Provide unique experiences: Offer diverse options and be open to flexibility to cater to individual guest preferences. Avoid providing generic, one-size-fits-all experiences.
As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Coetzer Deysel.
Coetzer Deysel, General Manager of InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, has over 18 years of experience in the hospitality industry and has held various leadership positions in different countries such as China, Mauritius, Thailand, Maldives, and South Africa. He is known for his passion for delivering exceptional guest experiences and driving business growth through innovation and strategic planning. At InterContinental Maldives, Deysel is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the resort’s operations, driving the resort’s strategic and commercial growth, and ensuring that guests have a memorable stay.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Having grown up in Africa, I was privileged to witness the awe-inspiring and diverse wildlife that the inhabit the continent. Motivated by a desire to share this experience with others, I pursued a career as a photographic Safari Guide, showcasing the region’s unique wildlife as a game ranger. As time progressed, my interests expanded to the hospitality industry, where I have had the opportunity to work and live in some of the world’s most beautiful places.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the most significant events in my career was negotiating a buy-out of a three-island resort for a guest, involving complex negotiations and logistical arrangements for nearly 200 people over a six-day period, all within a very short window of time. As part of the process, my team and I were able to construct a new jetty walkway within two weeks, which was instrumental in the success of the project. This experience was particularly rewarding and remains a point of pride for me and my former colleagues, as we continue to reflect on the challenges and triumphs of this endeavour.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Although not a particularly amusing anecdote, I consider this experience to be a key learning moment in my career. When I first started my new position as General Manager at the resort, I worked closely with the Chief Engineer, who had been with the resort for an extended period. Despite his considerable experience and knowledge, I often found myself having to guide him toward solutions during our meetings and discussions, which I found challenging. One day, while in the midst of a one-on-one meeting with him, I received a phone call from another colleague, interrupting our conversation. When I returned to our discussion, he provided the optimal solution to our issue, as if he had had a moment to conjure his thoughts. This incident made me realise that where English is a second language, additional time needs to be allowed for translation, especially with a highly technical subject. As a result, I learned to allow more time for those who may need it, and this has made communication smoother and more effective. This lesson has proved valuable in my career and has also benefited my colleagues.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
As professionals, we not only learn from successful leaders, but also from observing their shortcomings. Such lessons, positive or negative, can be valuable in shaping our future. I have had the privilege of working with various leaders who have taught me the importance of interpersonal relationships and effective management techniques. Additionally, some leaders have imparted their business acumen and provided me with valuable insights to focus on.
Apart from these lessons, there are also hands-on experiences that shape our careers. One of my initial General Managers taught me how to handle unexpected situations while working at a remote safari camp in the African bush. Being surrounded by wildlife and nature, we had to be prepared for emergencies like elephants running through the camp or snakes in the tents. His teachings on staying calm, assessing the situation, and taking things step by step have remained with me throughout my career and helped me even in my current role here on this remote island in the Maldives, even when elephants may not be present!
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
At our property, sustainability is a top priority. Our operations are centred around promoting eco-friendliness and preserving marine life in our locality. While we may not classify it as an innovation, our sustainable approach serves as an inspiration to others. By encouraging businesses and resorts in the Maldives and beyond to adopt environmentally friendly practices and explore novel methods, we can drive positive change. Our steadfast commitment towards this cause is what really sets InterContinental Maldives apart.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Our primary concern is the ecological future of our planet, which is undeniably a critical “pain point.” While I recognise that my team and I cannot tackle this challenge alone, it is essential to engage in ongoing dialogue and share updates and efforts towards a more sustainable future. We are fortunate to have a passionate team on the island who are dedicated to advancing our shared goal of running our resort as sustainably as possible. Our efforts are not intended to disrupt the status quo, but rather to collaboratively work towards our shared goal of improved sustainability.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
I have noticed two specific changes that have occurred. Firstly, immediate high-impact changes were made in terms of our operations, staffing levels, and focus on cleanliness. While these measures remain at the forefront of our priorities, the most significant change I have observed is the emergence of last-minute booking windows. In addition, guests are more likely to extend their stays once on the property, and we are seeing more groups of friends travelling together to the Maldives than before.
I believe that companies will need to be more flexible in the future, as we have learned that circumstances can change rapidly. Travellers will likely be more cautious with their discretionary spending, and companies will need to adapt accordingly.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
I enjoy venturing to secluded destinations, and therefore, I would recommend a 4×4 road trip that starts in the mountains, passes through relatively unknown and unexplored terrain, and culminates in a visit to a stunning beach.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
Certainly, our resort is home to a beautiful spa that prioritises wellbeing, re-connection, and balance. However, we recognize that a holistic approach is necessary to make a real difference, and thus, we have developed an extensive visiting practitioner program. This program invites professionals from around the world to our resort for specific periods to offer their specialised services, which significantly enhance the guest experience and wellness journey. We have recently introduced a complete menu of wellness journeys that combine the expertise of different practitioners to enable guests to concentrate on particular areas of their physical, mental, and emotional health.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Embrace authenticity: Offer genuine products and experiences and avoid any false pretences.
- Prioritise consistency: Establish a strong foundation by delivering consistently high-quality service, aiming to exceed guest expectations.
- Strive for approachable luxury: Uphold the highest standards while also creating a warm and welcoming environment that feels like a home away from home.
- Pay attention to the details: Take note of guest feedback and use it to enhance their experience. Small touches can make a big difference.
- Provide unique experiences: Offer diverse options and be open to flexibility to cater to individual guest preferences. Avoid providing generic, one-size-fits-all experiences.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
A key priority for our company is to positively impact the communities in which we operate. We strive to enrich and improve the lives of local people through various means such as donations, training, job opportunities, and internships. It is our belief that investing in the local community is a responsibility that comes with operating in any area, and we are committed to fulfilling this responsibility to the best of our abilities. While I cannot claim personal success in this endeavour, I am proud to work for a company that values giving back to the community.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
What a very interesting question! I believe there is a lot that can be done to improve communication and understanding among people. One idea that immediately comes to mind is to initiate a “Listening Movement.” It is often the case that in today’s fast-paced world, we are too busy to truly listen to one another, leading to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for connection. While I am sometimes guilty of not being a good listener, I make a conscious effort to listen with the intent to understand, not just to respond. I believe that by encouraging people to take the time to truly listen to one another, we can build greater empathy and understanding, which could have far-reaching positive impacts.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!