Category Archives: TSMIC Leadership News

ELITE TRAVELER -Mark Hehir on making Small Maldives Island Co different

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8th November 2018 // By Lauren Hill

Encompassing three distinctly unique island resorts—romantic Huvafen Fushi, family-oriented Amilla Fushi and the lively retro-chic resort Finolhu—Small Maldives Island Co places the focus firmly on giving each place a clear identity and curating the experiences you have there. With the recent relaunch of Huvafen Fushi, we talk to the CEO, Mark Hehir, to find out what it is that makes Small Maldives Island Co so different.

What drew you to join Small Maldives Island Co?

The founders and owner have been known to me for years. They invited me to join them and I took over as CEO in 2015. Since then I’ve led the company’s entire direction and focus, from the design and interiors of the 2016-opened resort Finolhu, to a villa’s styling and defining who the target guest is. The group started with Amilla Fushi, then Finolhu opened, then the family behind Huvafen Fushi asked if I could take it over and bring it into our group. I had been the GM of that resort before, so I could bring it back to life in the right way and with the right spirit.

The three islands are very different. How would you define each of them?

We define them by key experiences people can move between. Amilla Fushi speaks to a family who wants a chic high-quality experience. It’s got great water and land sports and ticks the box of the spa in a beautiful way, but in a broad stroke it’s a family resort with a series of multi-room residences. The Maldives has always had that base honeymoon market but the honeymoon market doesn’t repeat – families do. So, Amilla lives that life. Finolhu then celebrates multi-generational travel. It’s a very fun five-star retro resort, with 60s and 70s influence, and emotional connections through the music, architecture and design. Different generations have a different take on it, and it’s bigger so there’s a lot of movement and vibrancy. Every night there’s live entertainment and a lot of quirky twists, so we host a lot of celebrations.

For Huvafen Fushi, when I worked there before we were always thinking about that beautiful couple who wants to escape and indulge, eat and spa, do some diving and slow down for a bit. We thought about that a lot, but with new operators coming and going, the idea got lost. When I went in, I had to clean it out and think about who our guests are. In this most beautiful immaculate place with dolphins coming past, you don’t want kids running through throwing sand as you’re having a croissant and coffee. It’s supposed to be this zen place. So I made it adults only. And Huvafen Fushi is a grande dame of the Maldives. It’s timeless. So, with the re-imagination, it was all refreshed and brought back to life. Huvafen is built in a way that has integrity so I wanted to honor that.

That’s how the islands define themselves, but the same people do go to all three. I don’t think it’s a different guest. It’s more the mind-set. When you define a concept that well, it stands out and that eventually gives you the longevity. If you try to be everything to everybody, you inevitably become nobody. It’s been great for us to make that decision. Overarching though is our people who have been on the journey for many years. Without them, none of this works.

What are the biggest differences at Huvafen Fushi since its relaunch?

We now have the overwater Japanese restaurant, Feeling Koi. That’s been a huge success. We have a Japanese chef in Hokkaido who acts as consultant chef. He comes to the Maldives throughout the year and we send our chefs over there to train with him. That defines the authenticity of it, then we put a twist on it with our Peruvian-Brazilian chef. We had a healthy eating restaurant there before but we’ve moved that to the relaxation area of the spa, and we’ve worked on the spa facilities, establishing new partnerships with people like Teresa Tarmey the facialist and Pure Massage by Beata Aleksandrowicz. We then reworked our two-story villa, The Playpen, to make it feel like a London penthouse. It’s not something that’s been done before in the Maldives – it has a burgundy pool, steam room and sauna, and a raised bed so you see more of the ocean view.

How do you think luxury travelers’ expectations are changing?

Over the last six or seven years it’s been on my mind that it’s the person’s experiences and stories that matter most. The product isn’t the most important part – it’s what you do in it. It’s really important that we keep ahead of that by creating stories, curating those experiences and showcasing them in a way that makes people want to engage. Now more than ever, people want to know who’s there, what the culture is like and how it’s going to make them feel.

Do you have any other islands planned?

I do – in detail. We want to eventually have five resorts and alongside that work on other experiences within the Maldives and ways to champion all of that. I created a club to speak to our customer through called Maldives Aficionado, with a rewards program and experiences threaded through it. We want to grow our loyalty through gifting experiences and also engaging people in their own country with events. That’s critical for our growth. I also want to develop another island that’s close to my heart and how I feel about the environment, while relating to mind, body and spirit in a creative way through design and installations. It will be 100 percent solar powered and free from first- and single-use plastic, but we’ll still give you that luxury, design-led experience. I’ve created the concept and I’m now working on making it happen. Another island would focus on a different customer profile, and we’d like to have boats people can stay on that also connect the islands. These are the things we can do as a small company, which is the dream.

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Images: Huvafen Fushi; Finolhu; Amilla Fushi

Getting to Know: Ailish O’Rourke, Talent Development & Quality Assurance Manager at TSMIC

Mark Hehir, the Chief Executive Officer at The Small Maldives Island Company and General Manager of Amilla Fushi & Finolhu Resorts sat down with his Talent Development & Quality Assurance Manager, Ailish O’Rourke for a brief chat of her new role with the company. With over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, let’s hear what Ailish would like to share with the passionate islanders of TSMIC.

MH: So, what previous experience are you bringing on board to TSMIC for your role?

AOR: Well, I have worked in 5-star properties in London for 5 years, Dubai for 6 years and Seychelles for 6.5 years and over those years, I have had a mix of operational, training and quality roles. All of these positions and experiences of working for international companies with international teams providing amazing experiences for international guests will be able to add additional 5-star outlooks on different areas of the overall concepts we’re promoting at our Resorts here in the Maldives.

MH: What got you interested in moving from Front Office to a Training Manager position?

AOR: I was fortunate in London to have a dual role of Front Office Training Manager and Reception Manager for 16 months with my company, which allowed me to get a feel for training in a full time role, moving on from being a departmental training, and using my first-hand experience to prepare new joiners in the department for what they might expect from our guests as well as ensuring our PMS, SOPs and procedures were all known. I really enjoyed that chance to pass on my knowledge to others and then had the chance in Dubai after 3 years with my company there to become Training Manager for our 2 properties full time.

MH: What is the main role of training do you think?

AOR: Training is all about support. We support all departments in their training and development needs. This can be anything from on the job training on technical skills where we can give one-to-one or group sessions to full development programmes for departmental and individual enhancement. We are the ones who help leaders of departments in all aspects of their ongoing journey of development whether it’s through the running of the training ourselves, growing the training talent at department level or helping coordinating the external training needs for different areas. We’re all about helping and supporting each and every department and therefore the resort as a whole.

MH: What can training add to the guest experience?

AOR: In my experience, training can add so much to the guest experience. It can maintain and enhance the service standards in front line and backstage areas, it can add value to the experience through more confident interactions and can help create emotional connections with our guests, who will hopefully become repeat guests as well as our word of mouth marketers when they go home. Everyone can have an impact in this, if the islanders are motivated through development, increased skill development and enriched personal experiences in the work place that will shine through in their service delivery.

MH: Where does Quality fit in?

AOR: It applies to everything we do, from how we set the villa/house/residence for an arrival guest, to how the F&B service is consistent to how we present ourselves whilst on duty. Quality standards are the foundation for creating the experiences we all have, and that can be back stage too. My philosophy is “if you want to have quality, you have to do training; if you want to know what to train, check the quality”. We need to be passionate about quality and standards for them to mean something to us otherwise we all end up doing our own thing, our own way, and in the end, it is usually the guest (internal and external) who loses out.

MH: What impact can quality really have?

AOR: When quality standards are in place, we all have guidelines to follow, the basic direction that will tell us how a service or interaction should progress. Then add to that, the personality and character of the individual providing the service or involved in the interaction and you are really able to create memorable experiences. I am not for a moment suggesting that we all apply robotic approaches to what we do, in fact the reverse, we know the standards that the company expects us to implement and we then take it to the next level. That’s when we make a lasting impression on our guests and we stand ahead of the crowd / competition.

MH: How can training and quality together move us forward as a company / department / individual?

AOR: Training and quality go hand in hand. Quality is the gauge we use to check gaps in our service delivery and standards. We track using quantitative measures and have data to analyse and refer back to showing us the direction we need to be heading in. It also shows us what we’re doing well and should maintain at a high standard. Training then can use this data as a very useful tool for forward planning training sessions for individuals and teams where gaps have been identified. When we’re all playing from the same rule book, there is better understanding and cohesiveness in and across departments for smoother operations and better interdepartmental relations.

MH: What should we expect from you in this new combined role?

AOR: I hope moving forward that the departments will be so familiar with seeing me out and about in their areas for visits for training and quality that they count me as one of them. The Training and Quality role can be a challenging one, however I have learned over the years to ensure that the approach is the right one, in that I listen twice as much as I talk, I visit to congratulate as well as correct and I am actively involved with all of the departments in their journey for excellence.

MH: What key words / characteristics would you assign to the new role?

AOR: Active listening, collaboration, constructive feedback, continuous improvement, dual respect and always a fun, friendly approach with a positive outlook.

MH: Give us some idea of what we can expect to see in the coming months, any hints of what’s up and coming?

AOR: I’ll just say that I will be working hard on ensuring the company mission, vision, values, Brand Traits, and Golden Behaviours are forefront and in line with everything we roll out. Programmes for development at both properties will be enhanced and departmental visits will become a normal practice of my daily routine so see you soon, out and about, in Amilla Fushi and Finolhu.


Leaders gather to support Maldives Aficionado Awareness

Maldives Aficionado push towards awareness! The guest loyalty programme started off the year with it’s aim to be widely known while it continues to develop enhancements and innovations. With the launch of the Mobile Application last February, it has been the talk of the town, making the TSMIC family proud of the continues innovation as we progress with technology.

Training in action!Training.1As Maldives Aficionado sets goal to have all islanders of three resorts on-board, awareness sessions has been initiated starting the first session among Amilla Katheebs, followed by the Amilla Leaders which was held last 4th April. The training covered an overview of the programme focusing on the latest updates and system background. Lead by the Aficionado Manager together with the support of the leaders, the programme will continue to spread awareness within the community. Awareness sessions are set to follow in Huvafen Fushi and Finolhu, as well as targeted departments from the three resorts.

Maldives Aficionado is a way of rewarding repeat guests and encourage them to stay loyal. Thus, the loyalty programme is not just about giving away benefits to repeat customers, rather it’s a channel to strengthen customer relationships.

With all islanders on-board, we are confident that it will help us strengthen the relationship with our loyal customers, and achieve our goal to make the guests our brand loyalists. More than the guests who trust in our product, the belief for our own will drive us to success!

Visit the link:  and know more about the programme.