Michal Smejc, General Manager, Velaa Private Island
Velaa Private Island is one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. SPACE editor Can Faik talks to Michal Smejc, General Manager and brother to owner Jiri Smejc, to discover the secret behind the private islands success…
Velaa Private Island is the realisation of a dream to create a ‘beyond luxury’ exclusive boutique hideaway. Designed and curated with privacy and comfort as the guiding principles while allowing the Indian Ocean to take centre stage. At one with nature, each of the private retreats is built using local materials, combining contemporary flourishes with interiors designed for sensory exploration.
What is your position at Velaa Private Island?
As the General Manager I oversee the entirety of Velaa and as the brother of Owner Jiri Smejc. I have a strong and personal understanding of the island including our future goals and aspirations having been involved with the island from the very beginning, scouting the island, and establishing direction for the island from the very start.
What fascinates you about the luxury hotel industry?
What fascinates me is networking, such as soft skill business and nurturing careful business relationships within the luxury industry.
As Velaa is a family run business, is this a quality that transpires to your guests?
We created Velaa as a private island where we aim to deliver a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere at the highest of standards
What is the story behind the Velaa brand?
The passion project of my brother, Jirí and his wife Radka Smejc who fell in love with Maldives and decided to build their own place where they can relax and enjoy the Maldives, Velaa Private Island represents a vision to create a destination in a category entirely of its own. Following an investment to essentially build the resort from scratch, it has emerged as a luxe haven for the world’s most discerning holidaymakers.
What keeps you motivated?
The love I have for Velaa and the responsibility for the team, which is an extended part of the family.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The variety of the work, every day I have different tasks and topics and it is complex. It’s like running a city!
Can you think of a time when you’ve done something that has made the impossible become possible?
Every day! The logistics of the island are so difficult that to deliver the top standard and flexibility to the guests it is really an ‘impossible made possible’.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of the owner, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
The biggest challenge, but what I’m most proud of is to build the brand of a small hotel from scratch, and we were able in five years to be worldwide recognised and as a clear number one in the Maldives.
What are Velaa Private Islands unique selling points?
Our unique selling points revolve around personalisation and privacy. With a zero drones policy, a ratio of 1:8 guests to staff, dedicated butlers, a snow room at our Clarin’s Spa and a mini submarine which allows guests to explore the beauty of the ocean at ease. In addition to the beauty of the island we also have a huge variety of activities including golf and all Watersports one can imagine. The food and service is top notch.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
Love, passion and dedication, as it is 24/7 work
What other exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
We are looking for a space for a private club in London, as well as a couple of other projects which are in the very initial stages.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
We are currently redesigning one of our private residences ‘NIKA’. Trends that we have noticed and that we are applying to this re-design is the use of natural materials with well thought out design that adapts to guests’ personal needs; balancing a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere whilst being practical.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
We believe it is crucial as the design of Velaa reflects the paradise we aim to achieve with a high-quality finish that gives an authentic Maldivian feel. The resort wasn’t built as a commercial project that why we spent a lot of money in the finishing of the design.
Who is the typical Velaa customer?
It’s a successful individual who seeks a family retreat, honeymooners looking for special place, and celebrities seeking privacy.
What would be your dream hotel project?
This is the dream hotel project.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
It’s hard to say, as I stayed in many places which have some charm. For example, Rosewood in Paris is amazing.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
I would like to go back to New Zealand and visit South America.
What are the most challenging issues you are facing on your current job?
Time, as there is always a lot to do.
What advice would you offer to those who aspire to become a successful hotelier?
Be passionate about what you are doing.
What can we expect from Velaa in 2019?
On our agenda for 2019 includes the introduction of our new Yacht ‘RANIA’, a continued refresh of the design within some of the villas as well as some added surprises for guests!
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I think that you need to have a passion of activities away from work. For example, I love playing tennis and diving.