Entrepreneur Ahmed Siyam Mohamed explains how he transformed his company from a small travel organization into a multi-million dollar business.
What are the origins of the newly branded Sun Siyam Group?
I had only $900 in my hand when I began operations as a travel agent. We started as an inbound tour operator in 1990, called Sun Travel. The business was successful, so after servicing other hotels, as a travel agent, we decided to go into the hotel industry.
How did you grow your portfolio?
We opened our first hotel, Vilu Reef, in 1998. Occupancy was always about 90 percent, and we recovered the investment in two-three years. We then developed Olhuveli. It was also very successful, so by then we were prepared to open another five-star property, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. Last year we opened a five-star property in Sri Lanka. We have another three properties under construction, representing about 1,600 beds.
What was the strategy behind rebranding Sun Travel as Sun Siyam?
In the luxury segment, you need the brand. People need to trust your food, service and hygiene level – everything. So that is why we need Sun Siyam. We branded Iru Fushi, which has 221 villas – the Maldives’ biggest five-star hotel. After our rebranding, the World Tourism Organization awarded us Leading Spa and Leading Family Hotel in the Indian Ocean.
How stable is the Chinese market in the Maldives?
As one of the world’s leading economies, this market will further develop. We have now understood their needs. Chinese guests, just like their European counterparts, can enjoy home comforts, including Chinese cuisine and activities.