We had a chat with a Maldivian GM, Ibrahim Nahid, who helms one of the oldest and biggest names in Maldives hospitality: Paradise Island Resort. We talk about Paradise’s rebranding briefly, then touch upon Nahid’s career.
He explains what is meant by ‘the right attitude’ that is sought in candidates wishing to work in tourism, and we go over what it was like to be an operating resort during the calamity that was COVID-19.
Hotel Insider: We hear that Paradise Island Resort is being rebranded, could you tell us about it a bit?
Ibrahim Nahid: We’ve been operating for almost 28 years, and we felt it was time to make some changes and capitalise on our potential. We are making some big changes that we hope will have a positive impact on all stakeholders including our staff, guests, and owners.
We are working with respected consultants who are helping us navigate this transitional period. Our infrastructure is changing to be in line with a new concept. We are upgrading service standards and our offerings in F&B as well. I don’t wish to elaborate further as this is still an ongoing process, but I believe we are on a path to greater success.
Hotel Insider: You’ve had an interesting career with periods abroad working with Six Senses in Thailand and Oman. Can we talk about that?
Ibrahim Nahid: I started out in Paradise back in 1996 and switched to Royal Island in 2001 as part of the pre-opening. As you can imagine, pre-openings are an entirely different ballgame to running an already-operating hotel.
Also, the tourism landscape was very different – there were only a couple of international brands. And after five years at Royal Island, I wanted to know how the big brands managed their hotels. So, I signed up with Six Senses who were running Soneva Gili at the time. I was fortunate to join in their management team.
My time with Six Senses was very rewarding as I had exposure in different countries. I was posted to be part of a pre-opening again at Six Senses Koh Yao Noi in Thailand, and then I worked with Soneva Kiri, also in Thailand. Later in 2008, I was posted at a Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman for a pre-opening – it was a beautiful hotel with stunning Arabic architecture. Once the hotel was receiving guests, I returned to the Maldives and continued my career in hospitality, enriching my experience through working with other well-known brands.
Hotel Insider: How would you contrast the hospitality of Thailand, Oman, and ours?
Ibrahim Nahid: I think Thai hospitality is very warm and genuine, it’s there in the people. It’s kind of similar to ours – we have the DNA of our ancestors who welcomed travelling people into their own homes like family. It’s a bit different in the Middle East I feel, a bit more commercial and business-like.
We have standards and best practices in place in all hotels. But you have to think outside the box and tailor your services to individual guests, that’s true hospitality. And this requires familiarity with other cultures and the right mindset or attitude.
Hotel Insider: Could you tell us what the right mindset is?
Ibrahim Nahid: Quite simply, you must find pleasure in serving someone else. I think that’s something inborn in us. I don’t think that it can be taught, and when we select people for our team, that’s the single most important trait we look for.
I’m very proud to lead staff and a Maldivian management who are very dedicated, ambitious and focussed on delivering an excellent service. You don’t have to be a well-known international brand to do this, and it is how you win over guests.
So, I take the well-being of my staff very seriously, because their interactions with guests determine our performance on [review] platforms. My staff must be taken care of very well.
Hotel Insider: We also thought you could tell us about what it was like to operate a hotel during the pandemic.
Ibrahim Nahid: The pandemic hit us while I was at Holiday Island. It was decided that our island would become a quarantine facility so we had to evacuate guests quickly. I received instructions at 10am and by 3:30pm, there were no more guests at the resort. We moved most to Sun Island and sent the remaining to Royal Island and Paradise Island.
It was a huge shock – the team was almost in a panic, fearing for their lives. For us, based on the information we had, it was a killer disease. But we stepped up, and we welcomed those who were to quarantine with us like guests.
The day after I took over management of Paradise Island in May 2021, half of our staff were in isolation and so we had just half the staff doing the entire team’s work. Every one of the team was multitasking. So, 18-hour days were the norm and it was gruelling. But we knew it wouldn’t go on forever and we took it day by day. All in all, the pandemic taught us the importance of humility.
Hotel Insider: What do you foresee for the future of our hospitality industry?
Ibrahim Nahid: I feel we need to become more environmentally conscious and safeguard our islands. For instance, here at Paradise we are incorporating renewables into our energy production with solar PV systems producing 1.2 megawatts per day. Plus, we are also working on coral restoration. We’re pleased to be Green Key and Well Health certified.
I also think more locals need to join the industry – we are ready to train and mentor them on their journey to success. I have been in this industry for decades now, and so have my counterparts, and we want to hand over the baton to a new generation.
I would also like to say that parents should stop worrying about their children working in hospitality now. It’s a very safe and rewarding industry today, especially for young women, and resorts have in place stringent measures to safeguard their female colleagues.
Hotel Insider: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ibrahim Nahid: We are working with schools to familiarise young people with hospitality through our educational programmes. We feel this is needed to build capacity and also to change public perception about our industry.
Hotel Insider: Thank you, Nahid.