Mr. Suresh Dissanayake Born on 10 Jan 1982 in Sri lanka, has 14 years of experience in Hospitality industry. From a Sales Executive at Aitken Spence in 2003, he climbed the ladder to Assistant Vice President of Adaaran Resorts Maldives. Adaaran Resorts is the Maldives sector of Aitken Spence Hotel’s. Humble, down to earth and ambitious Suresh has worked in various areas of Hospitality industry throughout his career. Mr. Suresh’s favorite food is Roshi with Tuna Sambol and his favorite song is a Dhivehi song known as “Chaale”. Having acquired Business Management Diploma from Open University of Sri Lanka and MBA from New Bucks University, United Kingdom, Mr. Suresh has travelled to 39 countries to promote tourism. He is also a member of certified management accountants of Australia and Member of Sri lanka institute of Marketing. His Mantra to young entrants is to work hard, be honest and focused and work towards the goal every day. With a vision to create and hold many annual International events in Maldives; which would help promote Maldives as a destination; Mr. Suresh shares some insights of his work and ethics with Maldive Islands.
1. How would you describe your leadership style?
I treat my staff as adults and I trust them to make good decisions. I try to provide them with as much information as possible about what’s happening in the today’s business world, what’s happening with the competition & what’s happening in competing destinations. This helps them to make decisions in their own areas. They all must work with responsibility, Ownership, accountability & dependability. My goal is that between the times they starts working with us and when they finish, I want them to feel their career has progressed.
2. What’s your approach to delegating employees? How do you ensure that tasks are carried out to completion?
Firstly I need to determine which task to delegate & make sure I have clear clarity in what I need to delegate. Then the next task is to identify the right person to delegate the same. Not everyone is capable of performing the right task. Once am assured of that I have decided on the right person I will delegate the task. This also depend on their ability and the experience in the job. If it is new staff always we need to delegate less task.
I always have the measurable in my mind with an expected deliverables. Once the task is complete I will monitor the accuracy and the progress. If it is not up to the expected level always guide them to learn how to reach the expected level.
3. Describe someone you coached or mentored. What were they doing initially, and what are they doing now?
After working in 3 countries during my carrier I have come across many people from varies cultural backgrounds. This person joined from non-hospitality background. Didn’t have any knowledge if BB.HB, FB or even have step in to a hotel for an overnight stay. The only occasion was to attend a marriage function. After few weeks she found it very difficult to adjust to the work environment and there was a situation she was almost fired by my superior. It took me lot of time to coach her first to make sure that she believe that she can do this job. I always had to relate my personal life experiences how I learned things with my superiors. After few weeks I was able to develop the confidence level and she started believing in her abilities. It took another 3 months to make sure that she reach a level which is acceptable to industry standards. As a mentor or a coach you need to spent lot of time on motivating them and educate them how to face difficult situations. After 1 year she was one of the starts in the department. Today am happy to say she is working in another organization at a very respectable level.
4. What was your biggest accomplishment?
Lead the Sales and Marketing team of Adaaran Resorts to win the leading Hospitality brand in South Asia.
5. What changes did you make that resulted in increasing productivity, improving efficiency, or lowering costs?
The main this is to provide meaningful feedback in a constructive manner on a regular basis. Feedback is a critical factor. It helps employees in a manner that encourages, not discourages, and is a cornerstone of effective management. I don’t say feedback is always positive - that wouldn't be management at all - but that the communication is done thoughtfully. This improves their encouragement for a job and improves efficiency and productivity.
Respect them as individuals, in addition to the job. When they feel genuinely respected they’re much more likely "to go the extra mile" to help a company succeed. I always support them when they are genuinely need the same it can be official or personal but this goes a long way.
I am a very good negotiator and many people say a very hard negotiator. This skill I developed while working in the Indian sector. This has help the company to lower cost in marketing expenses.
6. Describe a typical day at your work? How do you prioritize your tasks?
I always make a list. I work out what order to do things in by thinking about which tasks are urgent and how important each task is. If I’m not sure what’s urgent and what isn’t, or how important different tasks are, I find out. If I’m given a new task I add it to the list and decide when to do it, so I adapt the order in which I do things as necessary. Another thing I always practice is breaking in to tasks in to various minor projects. This also give me a guide line what should I do in each stage and when I should complete it. With my responsibilities most of the time am out of station and when I return it’s always critical to plan out days until the next trip. I am blessed to have a wonderful team and they all support me to plan out things to work towards our goals. The reservations team is based out in Hudhuranfushi and Sales & Marketing team based in Male. We always make sure we have regular gatherings to keep everyone together. I always make sure I have 20 minutes to watch my favorite program or listen to music to relax my mind.
7. What are some industry trends that have an impact on your role as a manager?
The biggest market is Millennials. Their needs and wants are completely different from baby boomers. We need to define our strategies based on this demographic group’s personality traits and habits—they travel a lot; are early adopters of technology; like personalized interactions and are spontaneous. Satisfied millennials will actively promote us on social media channels.
The majority of guests today are self-sufficient, tech-savvy travelers who are comfortable using apps or mobile websites. We need to make sure their offerings are up-to-date and user-friendly. High speed Wi-Fi is like their basic rights now a days.
Today’s travelers are taking charge of their health. They need well-equipped fitness centers, pools and spas. Increasingly, travelers are expecting innovative wellness options. In addition to healthy food options, growing trends include lighting that energizes, air purification, yoga spaces, in-room exercise equipment and even vitamin-infused shower water. They are also looking at places where eco-friendly is being practiced. They would like to patronize eco-friendly resorts and the resorts have sustainable tourism practices. They want to identify them self as responsible travelers.
Real time damage control is a very important factor. If they are dissatisfied, they can easily complain on Facebook, Twitter or TripAdvisior. We should be able to quickly respond. Engaging with customers and responding to their needs through these public forums help maintain positive guest relations and drive future bookings.
8. Have you ever had to execute a project with a small budget, or a lack of resources? How did you address these issues?
The first big project was Bollywood fiesta 2015. We have not done mega events prior to this event. First we identified a team and got together to build up the concept. The biggest challenge was to get the sponsors on board. We first map out the stages and started working towards the same. We realized we will not be able to raise money from sponsors to cover the event cost and we started working on innovative ideas to minimize the cost and deliver the same quality. We were keeping a track on the mapping stages and ensured we reach our target on the set date. The vent was a major success and we learned through our mistakes. We corrected our mistakes while doing our second event.
10. Why do you think there is less females in Hospitality industry? And what do you think can be done to increase the number?
In my opinion this has changed globally. If you look at global picture the situation has changed. However when we look at subcontinent it is still the other way. It’s due to various reason. Perception about the industry, Cultural factors, not getting equal opportunity and Family commitments
To increase the number of females in subcontinent I personally feels we should practice:
- Encourage hotel chains to start a female talent pool. This will be a long term program with a career development plan.
- Change the perception in women participate in hospitality business. Local media and NGO’s have to actively do a campaign to change the perception. This is doable but will take some time.
- Remove the obstacles and provide positive incentives. This is mainly a role of the government & other local authorities.
Men and women tend to have different leadership qualities. When organizations don’t recognize those differences, they develop women leaders in the wrong direction. As a result, women find themselves barred from the top. Talented women need to discover, develop, and leverage the specific leadership skills that will help them progress in their unique ways. Organizations can use such differences to their advantage by ensuring that behavior by women leaders is perceived in its true light and appreciated for its true value.
11. In what ways have you worked with your staff to go the extra mile to deliver great customer service?
We practice 5 ways to deliver excellent customer service to our clients.
- Speed response. In today’s environment people expect instant responses and our central reservation office has provided 7 ways for customers to reach us and we make sure we respond to them within few hours.
- Understand their needs and wants. Our team always spend time to understand the customer needs and wants. This has helped us to serve them better.
- We believe and identify our mistakes and fix the issues. It is important to accept our mistake when we have done a mistake and also we make sure we correct it and never repeat.
- Go an extra mile. This is how we beat the competition. The team does many things for customers to feel they are special and we value their business.
- Think long term and work towards customer loyalty.
12. Describe a time you turned a negative situation with a guest into a positive situation.
We believe these as opportunities to create loyal customers. In a situation like this we always contact the customer and find out the reason for his disappointment. We always listen to them carefully and understand why they were disappointed. We will then try to delight them by offering all we can offer. Once they are delighted we will start working on damage control. We will make sure that we protect our brand at this stage. Then we will work on building up the reputation. Then we will make sure that we have a loyal repeat client.
13. What are the challenges you face in hospitality industry in Maldives. And how do you compare International and local hospitality industry.
Maldives tourism is going through a challenging period due to various internal and external factors. However the positive thing is many international brands are entering the destination. This will give us good market coverage for the destination through their channels. This will increase our visibility in many markets. This will lead to new operators to start promote the destination. The other positive thing is Maldivian government is developing the infrastructure and this will help us to cater the additional demand. At present we have a situation with excess supply especially during summer months but with the new developments many new airlines will start operating to the destination. In my opinion there will be a price correction but still we will have better prospects in the future.
14. Adaaran has won several prestigious awards for the year 2017 from SATA as well as MATATO, and held some great events for locals in Male' as well as in the resorts. What is your 2018 plan?
We are always committed to the destination and we will continue with all our efforts to promote the destination. We are planning to have few international events during next summer. We will launch our premier product Heritance Aarah in winter 2018.
15. Adaaran has come a long way, building trusts and capturing the people's heart, who are the faces behind or with you to achieve these goals? And what is your acknowledgement to them?
I am really thankful to my top Management, Our MD Mr. Susith Jayawickrama & Chairperson Ms. Stasshani Jayawardena who have shown trust in me and have always backed my decisions and supported me with a free hand. The entire Sales & marketing Team of Male with Operations.