Back Office Tour
As most visitors and guests arrive at a resort, the last thing they want to think about are the systems that operate everything. People want to get away from the mechanics of everyday living and forget about doing laundry, paying utility bills, preparing and cleaning up meals.
The difference with this property is that there was no infrastructure (or structures) on this island when it was purchased in 1999. Since then, it has become a fully-functioning self-contained five star hotel. My curiosity leads me to wonder how the place operates, where the electricity comes from, how the systems in the back work to create a customer experience that is better than one might expect. It could also be informative as we look for ways to delight our customers. Perhaps Shangri-la is a benchmark for personal customer experiences that go beyond our standards.
Prior to 1999, the island was not inhabited, used just as a day excursion point, and as a local mentioned to me, a place to have an occasional picnic. Villingili Island was purchased in 1999 (50 year ownership, now extended to 70 years). Construction of infrastructure began in 2004 and was completed in 2009.
Today there are 650 employees, half of whom live on the island in staff accommodations. A boat takes the other 300+ back and forth daily to two other islands where they live.
Leo Freighter brings goods in containerized cargo, which are then unloaded at the dock and transported to various locations for warehousing and storage. There is an office in Male, the capital of the Maldives, with customs-clearing, goods receiving, etc.
All materials and staff go through a security check on the way in and out, including a metal scanner for all staff entering and leaving the property to ensure safety for guests and security for property. 89 CCTV cameras allow monitoring of people and events for efficiency and safety.
The premise of the resort operations is self-sufficiency, sustainability and social responsibility. For achieving the goal of self-sufficiency, their systems include:
Energy production. Four CAT generators have a total capacity of 1,200 KVA output. Demand is usually 50% of output, peak consumes 75%, leaving spare capacity with one back-up generator. The diesel fuel is brought to the island by a ship which anchors to a dock. The fuel is off-loaded by pumping through underground pipes to the tank farm.
Water production is as essential as power. There are three reverse osmosis systems, each capable of producing 1.2 cubic meters of water each hour, 24 hours a day. The RO water supplies all water needs, including showers, and is completely safe for drinking. But then this generates a lot of waste water, which must be treated. Much of the hot water is generated by solar collectors situated on rooftops throughout the building structures.
The waste water treatment plant is a major installation, handling all waste. After treatment, the gray water is used for watering and landscaping, with the treated sludge used for the farming of plants and food crops.
Trash and garbage are carefully sorted, packaged, and shipped off-island every 2-3 weeks. There are increased efforts to recycle on the island, particularly compost of food and paper materials.
Rain water is collected from building rooftops with gutters, routed to central collection points which then pump the water to holding tanks centrally located. This stored water is used for irrigation and landscaping.
Support services for staff and guests include fully laundry services, mechanical shops for metal and woodworking, a flower shop, mechanical repairs of bicycles, golf carts (the transport “buggies” for guests and staff) and anything else mechanical. There are two full-time tailors who work on staff uniforms.
Food preparation is conducted in a central kitchen that serves all restaurants with prepared dishes, which are then “finished” at the local serving areas. The staff have their own restaurant and kitchen with free meals served three times a day.
Aircraft operations: 60% of guests now arrive by private aircraft organized by the resort logistics center. This resort is served by an airport located at Gan, just 20 minutes by boat from the resort. A part of the commercial terminal is now exclusive to Shangri-la for receiving and dispatching private aircraft arriving from the Middle East, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, etc.
The medical center is staffed with a full-time doctor and has good basic support for emergencies. There is a hyperbaric decompression chamber, one of three for The Maldives, and used primarily for local fishermen who are not properly trained in SCUBA techniques and who occasionally run out of air at depth (in search of the big fish) and make a dash for the surface.
Communications are a delight due to the microwave cell towers and high speed internet service provided across the island, with multiple repeaters in each guest villa.
Nothing has been left to chance in the design and operations of this magnificent resort, and there are continuous plans to upgrade and improve on all processes and facilities. The goal is to have all of this completely invisible to guests, other than the excellence of service and quality of food and amenities provided on a “round-the-clock” basis.
Shangri-La Villingili gets my five-star approval rating!