Carla Puverel, took up her role as General Manager of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at one of the hardest times for the hospitality industry. Carla continues to drive innovation using her outstanding experience within the industry, and we asked her what it takes to be in charge of this luxury, tropical oasis.
Firstly, congratulations on your recent appointment at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. It’s been a turbulent year but how have you and the team coped in such unprecedented times?
Thank you, I am so proud of the wonderful team at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. We have all grown and developed so much over the last 18 months in very unprecedented times. We reopened the resort in late September 2020 and have grown from strength to strength as we have navigated the pandemic, the ever-changing goal posts, new restrictions, and guidelines, and we have had to continually evolve quickly to be where we are today. I have always tried to make sure that team members are continuously empowered and are given the opportunity to take ownership of tasks. Team members have adapted well to constant challenges, and all have seen this time as an opportunity for growth and change. Our guests have been wonderful during this difficult period and the experience for everyone has been very positive, despite much adaption and challenging times. Ultimately, communication and transparency are key within our teams, and empowering the team members is fundamental for me as a leader to see success.
During these unprecedented times, it is has felt like we have been given a clean slate as we all navigate on how we continue to give personal, heartfelt hospitality, exceed our stakeholder’s expectations, and embrace all the ever-changing ways of life, particularly related to the hospitality industry. I feel in a very fortunate position being at the head of this iconic resort, which proudly boasts a solid history of long-standing relationships with both guests and team members. Overall, our team members all have the same goals, ethos, and drive to take the resort to the next level of personal service, combined with authentic Maldivian experiences and reassurance that all guests have peace of mind during their time with us.
With over 18 years within the hospitality industry, what have been your greatest achievements?
I am very blessed to be where I am today and am very grateful for all the experiences that I have had, all the lessons I have learnt, and the many more to come. It is a wonderful way to live, grow and work, being exposed to so many different cultures, and live in so many countries around the world. I appreciate the team the most and seeing them being inspired and develop is a huge achievement as we strive for improvement daily. The last 12 months has been a big achievement for all of us at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
What drove you to a career within the hospitality sector and were there any people that inspired you?
I am passionate about travel, culture and history along with the ever-changing dynamics and constant growth and development of the hospitality industry. Hospitality evolves all the time, and you can never be stagnant or complacent! The diverse cultures and wonderful people I’ve met along my journey I have learnt so much and it’s encouraging to know there is still more is to come. I am inspired daily by the teams that I work with and the authentic experiences that are created for our guests. I have had many mentors along the way that I am still in touch with and reach out to often.
What key attributes does it take to be a great General Manager?
It is so important to be aligned with the vision and ethos of the company, stakeholders, and team. Alongside this, being a good listener, understanding diverse cultures, confidently processing information, and building the best team of people around you. I believe its key to have a good understanding of the country you are working in and build good relationships with the long-standing team members to gain their knowledge and understanding of both the country and property.
The role of a General Manager has evolved vastly over time, but they should have sound commercial knowledge, as well as driving results, making good and clear decision’s and being agile. The most important attribute is to have the support of the team, to empower people and ensure everyone is accountable and passionate about our product, our resort, and our guests, as it takes an entire team to drive the success of a resort, the stake holder’s goals and the guest’s experiences.
What does a typical day entail?
Every day is different on Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, and each day brings new stories, challenges, experiences, and often lots of laughter and lessons. We meet as a team in the early morning and plan the day, as we often have private events to plan and entertainment in the evening. Planning is key in operating a remote Island resort, and everyone plays a big role in this. We then welcome guests during breakfast and greet the early morning seaplane arrivals. Each day is filled with passion, and many personal conversations and meetings with guests, team members, and stakeholders. I am generally up before the sun rises and start the day with a morning run alongside some of the early risers on the team, which helps sets me up for the day.
Apart from COVID, what have been the biggest changes within the luxury travel industry in recent years?
I think one of the biggest changes has been seasonality in travel. As more people are starting to work remotely and children are continuing with online learning, the typical holiday seasons are shifting. Also, flexibility in travel is, and will continue to play a major role in the future. Guests require more flexibility in their bookings and can see the value that comes with long stay bookings. The length of stays in general have increased and will increase even further than it has already. Lastly, wellness and sustainable travel will be an even more important factor than it already is, and I think mindful and responsible tourism will play a big part in this.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a unique, luxury destination, how does it differ from the hotels you have looked after before?
The Maldives is such a unique destination and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneer amongst the Maldives and its hotels. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is an island of many firsts for the destination, we were the very first hotel in the Maldives to have an over water villa, the first over water restaurant, the very first underwater restaurant in the world called Ithaa, the first resort with an underground wine cellar in The Maldives with over 3000 labels, and the very first 3 bedrooms over water and under water residence in the world, The MURAKA. Lastly, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island was also the first international brand resort in the Maldives and set the stage for many after.
The hospitality industry has had to be creative and often diversify over recent months. What have been the positives for you and the team during this time, and have there been any initiatives that you are particularly proud of?
The goal posts have certainly shifted in the last 18 months and will continue to do so as time goes on. We have had to be agile and evolve quickly to ensure we keep up with the pace of change and last-minute movements. The use of technology is far more present in the resort than before, and using technology to communicate with your guests and keeping a personal guest experience, is a fine line in luxury and personalised service. HiltonClean stay has played a big role in our success over the last year and will also continue to do so as it gives our guests and team members more peace of mind.
Wellness and experiences continue to be a focus for many travellers. How does the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island adapt to an ever demanding clientele?
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is always keeping guests demands front of mind, however due to the unrivalled location of the resort, being surrounded by the ocean and nature, these attributes lend themselves to guests enjoying spending time experiencing the beautiful natural surroundings. Our resort is situated in the South Ari Atoll and is located very close to whale sharks and manta rays, giving our guests that are divers and keen snorkelers a wonderful experience being able to see these magical creatures in their natural habitat.
We are also fortunate to have two beautiful spas located on the resort. The over water spa is more wellness centric with natural and organic products ISUN and the treatments focusing on wellness and mindfulness. The over water sunset yoga pavilion is a real treat for our guests, and we are in the process of developing an outdoor gym and fitness area with a range of TRX, weights, medicine balls, battle ropes, and a personal fitness trainer who can create bespoke workouts for guests.
With our infrastructure set across two islands which are joined together by a bridge, we can offer both family and couples who are on vacation, personal experiences and adventures. We are very innovative with our culinary team, and with twelve dining options this gives our guests far more choice and options during their stay.
We are constantly evolving our menus and offerings to our guests, and in 2021 we will be completing the final stage of our renovations, further elevating the guest experience such as refreshed water villas, revamped Atoll Market and new teens club, to name a few elements.
Who are the typical guests at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island?
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island guests are never the same as they are from all over the world and are seasoned travellers, which is part of what makes the island so special. We are very fortunate that our guests are forthcoming and know what they want when they go on holiday. We also have a large percentage of loyal repeat guests that travel to the islands at least twice a year, which always makes them feel like they are coming back home.
What have been the most unusual requests?
We have had so many unusual and fun requests, which the team execute flawlessly and with such care and passion. We have had a couple get engaged in our world-renowned underwater restaurant Ithaa, where our divers were waiting underwater with a
“Will you marry me?” sign, and our team timed the popping of the champagne perfectly. The couple returned a few months later to celebrate their honeymoon in The MURAKA – our most showstopping villa.
What are your must-do tips for visitors to Conrad Maldives Rangali Island?
We have so many it’s hard to know where to start. There is nothing better than going snorkelling with the manta rays and whale sharks, it’s an experience you will never forget, and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is the perfect location for seeing them. Also, a sunset cruise sipping champagne and watching the dolphins frolic in the ocean, a private lunch on a deserted sandbank, a personal Maldivian cooking class, spa treatment in our beautiful over water spa, and a private chef cooked dinner on
the beach in the Quiet Zone, are a few to mention, but this list is endless.
If you could sum up the resort in just three words, what would they be?
Evolving barefoot luxury
Lastly, what can guests expect to experience over the winter sun season?
Perfect warm tropical weather, lots of fun entertainment, our newly enhanced kids and teen clubs, manta ray season in the lagoon and surrounding area, innovative cuisine with lots of local flair and inspiration, and many passionate team members looking forward to welcoming you.