Justin Heng, General Manager, Noku Maldives

Justin Heng, General Manager for Noku Maldives came to the
Maldives to oversee the development and opening of the property. It
is now fully established and is a resort which places great
importance on social responsibility and contributes in numerous
ways to the community within which it operates. Justin and his
dynamic team are strong believers in giving back to society beyond
professional business commitment. Hotelier Maldives caught up with
him at Noku Maldives in August this year.

Hotelier Maldives: Can you tell us a little bit about
Roxy Pacific Holdings and its corporate portfolio?

Justin Heng: Roxy-Pacific Holdings Limited is
an established property and hospitality group with an Asia-Pacific
focus, listed on the SGX Mainboard since 2008. It is principally
engaged in the development and sale of residential and commercial
properties.

The Group’s recurring income streams are strengthened through
its flagship hotel in the heart of historic Katong, Grand Mercure
Singapore Roxy, and through its self-managed upscale hospitality
brand, Noku Hotels that manages and operates boutique hotels in
Japan – Noku Kyoto and Noku Osaka, and have most recently
launched its first resort in the Maldives – Noku Maldives.

Noku Hotels looks forward to the launch of its first resort in
Phuket, Thailand, expected to be in 2019/2020. Additionally, the
Maldives represents a great opportunity for Roxy Pacific because of
its stunning location and for travellers looking for unique
experiences.

HM: Noku Maldives is Roxy-Pacific Holdings first
acquisition in the Maldives and the second property to be marketed
under Roxy’s premium Noku brand. How has it been turned into an
exceptional resort?

JH: I joined Noku Maldives in April 2017. I am
extremely excited to be working on this stunning property, which is
Noku Hotel’s first in the Maldives. The resort has undergone an
extensive renovation of guest villas, public spaces and food &
beverage (F&B) outlets before opening in the first quarter of
2017. The resort which is 45 minutes away from Malé is in a
strategic location, with only 50 rooms, with modern offerings and
personal recommendations on the hidden gems of Noonu Atoll. I
believe this is an exceptional resort that will appeal to upmarket
travellers looking for unique experiences in one of the most
appealing destinations in the world, the Maldives. This also ties
in with Noku Hotel’s broader strategy of acquiring properties in
interesting destinations around Asia.

HM: What are the focus areas for corporate social
responsibility initiatives and sustainability at Noku Maldives?
 

JH: Our prominent corporate social
responsibility initiatives are selected by focusing on areas where
we can play a role in making the overall environment a better place
for the community, improving living standards and quality of life.
In setting out new CSR projects, Noku Maldives looks at the needs
and wants of communities within the resort’s immediate
geographical proximity – in Noonu Atoll.

Noku Maldives supports the island councils to run educational
environmental projects for the schools. Through this incentive, the
resort invited council members from nearby Kendhikolhudhoo and
Manadhoo to plant trees in its community garden on September 13,
2018, with the aim to spread environmental awareness and make green
enjoyable. The hotel will also participate in planting trees in
schools, communities, and deforested areas with the aim to uplift
under-greened communities, and combat climate change. Our employees
are happy to devote a portion of their time to these causes.

Additionally, our CSR initiatives cover a variety of important
initiatives that include children’s wellbeing and elderly care.
We organised a visit to Noonu Atoll School in Manadhoo Island on
August 31, 2018. The visit was intended to show our interest to
reach out to children with the aim of improving their living
standards and quality of education. During the visit, we donated 18
desks to Noonu Atoll School and met with the school teachers and we
had an enjoyable fun-filled reception lunch. We were honoured to be
able to assist the community in their educational endeavours.

HM: What is your take on management? And in your
perspective, what does it take to be an effective general
manager?

JH: I am very careful to work alongside my
team, and I see myself as a colleague to my team members. At times,
I have to play different roles such as those of mentor, motivator
etc., but at the end of the day, it is all about building
relationships and looking at things in a more in-depth fashion. We
try to encourage an environment of positivity in our teamwork and
team culture.

HM: What are some of the innovative ideas and solutions
you have come up with to enhance the Noku Maldives
experience?

JH: I believe that Noku Maldives offers local
character, personalised service and gives guests an authentic local
experience. As a hotel, we are respectful of local cultures and
traditions. Also, the people here in the Maldives are lovely to
work with and have a natural flair for genuine care, which gives
the guests an overall better experience.

While present-day lifestyles are fast-paced, we want to try and
bring back the local experience. We want to connect with the guests
and create experiences. I also believe in being in touch with the
local environment, and working closely with the staff to build
stronger and more genuine relationships.

HM: What are some of the challenges you faced during
Noku Maldives’ opening? And would you say its smooth sailing
now?

JH: We wanted to make sure we did not damage
the island or the marine environment, so we followed nature. We
dealt with erosion issues from a green perspective. Also, we did
not want to build anything too contemporary; so, you will find in
the final design influences from the Maldives and the Asia Pacific
region.

Nature is one of the biggest luxuries in the Maldives and
sustainability is one of our priorities. Other than that, it has
been an easy transition. The team here is committed to delivering
high standards of service and hospitality. At the end of the day,
it’s trained people who will make the difference.

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Justin Heng, General Manager, Noku Maldives