As Shakespeare rightfully wrote, “time travels at different speeds for different people. I can tell you who time strolls for, who it trots for, who it gallops for, and who it stops cold for.”
For Hassan Shihab, time has been a teacher, friend and foe that made his years at Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives an adventure, an epic journey in the making. For the past 20 years, he has grown alongside the resort, collecting stories of a lifetime.
Joining the hotel in 2001 as a young Junior Receptionist, he had instantly fallen in love with the industry of tourism and hospitality. Growing up in the Maldives, he was no stranger to the luxury resort scene but his journey in becoming a leader in the business was merely a distant dream. His first year as a naïve hotelier has been nothing short of challenging.
Understanding the industry etiquettes, embedding himself in the culture of it was a novel experience to young Hassan. Amongst the many mistakes and learnings, he relentlessly pursued his love for hospitality. His approach was methodical; a myriad of workshops, trainings and creating connections and relationships with hoteliers across the world inspired him. “It gave me a sense of purpose, making me better at what I love to do”, Hassan says with a hint of nostalgia in his voice.
After his years of being in the front-lines, time picked up speed. He was now a management employee and found himself, again, in uncharted territory. The transition itself was challenging enough yet, being one of the few Maldivians in the team created a new drift for him to get used to. Gaining trust, credibility and embedding himself in a competitive and swift workspace took time, and utmost resilience. “With every new day, there were new challenges to deal with”. While time moved slowly for Hassan then, his quiet ferocity kept him battling all odds, moving forward with all the strength he could summon.
Halfway into his uphill battle, Hassan was now leading the Coral Propagation Program at Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives. The project was awarded ‘Best Sustainability Initiative – Biodiversity Category’ at the Cinnamon Resorts Awards of Excellence and reader, we can only imagine what he felt as he held his accolade; the tangible token of victory of a long, intangible struggle. “It was a moment so spectacular; it was overwhelming” Hassan joins the narrative.
Fighting uphill battles led him to winning the war. Through the Management Acceleration Program at Cinnamon, he was appointed as the Resident Manager of the resort. The wide-eyed Junior Receptionist from 20 years ago, was now a leader to the rest and a mentor for the young-hoteliers just like he was. He was now managing a hotel he once worked the front-desk at and leading it to success, nevertheless.
Hassan finally takes a breather from his journey. Besides being the resident manager, he is now a father of four splitting time between work, family, playing tennis, badminton and gym. “Tourism and hospitality is the largest economic industry in the Maldives and an integral part of our everyday lives. I always wanted to be able to inspire young Maldivians with big dreams. Someone the young hoteliers could look up to” he says with pride as he realized that he has indeed, made his dream come true.
Hassan’s mindset gave him the freedom and courage to fail. Between the losses and the wins is his story of relentless pursuit of dreams. His unapologetic nature of fearless passion is what he will pass on to his successors in the years to come. For Hassan, this is more than a tale of rags-to-riches but his fortitude; a celebration of his life’s work. His story will be re-told to the young hoteliers to join Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives and he will remain an icon, a proud Maldivian, a grand hotelier standing tall in the test of time.