GM Mohamed Ashraf on developing next generation of Maldivian hoteliers

Mohamed Ashraf is the General Manager of Jumeriah Maldives Olhahali Island. With over 20 years of experience in the Maldives tourism industry, Ashraf has witnessed firsthand the evolution of the Maldives leisure travel sector. Hoteliers Maldives sat down with Ashraf to discuss how the next generation of hoteliers can prepare themselves to support the rapidly expanding industry.

Hotelier Maldives: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and career?

Mohamed Ashraf: As the General Manager of Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island, I bring over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of working with esteemed luxury hotel groups such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, One&Only Resorts and Minor Hotels. Most recently, I served as the General Manager for The Nautilus Maldives. These diverse experiences have provided me with a deep understanding of the industry’s challenges and opportunities, fuelling my passion for creating exceptional guest experiences that exceed expectations.

HM: Over the course of your career, what changes have you witnessed in the Maldives’ hospitality industry?

MA: The Maldives’ hospitality industry has undergone notable transformations. We have witnessed a significant diversification of resort options, catering to different guest preferences and interests. There is also a growing emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices, aligning with global environmental concerns. Another prominent shift is the focus on delivering bespoke, personalized guest experiences, tailoring every aspect of their stay to create unforgettable memories. Furthermore, there is a pressing need to nurture and develop the next generation of hoteliers, setting new benchmarks and pushing the boundaries of excellence in the industry. Adaptability and keeping pace with the rapidly evolving market are essential in this fast-paced environment.

HM: What do you think are the most important skills for the next generation of hoteliers to develop?

MA: Attitude and a steadfast commitment to our roots are crucial. Maldivian hospitality is built on a foundation of warmth, sincerity, and genuine care for our guests. The next generation of hoteliers should embrace these values while continuously learning and maintaining a growth mindset. Adaptability, creativity, and a passion for excellence are also essential attributes in delivering exceptional guest experiences.

HM: From your experience, what departments offer the most opportunities for growth and development?

MA: The hospitality industry offers endless opportunities for aspiring hoteliers to build remarkable careers across various specialised disciplines. Whether it’s front office operations, culinary arts, guest relations, sales and marketing, or sustainability, every department presents its unique growth avenues. It’s important for individuals to explore their passions and develop expertise in their chosen fields to unlock the full potential of their careers.

HM: With over 150 resorts in the development pipeline, how can the local workforce prepare themselves to be competitive for employment opportunities?

MA: To be competitive in the rapidly expanding hospitality industry of the Maldives, young Maldivians should focus on developing their skills through a combination of educational and practical training opportunities. This can include internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training programs that provide hands-on experience and exposure to industry best practices. They should also be open to exploring new avenues of learning and continuously expanding their knowledge to stay ahead in the competitive job market. At Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island, we prioritize investing in the growth and development of local talent. Through our partnership with the Maldives National University (MNU), our internship programmes are designed to equip aspiring hoteliers with the skills and experience needed to succeed in the industry. By providing hands-on training and exposure to industry best practices, we prepare our interns to compete for employment opportunities within the Maldives and beyond.

HM: What educational and practical development opportunities exist in the Maldives? What type of programs need to be implemented to meet the labor demand?

MA: The Maldives already offers a range of educational and practical development opportunities in the hospitality field. However, to meet the evolving demands of the industry, there is a need for more specialized and targeted programs. These can include courses in sustainable tourism management, advanced culinary arts, digital marketing, and other emerging areas. Implementing such programs will ensure that the local workforce is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their respective roles and meet the labour demand.

HM: What challenges do you think the next generation of hoteliers will face?

MA: The next generation of hoteliers will face various challenges, including adapting to rapid technological advancements that shape business operations and guest expectations. They will also encounter increasing competition from other destinations striving to offer luxury experiences. To maintain the Maldives’ position as a top-tier luxury destination, it is crucial to continually innovate, enhance guest experiences, and foster sustainability in all aspects of the industry.

HM: Do you have any final advice for aspiring hoteliers?

MA: My advice to aspiring hoteliers is to fearlessly take the first step and maintain integrity throughout their journey. The hospitality industry is ultimately about people and building meaningful connections. Embrace every opportunity to learn, grow, and make a positive impact on guests’ lives. By nurturing a genuine passion for hospitality and continuously striving for excellence, aspiring hoteliers can create remarkable careers that bring joy and fulfilment to themselves and their guests.

Olivia Persson
Olivia Persson is an Editor at Hotelier Maldives. The Swedish American writer moved to Maldives in 2020 and has written about the beautiful destination since.