Male, Maldives: Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, General Manager, Mark Eletr celebrates his one-year anniversary this month and has already clocked up a hefty list of achievements.
A seasoned hotelier, Mark arrived to the Maldives in November 2021 from Vietnam. “I’ve worked in many luxury resorts around the world, completed refurbs and new openings and on joining Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives it was more about looking after a success story and taking the property into its next chapter.”
Talking about the achievements over the last 12 months, Mark is humble and only when prompted volunteers information on the projects that he has put into action, and there are many. “I am particularly proud of our new Surf Corner located on the south east side of the island. It was a customer experience that was missing and also a revenue opportunity. We attract a large number of surfing specific guests to the island each year and giving them something that was barefoot and uber casual, nearby and desirable was key,”
Australian-born, Mark explains that he talked to surfing guests and business partners to get a feel for their needs and could draw on his career experience working in island destinations to help him plan it out.
“I realised there was nowhere for friends, partners, parents or siblings to sit and watch their friends or family surf from the beach. I have kids and it’s my job to watch them have fun, so I got my thinking cap on, put myself into the same position as the guest. It inspired me. I planned new cabanas for relaxing, seating with permanent shade umbrellas to withstand the winds and a Surf Shack serving snacks like hot pies and drinks.” he said. “All the feedback we have received is extremely encouraging.”
Mark has grand plans for the venue and is currently considering some new additions to the area which overlooks a small inlet which attracts black tip sharks. But he says we’ll just have to wait and see. Upkeep to any island resort takes hefty resources and funding. Since Mark’s arrival, and working closely with his on-property Engineering team he has prioritised and completed everything from re-roofing to painting as well as new flooring in the main restaurant and replacing decks throughout the property.
“Property maintenance is a big area that needs to be given constant attention and a rolling plan. We are playing a bit of catch up but we are getting there. Our climate is harsh and it does take a toll on buildings, decks and equipment.” Regeneration is something which he is very keen about, which seems strange for a GM who is less about working within the lines and more about big ideas and making things happen.
“If you don’t try there is no risk or reward. Try and fail, well at least you know and go back to the drawing board. Try and win, then celebrate and look for the next opportunity.” He seems to be winning. In terms of regeneration you’ll see new Frond Circles where fallen palm tree fronds are arranged in a circle, much like a clock face, layer upon layer, to a height of 1.5 metres. “We are monitoring how long it will take for them to decompose naturally and we take measurements regularly.”
He has also reduced daily path sweeping of the white sands, opting for enriching natural habitats and eco systems for small animals and insects, through using the rustic appeal of garden waste such as leaves, twigs and bark in garden areas to encourage natural seeding. So far the evidence indicates that it’s working. Mark says, “by incorporating the regenerative areas into our landscape, we’ve also reduced the heat and bright glare for guests particularly during the hottest hours of the day when it can be both sweltering and blinding.”
The resort is currently doubling its renewable energy generated from solar power by adding corrosion proof marine grade photovoltaic panels to the roofs of 19 one-bedroom over water villas and the 2 bedroom overwater pavillion. This project will bring the resort’s solar power to 518.52 KWp.
Perhaps one of his favourite projects was the built-in barbecue area in the garden adjacent to the Crew Cafe (staff canteen). “It’s a giant bbq that any Aussie would be proud of mate!” he says with a wide grin.“Our engineering team built the structure out of bricks and mortar and then we installed the grill. It’s working a treat. We even incorporated a wok station.” Delighting his own crew is important to him. “Happy staff make for happy guests. It’s my commitment to my team to continue to try and improve their facilities on the island. I work very closely with our HR team and our owners,”
Under his guidance the Kandoo Kids’ Club has been upgraded with essential maintenance and a spruce up to delight the younger guests.“Our Kids’ Club team don’t just stay within the confines of the Kandoo Kids’ Club venue on the island. We actively encourage kids to learn about the island, the different habitats and have fun, so treasure hunts and discovery walks are all part of our day to day.”
So what is next? Mark shares the projects he is currently advancing. “I’m focused on our Chef’s garden and elevating it in terms of selection and production quantities and we are currently trialling our new guest app making all of the resort information, room service, mini bar and chatting to a team member in real time available from a guest’s smart device.”
Mark explains while the resort is in the final stages of the testing phase the guest app has been well received and the use of technology has been embraced by both the resort team and the guests. Perhaps the most exciting project from a rooms perspective is that Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives will unveil a new 3-bedroom Beach Pool Villa towards the end of the year. Currently the pool element is under construction and the project is running to schedule.
“It’s already been sold for the festive season, so we have to have it ready in time. Nothing like pressure, eh?” It’s easy to see why Mark has so quickly garnered the label the Change Maker, but he credits these successes and the ability to make change so quickly to the team and owners. “I think it’s a journey. For me it was about earning trust and then getting our crew on board with the different ideas, working with the owners to prioritise the big spends on their asset and to build a culture which continually strives to maintain the property for a great guest experience.”