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Hotelier Focus: John Rogers, General Manager at LUX* North Male’ Atoll

The Edition sits down with leading Hoteliers in the Maldives, bringing readers exclusive information on what goes on in the minds of the leading business people in one of the fastest expanding, and most exciting industries of our time.

Shahudha Mohamed
22 October 2019, MVT 09:17
John Rogers, General Manager at LUX* North Male’ Atoll. PHOTO: HAWWA AMAANY ABDULLA
Shahudha Mohamed
22 October 2019, MVT 09:17

Heart set on the hospitality industry since the very beginning, John Rogers is currently counting his fourth decade in the industry as the General Manager of LUX* North Male’ Atoll -- a unique, luxury resort that stands out in more ways than one.

His calm and contained demeanour and soft-spoken humble manners comes almost as a shock when one finds out that he has filled the position of General Manager for over a decade in high-end properties all over the world.

Rogers tells the story of how he climbed the ranks through the industry and it is quite a steady tale -- one of determination and unwavering down the path he chose for himself at an early age.

To start off, could you tell us a little bit about your background and the factors that initially drew you to the field of Hospitality?

“Growing up, my father was in the royal navy. I was born in the UK and we travelled a lot. Every two years we were moving somewhere new, like Georgia or Belgium, so that’s what gave me my little bit of overseas experience.”

Recalling his first-ever hotelier experience, Rogers said, “when I was in school I took a summer job in a hotel in the UK and really enjoyed it so that really helped the decision.

“After I finished school I joined the Hotel Management School in London”, he finished with a slight nod, enunciating the certainty he felt even then.

You’ve certainly come a long way since your days as a Management Trainee at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel in 1985. How would you describe that journey - is there anything, in particular, you might have done differently?

“It has been exciting and sometimes exhausting. Most of it has been good fun. Obviously, the challenge is moving between the two countries.”

Rogers listed down some of the perks of travelling oversees which he particularly enjoyed, such as developing a deeper understanding of the locals and the richness of the culture, which as he says, you cannot really grasp while merely visiting on holiday.

“Living in different countries is something I enjoy”, he concluded with a light-hearted laugh.

Describing how he worked his way into the industry through the food and beverage arena, Rogers delved into the pros and cons of seeking opportunities in new and exciting places.

“For me, early on, I decided that if I was going to travel and work in different hotels, the resorts are more interesting than cities.

Plus living in a beautiful place in the warm sunshine is much better than sitting in a corner office in Europe.

I think that’s the general gist of what happened”, he said, referring to the similarities between most of the properties he worked at.

“It just depends on the opportunities. Certain companies transferred me so I didn’t really have a choice in going”, he added with a youthful chuckle.

Seeing as you have worked your way to the top with positions held in nearly every continent - from countries like UK, France, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Barbuda, - now you’ve been in the Maldives for half a year, how does the hospitality scene here compare with your experiences across the rest of the globe? What are some striking differences and unexpected similarities?

“Countrywise it’s all different, but the main theme of hospitality is still there. It’s just the people and the different attitude towards service and hospitality. But the main hospitality, the warm welcome, the caring attitude -- those things are still pretty much similar throughout.”

Referring to the Maldives and the uniquely scattered geography of the archipelago, Rogers said with a slight raise of his eyebrows, “here it’s slightly different logistically than anywhere else I’ve worked.”

“I have worked at many islands so the theme is pretty much the same. I think here the nice thing is that for the Maldivian people, hospitality comes naturally [to them]. In most places, other people have to work hard to manifest that natural feeling”.

A brief look at John Rogers, the General Manager of LUX* North Male Atoll. IMAGE: AHMED SAFFAH / THE EDITION

On a more personal note, we imagine you must have experienced your own hurdles and challenges along the way, personal and otherwise. What was or were the most difficult to overcome, and why?

“I think you need to enjoy what you do every day, always, and you know, there are long hours involved in hospitality.”

“In my particular case, every country and every job is different. So it has its own different hurdles and challenges, but I think the constant I had is -- my wife travelled with me and that really helped with the situation”. As he spoke of his family, the fondness in his voice became quite apparent and his smile lingered longer than usual at the end of the statement.

Launching into the hurdles that LUX* North Male’ Atoll presented Rogers explained, “I think in this particular case the main challenge was the preopening -- that is, coming here while it was still a construction site.”

“When I joined in October [2018], the opening date was already confirmed. So I think getting everything fixed and ready on time was probably the biggest challenge”.

With over 30 years of experience under your belt, we are sure along the way you must have found yourself in a number of rather hard-to-forget circumstances. Which one would you crown the most defining such experience?

“30 years of experience -- that’s why I have grey hair”, Rogers cracks the joke like he could not help himself, and out escapes a brief glimpse into what may well be a rather cheery demeanour, he then sombers up quickly with his answer.

“One of the nicest things about the industry is that not one day is the same.

Over those 30 years, I’ve met some interesting people -- from celebrities to normal, every-day people.

In my last position as a GM for an English property, I had Prince Charles stay at my hotel and I had to look after him for three to four days.

Much more humbly than I could have managed if I was ever in the vicinity of Prince Charles, Rogers says, “that is one of the nice memories I have.”

Since your appointment as General Manager for LUX*’s brand new property in North Male’ Atoll, what have been your primary objectives?

“The first part was getting the place finished and setting the standards of how it is going to be in the future.

But since it was the opening, it was mostly about the hiring of staff and getting everything ready.”

Going into detail of how his priorities changed following the timely opening, Rogers emphasised the importance he gave to maintaining high-quality guest care and sticking to the LUX* brand’s signature selling-point of making every single moment matter.

The resort is still quite young, but what is your favourite aspect of LUX* North Male; for instance, what makes it stand out from the dozen or so new properties opening doors this year?

Beaming like a proud father talking about his son’s achievements, Roger’s immediately launched into a list of reasons, “the number one is the unique architecture. There is a lot of other Maldives hotels with the thatch roofs, so the architecture really stands out.

We got the roof terraces, which I know you’re going to experience tonight with cinema”, he said excitedly. (Editor’s Note: Yes, before you ask, it was a wonderful experience to watch old classics under the stars, nestled in the warm embrace of a tropical night)

“Then, probably, which is unique even further, is the three bed-room retreat over the water where you can dock your own boat!”, a luxury that was introduced to the Maldives by none other than LUX* North.

“I think for me, the main reason people come [to LUX* North Male’ Atoll] is to unwind and relax -- if I was going on holiday I would do the same”.

We’ve seen some brilliant on-trend and in-vogue ideas from LUX* North Male’s opening phase itself, such as the ‘first on the island’ event during which influencers from various regions flew in to celebrate the newest addition to the brand collection. Did you find the millennial-friendly approach beneficial?

“I think the four-day programme that happened just prior to the opening helped us a lot -- and digital marketing is something that will become more and more in the future”.

Rogers also noted that it was largely the unique architectural style and picturesque colours which added to the aesthetics that had succeeded in the resort having already garnered large popularity on Instagram.

And as we draw closer to wrapping up, are there any more fresh, innovative twists and turns we can expect to see from LUX* North Male’ Atoll in the coming months?

Rogers’ excitement for the upcoming developments were not masked even slightly as he eagerly delved into the answer “as a team we’re always looking at new ideas and developing new things.

We have purchased a catamaran which we will be using with the three-bedroom retreat in November.

The concept in Barium [a hidden underground chamber/aquarium] is -- we’re going to make it a sushi bar.

And in Beach Rouge [an all-day restaurant with a perfect view of the lagoon] we’ll be changing the theme in the evenings for more variety”.

Any sage words of advice for young aspiring hoteliers looking to succeed in the hospitality business?

His advice was short and concise, articulated with confidence, “work hard and enjoy every minute, because it’s the best industry in the world”.

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