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Interview: Siyam World GM Tom McLoughlin

We speak to Tom McLoughlin, general manager of Siyam World, a Maldives-based all-inclusive resort set to open towards the end of this year

Tom McLoughlin is a Maldives veteran. Having spent more than two decades building his career in the archipelago’s hospitality industry, we catch up with him as he prepares to open Siyam World, a luxury, experience-based, all-inclusive resort on one of the Maldives’ largest natural islands.

Connecting Travel: How did you get your start in hospitality?
Tom Mcloughlin: I very much worked myself up the ladder, starting from washing dishes in a restaurant through to moving into food and beverage operations, nightclubs, hotels and, finally, resorts. I’ve been in the Maldives for two decades now.

CT: You’re known as an unconventional disruptor. Why does that make you a good hotelier?
TM: Particularly in a place like the Maldives, which is all about escapism, it’s important not to accept the norm and instead create something bold and new. While there are a lot of competing resorts in the Maldives, I always look to create ideas and think of things that have never been done before. That’s why I’m so excited about Siyam World and the opportunity to bring the world to our guests, curating experiences that are unique and tailored to them. Experiences that cut through all ages.

Siyam World private villaSiyam World private villa

CT: What would you say are the USPs of the Siyam World brand?
TM: Where to start! First of all, the resort is an all-inclusive resort, which not just includes food and beverage options, but also our experiences. We’re based on one of the largest natural islands in the Maldives, which means that when guests stay with us, they really do have the opportunity to try everything that our 54 hectares have to offer, without worrying about any additional cost.
In total, we’ve got 21 room categories, all of them with private pools, allowing guests to choose the villa that fits all their requirements. In this, we’ve also got a large number of multi-bedroom villas targeting large groups of families and friends who are looking to escape and reconnect after what has been a difficult 18 months for everyone.
Elsewhere, we’ve got more than a dozen restaurants and bars to choose from and the biggest floating water park in South East Asia!

CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff? What are the challenges?
TM: We like to promote ourselves as a proud Maldivian brand that focuses on the Maldivian people, their talents and offerings. More than 75% of our staff are Maldivian, and this has been a crucial point in attracting talented local people. The challenges we would face is the increasing competition – there are a lot of new resort openings – so we have to continue to ensure that we’re not only the best resort to visit but also to work for.

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CT: What strategies are you planning to increase occupancy and revenue?
TM: As a new opening, we need to make noise in our target markets, and so we’re focusing on PR activities that do just that. However, when you have a resort that is as unique as ours, the best way to spread the word is to show it off in person, so once we open, we’ll be inviting media, influencers, content creators and travel operators.
We’ll also have several different packages and special offers available, so keep an eye out!

CT: What are your key source markets?
TM: Such is the idyllic setting of the Maldives, I think it’s on the bucket list for most people; but in terms of key markets, the GCC, Europe (in particular Germany, the UK and Russia), and then further east into India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China are the ones that we’ll look to target the most.

CT: How will you attract and cater to guests from the GCC?
TM: One of the things I love about GCC nationals is how when they travel, they do travel as a whole family, leaving nobody behind. Hospitality is all about providing experiences that will last a lifetime, and so it’s so nice to be able to be the setting for some special family moments. As I mentioned before we’re implementing more multi-bedroom room categories for bigger families/groups of friends to be able to facilitate this.
The inclusive approach is central to everything that we do, so we’ve also got several family activities on the island as well as the biggest kids’ club in the Maldives. They’ll be plenty for everyone to do, but also we balance that with the privacy that GCC guests in particular appreciate.

Siyam Worls aerial viewSiyam World aerial view

CT: What percentage of your guests do you think will be from the GCC?
TM: Once we open, we’ll be aiming for more than 10%.

CT: What steps must hoteliers take to drive Covid-19 recovery?
TM: With requirements and restrictions changing all the time, I think the biggest thing is to offer flexibility so that guests can book in confidence knowing that should they not be able to visit, they’ll be able to change dates or cancel for free.
One of the benefits of the Maldives is that it’s so geographically dispersed with its separate islands, so if there are cases in the capital city, for example, it won’t affect the other islands. However, it’s also important not to become complacent and so we’ve got clear procedures that we’ll ask guests to follow pre-arrival and also an action plan should someone test positive.

CT: More than a year into the pandemic, how is the hospitality sector currently performing?TM: Better than expected. Upscale resorts are doing well as there was the demand for travel to the Maldives after the lockdown. There was no need for tourist quarantine as long as they presented a negative PCR test 72 hours before arrival.

CT: Do you have any development plans you can share?
TM: We’re just getting ready for our opening later this year, but once we do open, we’ll be shifting our focus to more multi-bedrooms and more never-done-before experiences in the Maldives.

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