The GM’s View: Lyle Lewis
Lyle Lewis hails from Australia and has been the general manager of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island since April last year. With over 30 years of experience, Lewis is a welcome addition to the hotel group, and is well poised to continue delivering the level of excellence the brand is renowned for.
How does your experience in other properties come into play here?
The benefit of working in a range of countries and cultures, makes you a lot more perceptive to cultural sensitivities which enables you to be more understanding and embracing of them. When I look at my previous experience, which spans from India to Tahiti and everything in between; there’s a myriad of cultures that I have come into contact with. One gets to quickly learn about adapting to the nuances as one moves from one culture to another. So the experience I have gained has made it a relatively easy transition to the Maldives. It is however my first Islamic country, so I have had to quickly learn to adapt to certain behaviours.
Were there any challenges to you settling here?
Apart from that there have been no real challenges; the Maldives is an inspiring environment. Further to that I believe I have the benefit of having the best hotel team in the country. I will say that unashamedly. I am fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive team who were pivotal in helping me settle in.
How receptive are you to change and innovation?
Change and innovation are pivotal, if you do not innovate you become stagnant, it has to be constant in every business. If you don’t continue to innovate and change, you end up doing the same thing you did yesterday, and soon your competitors will have passed you. In order to remain competitive, particularly in an environment such as the Maldives where you have so many beautiful products to compete against, and more products coming into the market, you have to be able to be creative; you have to constantly create points of difference that will evolve the product.
The luxury hotel market is very competitive here, so you have to put a lot of effort not to be overlooked.
There is a guest expectation when they arrive on island that their expectations are exceeded over and above what they have seen in print and online. We are fortunate to be part of one of the largest global hotel companies where we also have access to the renowned ‘Hilton Hhonors’ frequent guest programme. We have a significant number of Hilton Hhonors members visiting us from all corners of the world who stay with Hilton around the globe; this is a key strength we are able to harness. We are also fortunate to have owners who conceive unique concepts which constantly gives us something new to talk about.
It’s a very large property. Does it take a lot to ensure that things run smoothly? What challenges do you encounter?
Yes, I’m an Australian, and in Australia they have a saying: “It’s like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When you get to the other end, you have to start again”. And that’s what it’s like on this island: you get to one end and then you start again. You never stop, because when you’re in this environment, which can be harsh, you have to invest in the maintenance of the product. The product can wear very easily, and become tired.
How would you describe your management philosophy?
It’s like this. Unless you’re strategic, and have a strategy that is clearly identified and can easily be adopted by your management team and the team members, then the business is not going to expand very fast. The first thing is to have a strategic plan that is made known and supported by your team, in order for it to work, you have to be highly collaborative with particularly your management team, but also your team members. For example we have coffee exchanges and meetings with our line staff, fifteen people every month. We also meet with the management team who act as a consultative committee. So whenever we’re confronted with a major decision that affects the welfare and the work of our team members, we always run it by the consultative committee first and gain their input first, as opposed to saying “here it is”. So it needs to be highly collaborative. You must also be focussed and never lose sight of your key objectives. I believe that these three items, strategy, collaboration, and focus, are the key to success in order to compete in this environment.
What advice do you have for people who aspire to have a career in hospitality?
The only advice I have to give, and it’s the most basic advice of all, is that unless you have a genuine desire to be able to be of service to people, you will not have what it takes to make it in this business. Within the hospitality sector you can have an enormously rewarding career, it is one that can take you around the world, and it doesn’t restrict you to one part of the world. So if you have aspirations to experience the world and the global community, hospitality is one of the few industries that can give you the ability to do that.