There are many things which make a holiday destination unforgettable. But perhaps what makes a journey, a country, and a particular place really stick in the mind, is the people you meet along the way.
The resorts which we work with in the Maldives all offer the height of luxury – whether it’s the best sleep you’ve had in years, the amazing food and drink or the outstanding service which you receive. Per Aquum Niyama is no exception to this rule, and we were lucky enough to be introduced to one of their finest butlers Yoosuf Thahseen, or “Yoosuf 007” to his colleagues, because he’s “mad about James Bond!”
26 year old Yoosuf was born and raised in the Maldives, in Kudahuvadoo, located around a 10 minute boat ride away from the island where Niyama is based. He has been with the resort ever since its opening just over 4 years ago and has certainly made an excellent impression on his guests. Indeed, the outstanding level of service which he provides impressed one visitor to such an extent that he felt moved to donate an amazing US$243,000 to Yoosuf’s local school and hospital. Yoosuf’s story proves the incredible attention to detail of Per Aquum’s hospitality training and the resort’s love and dedication to guest service.
So what makes this particular butler tick and how does Yoosuf and his fellow “thakurus” (butlers) at Niyama make sure that guests are having the time of their lives?
Turquoise sent Yoosuf these questions and he has kindly made time in his busy working life to let us in on some of his secrets:
How did the hospitality journey start?
“I was originally in hospitals, not hospitality – I have a diploma in primary health care. During the Niyama pre-opening, a team of HR people came to interview on my island. I’d always had an interest in hospitality, so I went to try my luck.
I knew I wanted to work directly with guests. The Niyama team assigned me the role of Assistant Thakuru. I honestly didn’t know what that meant and asked someone as that’s not a common word in the Dhaalu area! After four months, I was promoted to Thakuru.
Do you know that Thakurus originally served royalty? On Niyama, all our guests are treated like royalty but what I really like is that I get to meet people from different parts of the world. I feel very happy when they say it was the best holiday of their life!”
What’s your favourite room at Niyama and why?
“My favourite room at PER AQUUM Niyama is our Beach Pavilion – Room 150 – it’s very modern, very stylish, very special with a huge plunge pool, outdoor showers and amazing ocean view. It looks great inside and even better in photos!”
Is there anything really special which you have organised for a guest as a surprise or treat?
“Two UK guests (now friends) came on honeymoon here and we got on famously. They invited me to the UK and welcomed me into their home. When I was there, I explored Cambridge and London. In the house where I stayed, one of the girls was at the international school and I was invited to talk about the Maldives, climate change and tourism from my perspective.
When I found out these guests were going to Dubai for their one year anniversary, I found out where they were staying and organised some in-room amenities as an anniversary present. They sent me a video to tell me they loved it!
We keep in touch with our repeater guests and we do things to WOW them during their stay. Recently, at sunset I took some unsuspecting guests to the beach… but really I’d organised a sunset cruise with champagne for them. There are many things that I could add to the list and every day we create WOW moments!”
What’s your favourite thing on the menu at Niyama-can you describe your favourite Maldivian food?
“Eating at Niyama is so much more than just what’s on the menu. We have a treehouse restaurant that serves four different Asian cuisines. We have Subsix underwater restaurant and then we change things up with our Tribal restaurant which brings together African and Latino cuisines in an African village setting. The food is already great… but the best factor comes from the whole experience!
As for me… ask any Maldivian what their favourite food is and they’ll probably say tuna. Fishing here is one of main industries. So my favourite food would have to be tuna curry, tuna paste, tuna steak, BBQ tuna, grilled tuna, dried tuna…Tuna, tuna, tuna!!!”
What’s your favourite month to spend in the Maldives and why?
“Every day in Maldives is wonderful – we have beautiful ocean and beaches; different sunsets every day and, best of all, there’s no winter time. If I had to pick a favourite time for me, I’d say November to March – it’s school holiday time for Europeans, so I get to meet and make new friends!”
What is your favourite part of a working day as a butler?
“My favourite time of the day is at the end of the day, not because I’ve finished work, but because my guests are happy and the day has gone well!”
What do you think makes a holiday special- and stands out from the rest?
“It’s people who make a place and a holiday special… and the service they receive whilst they are here helps create special memories.”
If you could throw a party in Subsix underwater bar- who would you like to invite?
“If I had to throw a party, I’d invite all my repeater guests to Subsix – we’d have a Glow Party with tuna canapés!”
If you could travel anywhere else in the world- where would you go?
“I like to travel and I would love to go to America. Why? Because it’s so far from here! We have guests coming from there and they always talk about the wonderful things there. I’d love to see the urban environment – here in the Maldives we have green trees and beautiful beaches so cities are very exciting for me.”
Please could you tell me a little bit about the local people which were helped by yourself and your guests?
“I once took one of my guests over and they asked what they could do to help on my home island. So I took them to the hospital and school, and they said if you need anything for these places let us know.
The guest met the school principal and hospital manager and saw where they could help. They generously donated USD$ 140,000 to make the school digital with smart boards / projectors / iPads etc. Over at the hospital the operating theatre was in need of an upgrade, so they offered USD$ 103,000 to upgrade the equipment!
My biggest dream as a kid was to become President of the Maldives, but these days it’s a dream to have a good health care system for the people of the island – so I might build a new hospital one day.”
Do you believe that the Maldives is true paradise?
“Yes, 1001% PER AQUUM Niyama is my second home – I have been here from the beginning and there’s a deep love for the place. People here are so friendly and the resort really is beautiful.”
Visiting the Maldives for the first time this summer showed me picture-perfect islands, the water so blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at, and a place that really felt like an escape. It struck me however – after our experience of the most epic of tropical showers – that a holiday is always made most enjoyable by the hospitality you receive. I could have got the soaking of my life walking from my room over to dinner in Niyama’s mouthwatering Asian fusion restaurant, Nest, had it not been for the attentive service of a lovely thakaru from Kenya with the widest grin I’ve ever seen. A smile in a thunderstorm goes a very long way!
With thanks to all the staff at PER AQUUM Niyama, to Jodi Clark for passing my questions onto Yoosuf, and of course to Yoosuf Thahseen for sharing his story.