fisheries was the main industry here. Things have changed greatly since but our guest demographics haven’t been affected much. We used to get mostly European guests – German, Swiss, French, British, and we still do. And we have a lot of senior repeat guests, as you can see when you look around.

And they keep coming back because this [Embudu Village] is a place where you get a quintessentially Maldivian experience. By that I mean you have a beautiful beach, lush tropical vegetation, a great house reef. And of course, it’s a barefoot island. So, it ticks all those boxes.

Hotel Insider: That’s great. What sort of comments do you get from your regulars?

Ramsay Perera: They really love the island, the food and the service. They feel at home here. That’s very important, making them feel welcome and at home.

Hotel Insider: Yeah, you can be a three-star property and deliver a five-star service and that’s what guests will remember. And when you look at reviews, Embudu has scored very well on service.

Ramsay Perera: Of course, that’s at the core of everything we do here. Maldivians, I find, are naturally hospitable people. And that has helped take our industry to the top tier.

Hotel Insider: We wanted to ask you what the impact of big hospitality brands are on your business. Have they affected your market share?

Ramsay Perera: We’ve been in the business for a long time so we have excellent relationships with our tour operators and customers in Europe. Our market share hasn’t been affected – we have enjoyed very high occupancy in peak months. We are marketing ourselves more now with social media and digital marketing tools. But also, I think there’s good word-of-mouth marketing happening in our main markets. A lot of our guests go back home and share their experiences with their friends and family. We offer something that big-name brands don’t – a very simple yet uniquely Maldivian experience that’s very reasonably priced.

Hotel Insider: Yes. We notice you’ve freshened up certain areas like the restaurant and coffee bar. Are more renovations on the way?

Ramsay Perera: Not in the immediate future but we’ll not be letting go of the island’s essence when we do. That’s something our guests say to us as well – even if we renovate, don’t go five star [laughs]. Keep the natural, relaxed feel of the island.

Hotel Insider: The Maldives is becoming more popular with Asians now, India is one of our biggest markets. Are you seeing this shift here?

Ramsay Perera: Yes, recently we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from Asian operators, especially from India. Our guest demographics haven’t changed much as you can see but we’re seeing interest from South and South East Asian markets. We have some repeat guests who are from India actually.

And with them, too, it’s very much based on word of mouth. We look after everyone in the same way, regardless of nationality and that pays off in the end. It means happy guests who are likely to refer us to their friends and come again.

Hotel Insider: We suppose you won’t have to invest much in marketing like other newer properties who bring in social media influencers and bloggers.

Ramsay Perera: Yes, we are already very established so we don’t need to be that aggressive in our marketing. Although, of course, we do have social media and digital marketing specialists.

Our older guests aren’t very social media savvy but we’re attracting a younger client-base that’s very much into technology and social media. We’re rated highly on Holidaycheck [Germany-based review and booking site] and TripAdvisor and performing well on these platforms is very important to us now.

Hotel Insider: So, all in all, you’re in a very comfortable position.

Ramsay Perera: Yes, but we mustn’t get too comfortable [laughs]. We are very lucky because Embudu Village is a wonderful island, nature has blessed it abundantly. And we are not even half an hour from Velana International Airport.

Hotel Insider: Yes, that’s a huge plus. Anything you’d like to add?

Ramsay Perera: Yes, we are very lucky to be in one of the world’s top tourism destinations. And I want people in hospitality to know that it’s an excellent career path and they can grow a lot if they persevere. They must always be honest, treat all guests equally, be punctual and always serve with a smile because a smile doesn’t cost you anything. They have to remember that for a lot of guests, it’s a once in a lifetime dream to visit the Maldives so there’s a huge responsibility to make that dream as beautiful as possible.

Hotel Insider: Thank you, Ramsay. It was great chatting with you.