Amir Mansoor, a former accountant and professional tennis player-turned-businessman is the owner of super-luxury glamour property The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives and the amazing Carpe Diem liveaboards. Amir is also known as the leading Food & Beverage Supplier to the island nation, and the first to launch international food franchise outlets in the Maldives - Marrybrown and Secret Recipe.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
During the early days of my career, I was actually a professional accountant. This was before I ventured into my own business and joined one of the leading trading business brands in the Maldives, Lily Enterprises Pvt Ltd. Our focus at Lily was sourcing unique products from the food and beverage sector around the globe to the nation’s growing hospitality industry through Lily F&B Suppliers. I was the Managing Director then and handled daily operations.
I also enjoy playing Tennis and have received tremendous achievements in sports during my younger days as the National Champion for a continued period of time. I still continue to have a balance and keep the spirit of sports alive in addition to being engaged in business.
How has your past experience influenced your management philosophy?
Well, most of my experience and knowledge comes from the trading sector; food and beverage to be exact, where I supply as well as own outlets. Besides that, I also own some of the finest liveaboards – the Carpe Diem fleet – and our most recent addition, The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives. I believe that when it comes to management, things have to be focused and the latest trends must be embraced in a small and competitive market. So, we always assure to monitor, be aware and adapt to the global and local trends in the businesses my companies are involved in.
What were the key challenges during the pre- opening of The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives?
I think the biggest challenge faced in the tourism industry is rather similar to other segments and businesses; hiring and retaining staff. There is always a need for qualified and professional staff at all fronts whether it is in administration, maintenance, kitchen, housekeeping or front desk – but a lack of skilled and educated graduates is always a challenge. Our population is a mere 400,000 people, serving over 1.6 million tourists each year.
As a hotelier, how do you create a sense of community for your guests and employees?
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to create a good and comfortable environment for the staff as well as guests. Employees are the driving force behind every business, and they are partof the success. We ensure to have the best teams in all areas, though it can be quite challenging. Nevertheless, our businesses have sustained the numbers and we have employees who have been with us for many years in our companies and ventures. At our companies, salaries and incentives have always been paid on time no matter what as we believe that assurance and security are crucial. Some very good examples are our boats, our trading division and the food outlets where we have some of the most long-serving employees. We make sure that all our employees know they are important to our operation. Likewise, they feel that the business is their very own.
In terms of our guests, we have always looked into their every little requirement during their stay with us. We also ensure that they have a wonderful time in the Maldives which they can carry back as treasured memories. Although the Maldives has traditionally been seen as a couple’s destination, The Standard approached it with a fresh set of eyes. The resort offers an unmatched combination of relaxation, social life and vibrant cultural programmes that welcome groups of friends or singles looking to meet others or just reset and recharge in paradise. No Standard stay is ever complete without a night to remember; so whether dancing to tribal beats at a beach bonfire or at the glass bottom, overwater nightclub, the only thing that will end the fun is the sunrise.
You pioneered opening the first franchise restaurant in the Maldives almost a decade ago. What impact would the franchises coming in now have on local businesses, and will these brands be able to survive in the Maldives? What effect would these franchises have on the Maldivian economy?
Marrybrown was the very first franchise food outletin the Maldives which opened in 2011. Then in 2016, the second brand – Secret Recipe – was launched in Male’ and in 2018 at Velana International Airport. We strive to maintain the same taste, service and experience from day one till date. That’s where we stand different. Now, there are a few other franchise food outlets opened and I believe that this gives our constant customers the chance to have a variety of food experiences and compare taste and value. Customer-loyalty is based not only on relationship, but on the value of what’s being offered. The impact to all brands would be the same, each would have a lot of customers in the beginning. What’s been offered to the customer could only retain them. Food is something very personal.
As an Executive Board Member of the National Boating Association of Maldives (NBAM), how do you see the boating industry evolving?
I’ve been in the boating sector for a good period of time and invested in evolving styles, standards and services of boats. I have my concerns over the market, which has become quite challenging due to allowing foreign-owned, lower standard boats to operate in Maldivian waters as “bare boats”. These bare boats don’t have to pay any import duty and can enter with limitless mounds of supplies stocked up to compete with local boat owners. It’s not only about the boat owners and operators, but the local craftsman who lose their business in boatbuilding. Maldives have become one of the finest destinations of leisure boat building. Our liveaboards built in the Maldives has been benchmarked to serve the most ultra- luxury tourists. These are fine vessels built by locals with state-of-the-art designs, in line with European luxury yachts. There should be somewhat protection for boat builders, owners and operators. In every country, there are regulations to protect certain types of businesses and I believe that this industry falls into medium business category. With this window, the number of vessels brought in as bare boats have increased in the market, and the price war on services has driven it to an extent where some operating in the market have demanded for new activities, which might even harm the fragile industry. These issues arise mainly because they are unable to fill vessels and get a good return. Unlike most liveaboard- operating-countries, the Maldives is most popular for the scuba diving and surfing segment. But the challenge goes up in getting new clients, as the bare boats in the market operate with lower selling prices.
This current situation makes it quite strenuous for significant growth to take place in the industry. Yes,
the industry has evolved a lot, but unfortunately the competition has not taken a healthy route.
Everyone is talking about the need for hotels and resorts to become more sustainable. How does The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives stack up on the sustainability front?
‘Sustainable Green Resorts’ are globally trending and modern-day tourists – especially millennials – want and demand conservation models to be integrated into operations. The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives strongly believes in less plastic and cleaner oceans. It is committed to the conservation of marine life and preserving coral reefs – the lungs of our oceans. The resort has sustainability programmes and apply best practices in all areas. On top of that, the resort houses more than 3000 juvenile corals in its very own coral nursery.
You have a fantastic boat fleet at Carpe Diem Cruises. Do you plan similar brand expansions?
Our very first vessel was the Blue Lagoon, it has stood out in terms of design and features, changing the face of boat designs in the Maldives. After some time, I sold the Blue Lagoon and started the Carpe Diem Maldives brand with its very first vessel – Carpe Diem. The brand has since been expanded as per demand and now consists of three vessels; Carpe Diem, Carpe Vita and Carpe Novo. We have sustained an excellent team on all our vessels and we are blessed to have locals in all areas of operation including Dive Guides.
How has the definition of luxury changed over the years, especially in the context of luxury hotels and resorts?
With the fast development of the tourism industry, a good number of star-class resorts have opened up and keep opening every year in the Maldives. Every brand is unique in perspective and experiences offered, but it won’t be able to survive in the fierce competitiveness of the market, unless luxury is well-defined and aligned with an outstanding service.
I’m happy to have associated with a unique brand such as The Standard, the team and talent, to provide a unique service and distinctive experience-based tourism.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
Despite the fact that work can take up a lot of time and energy, I believe it is very important to have a work-life balance. I spend time with my family and try my best to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Although I don’t play tennis professionally anymore, I still play it as a hobby and do my regular exercises daily as Tennis has taught me to play fair and win many.
What are the most exciting launches, developments and projects you are planning for next year?
Every day is a new day with new challenges globally. As I mentioned earlier, we stay up-to-date and are aware of the changes in market trends and demand, and adapt ourselves. We will have to wait and see what comes next.
“Employees are the driving force behind every business, and they are part of the success.’
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