In the male-dominated hospitality industry, Mariya proved that there is nothing that a woman cannot handle. Mari decided to take the rather uncommon path to build a career; and against all odds, she has definitely succeeded. In 2016, Mari was appointed as Resort Manager of Summer Island Maldives. Today she is the only female (one of very few women) to manage a tourist property in the Maldives.

Mari has made a difference, and believes she can continue to do amazing things.


1.       What three words will you use to describe yourself?

Resilient; dedicated; patient. 

2.       How did you get into the hospitality and tourism industry?

I was always interested in tourism sector, since I was in school. When I finished school I knew I had to try and pursue a career in the industry. Without doing my A levels, I decided to do a diploma in hotel management, went to Malaysia for 2 years. My first job was in the kitchen, as a kitchen assistant. I was the only woman in the entire F&B department. I really enjoyed working there, however, and I soon got the chance to become a waiter. I always thought I would become a pastry chef someday, but my career has taken me into management. I still keep in touch with my supervisor from those days, who taught me a lot.


Mariya, accepting a South Asian Travel Award for Summer Island Maldives in 2017 --

3.       Being a woman, did you face any challenges when you started working in the industry? What were they, and how did you overcome them?

 I believe it takes a lot of effort, hard work and dedication to be successful in any field. For me, I never believed there was anything I couldn’t do because I am woman. Growing up, I was surrounded by strong women who acted as role models for me.

I’ve never thought there was a limit; being a woman didn’t make me feel different. There are times I get remarks from people, but I ignore them, I concentrate on what I can do to make my team happy, and to create a better work environment. 

4.       After almost 15 years of working, you have come to the position of Resort Manager at Summer Island Maldives. How would you describe your journey to this point?

I will never forget the day when I decided I didn’t want to do ‘A’ Levels, and I wanted to go into hotel management instead. I wasn’t sure my dad would allow me to do this, but he did. I enrolled in a college abroad, filled in all the paperwork myself. It was an exhilarating experience – the start of my career.

After studies, and a few years working in the hospitality industry, I decided to try something completely different and I joined an engineering firm. While I learned many new things there, I realized that hospitality is where I belong. 

I moved into sales and public relations in the hotel business and, after a few years, joined Kaimoo as Business Development and Marketing Manager. My time at Kaimoo has been wonderful; it is a young and dynamic team that is mostly Maldivian. I loved being part of the rebranding and redevelopment of Summer Island. Now, as Resort Manager here, I feel I am home.

5.       What are your main responsibilities as Resort Manager at Summer Island Maldives?

I am responsible for making sure that all the departments – for example, food and beverage, front office, maintenance and engineering, transport, housekeeping – are working smoothly. Every day, I check-in with the department heads and ensure they are meeting their targets. Our aim at Summer Island is to create a barefoot island style, while at the same time keeping our standards a very high.

Mariya Shareef, Resort Manager at Summer Island Maldives (Sun Photo/ Fayaz Moosa)

6.       How much of a workforce do you have at Summer Island Maldives? What is it like, managing such a team?

250 staff. It’s exciting to manage such a large team. I learn something new each and every day. 

7.     Describe for us, how a typical day starts and ends for you.

      Each day is different, so there isn’t really a ‘typical’ one. It depends on what’s happening on the island. For example, if there is an issue in the powerhouse, then I will go and attend to that. Or, for instance, today we have a team of industrial designers from Australia visiting, who are using 3-D printing technology to artificially regenerate the house coral reef. So this morning, I’ve been spending time with them and ensuring that they have everything they need. 


Mariya Shareef, Resort Manager at Summer Island Maldives (L) (Sun Photo/ Fayaz Moosa)

8.   Despite the challenges, you have come a long way and are currently managing a resort property. Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to an aspiring female in the industry?

Be patient, learn a lot, and never give away an opportunity to learn a new skill. Education is important, but don’t forget that experience will play a huge role in your future. Work hard and keep trying even if you fail to begin with. As a woman, we might need to be a bit more persistent, more accommodating and patient, but as long as you don’t stop trying, you will get there. 

9.   Do you enjoy traveling? Which are your favorite destinations?

Of course! I love seeing new countries. My top destinations would include Greece; South Korea; and Holland. 

10.   Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I want to make sure my targets are achieved in my current position. At the moment I can’t think of anything other than doing a good job right here, right now – and I feel I can still make a big difference.