Summer Island Maldives’ Resort Manager, Mariya Shareef (Mari) is one of just a small handful of Maldivian women to have made it as a Resort Manager in the Maldives.

In a recent speech, given at the event to mark the countdown to 50 years of Maldivian tourism, Mari gave us her take on the challenges for women working in tourism.

She spoke about how when she started her career, she was just one of the few women working in the industry. Since then, the industry has evolved with more Maldivian women joining the sector, but barriers remain— which is why 60% of the graduates from hospitality programs are women, however, only 3% of Maldivian women are seen working in the resorts.

 

 Environmental protection

Mari addressed an issue close to her heart — the protection of our island nation’s environment.

“I believe that it is important for Maldivian tourism to remain environmentally sustainable. Tourists visit our country to experience the beautiful reefs, beaches, and the rich biodiversity of the ocean. We can only preserve this by working at a national level and specifically by taking necessary actions by observing climate change scenarios. The biggest challenge we currently face is wave damage to the shoreline and erosion, the extend of which we have never seen before. As building breakwaters around the islands is a very foreign concept and also costly, it is important for the government, industry and financial institutions to work together to find a solution.”

She also recounted a story about how Summer Island guests often call Maldives “heaven on earth” and say visiting here is a lifelong dream. 

“Sometimes I get goosebumps and teary eyed when I hear such sentiments,” Mari said. She added that for tourism to remain successful, the Maldives must protect and maintain its pristine natural environment.

 

Increasing locals & opportunities for them in Maldives Tourism Industry

Moreover, Mari focused on the importance of increasing locals in the industry and providing them with opportunities to build a successful career.

 This industry is truly a local product, therefore this industry should maintain a local workforce. World renowned brands have invested in the Maldives today and Maldivians should benefit from this. To achieve this, a human resource plan should be made at the national level and it is important to engage the local youth in a meaningful way. Especially a good guidance program should be in place, and school should give more importance to this more than ever.” Mari said.

 

Impact of Covid-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought the economic activity to a near stand-still as countries imposed tight restrictions on movements to halt the spread of the virus and the Maldives is no exception. Mari shares her experience during these trying times and how the nationwide shutdown affected the staff at Summer Island Maldives.

 We are currently experiencing things which we never experienced in the whole lifetime of the tourism industry. In the year 2020, not a single tourist came to the Maldives for 3 whole months. Due to this, changes had to be brought to the way we worked. These were dark and difficult days. I was at the resort. Most of the employees had to leave to be with their families after the resort closed down for 5 months.

 

Kaimoo’s founder, Kandi Ahmed Ismail

Mari also paid tribute to the late Mr. Kandi Ahmed Ismail, the first Tourism Secretary of the Maldives, a pioneer of Maldivian tourism and the founder of Kaimoo Resorts, which owns Summer Island Maldives.

“Owing to the work he started back in 1979, Kaimoo currently operates 3 resorts and 3 city hotels,” she said, noting with pride that Kaimoo is 100% Maldivian owned and most management positions are filled by Maldivians.

Mari concluded her speech with words of encouragement for the women who are interested in working in this industry - to come forward and take on the next 50 years of Maldives Tourism Industry!

ENDS