The Last Word: Mark Hehir


The Small Maldives Island Co. (TSMIC) established the outstanding Amilla Fushi on Baa Atoll in December 2014, with phase two, the Finolhu Resort, set to open in the second quarter of 2016. The Company was founded in 2012 by Chairman Michael Flynn and co-founder and director Tom McLoughlin, with Mark Hehir as the CEO. Renowned Chef Luke Mangan is Island Restaurateur, setting the tone and flavours for Lonu, which delivers a beautiful, elegant and unique dining experience, and Baazaar, centred around the pool and offering diverse culinary treats from around the world. The Small Maldivian Island Co. is capturing the beautiful and authentic expression of Maldivian culture and leading a new class of island luxury.

What sets the Maldives apart from other tropical destinations?

The exclusivity and privacy that comes with the one island, one resort concept – the notion of “experiencing the amazing reefs and fish from your doorstep”, miles and miles of sandy white sparkling beach, fine dining, stylish accommodations and crystal clear lagoons. We also have great accessibility. We live as one community, with a strong hospitality ethic, as our first priority is to also deliver an authentic island and Maldivian lifestyle experience.

Name your three best career highlights and why?

1. Cooking achievements in London and Tokyo, including cooking for the Queen of England and being recognised in Tokyo for my creative cuisine.

2. Opening of Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Studio the Food & Beverage operations, ground up turn key from design and implementation and highly successful operations.

3. And my first General Manager appointment, at the renowned Maldives Luxury Resort Huvafen Fushi. Coming from the kitchen to GM is quite uncommon.

What’s your greatest ambition?

To create, inspire, drive and guide The Small Maldives Island Co. into a business that attracts and retains amazing people as well as successfully disrupts the market and creates best in class levels of resort and hospitality products, focused in Maldives.

Where is The Small Maldives Island Co. heading and how long will it take?

In the short term, our objectives are to set the foundation blocks and stabilise business for future growth, with a clear focus on basics for Amilla Fushi.
This is our primary focus to ensure it delivers our promises for our customers, owners and people, that Amilla should position itself in the top five of the greater upscale and high-end resorts in Maldives within two years. This year will see our second resort Finolhu open – a fresh take on the bygone era of beach vacations with a focus on being “Unplugged & Fun” a step back in time to when the days were long and simple. In five years TSMIC will manage a diverse range of resorts and associated businesses in Maldives, focusing on being “customer centric”.

Where does most of Amilla Fushi’s produce come from?

Asia in general but will follow seasons around the world with some produce, in fact Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia and Europe would be the main origins.

What’s the biggest challenge facing a small island resort?

The fact that the island is so secluded to offer enough privacy to our guests also means that the logistics can sometimes be a challenge – food and beverage deliveries, transportation, weather conditions, managing the environment and managing our people, for example.

Speaking of food, name three of your all-time favourite dishes?

It’s all about balance. Three things I love are vanilla (anything), pork (anything), and basically balanced healthy foods that offset my indulgences (clean and lean).

When you need to escape the small island you call home, where do you go?

Big cities, I love a challenge and run marathons! I enjoy travelling, looking to see new things and learn more about our hospitality industry.

What do you do to unwind and escape your busy career?

I work on my fitness daily, train for those marathons that I like to do and soon will start doing triathlons.

Where would you like to travel next and why?

Cuba, before it changes greatly.

Do you have any advice for the ambitious young guns in travel hospitality?

Follow your passion, be ready to sacrifice to achieve great things. Keep it simple and focus.

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