From humble beginnings, Adil Moosa’s education started in his native island of Eydhafushi Island in Baa Atoll, after which he completed his secondary education in Majeedhiyya School in Malé. Fortunate enough to land a scholarship, Adil completed his undergraduate degree in Accounting and Finance and moved on to his postgraduate in Commerce at the Macquarie University, Australia.
Adil joined Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) as a project officer trainee and had worked in different departments over the years. With a keen interest in accounting, Adil found himself working forward in the field. Before his current role as the managing director, Adil worked as the Head of Investments for MACL. In this exclusive with Hotelier Maldives, Adil shares insight into his career and future of the country’s aviation sector.
Hotelier Maldives: What was the status of MACL when you joined, and how has it progressed over the years?
Adil Moosa: I joined Airports in 1992 and at the time the company was called Maldives Airport Authority (MAA). As per the rapid growth of the airport, the need for a commercial entity to manage the airport was recognised and on January 1, 1994, the government established MAA as a separate commercial entity rather than part of the government administration. Subsequently, MAA was incorporated into the Maldives Airports Company Ltd as a Limited Liability Company effective on August 1, 2000. At the time, there were fewer flights compared to now and infrastructure was also not like now.
But over the years with the growth of the tourism sector, airport traffic grew and prompted improvements to many areas like terminal capacity, navigation, grounds operations, fire safety and so on. During the last 40 years in total there was an investment of only US$100 million but today we are seeing an investment of over a billion dollars. It also prompted the introduction of new services, like the Duty-Free, cargo services and passenger services. In the last ten years, the number of employees also grew by 100%, so a lot has changed over the years.
HM: As the managing director of MACL, what is your management philosophy? And what changes have you pioneered at MACL?
AM: I follow a very simple philosophy of togetherness, or working as a team. I admire my staff’s work and I’m giving my 100% to accommodate to their needs. Changes are brought together as a team. It is not only the physical infrastructure of the airport that we are investing in. We have introduced a number of incentive packages for our staff like insurance, Hajj trips and study loans, and we also have a programme to provide higher education loans to the children of our staff.
A comprehensive programme to train and upskill the management and staff of VIA is underway in collaboration with major international airports. One of the programmes is with SATS Singapore, which includes staff training augmented with on-the-job experience at the airport. International consultants already are at our airport working with the management and staff to prepare for our future.
I’m really proud of these initiatives and most of all I’m really proud of the fact that we are completing the major projects that we developed in the master plan and bringing solutions which are much needed for our future airport. I thank President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and the government for facilitating this huge development for the betterment of the country.
HM: What are some of the challenges to managing Velana International, the country’s main gateway? And how have you addressed and overcome these challenges?
AM: This is a unique situation because in the Maldives the Velana International Airport is located on a separate island, meaning we face space constraints. However, through strategic planning, we had dealt with those challenges. If we look at the development of the new runway, for example, we are developing the new one next to the existing runway. Initially, to develop the runway we did not have space, so we had to reclaim 64 hectares of land. In addition, we could not start the new runway operation until we relocated the seaplane operation.
To achieve this, we reclaimed 18,000 square metres of land to build the new seaplane terminal for operations. For the development of the new International Passenger Terminal, we cleared the whole area by relocating all the facilities to a new location west of the airport. This was really challenging, but with the proper planning and by hiring the right people, we are have minimised the difficulties. We have an extraordinary team, both domestically and in terms of international expertise. For every challenge, we were able to find a solution and make this airport a world-class one.
HM: In your opinion, what is the state of the country’s tourism industry? And what is the role of MACL in ensuring a brighter future?
AM: I think the Maldives as a country has become its own brand and I think people recognise it as a very high-end market. However, we have seen a recent change in this perception; in terms of prices, we now offer fantastic vacations for the high and low ranges with different categories to choose from – luxury resorts and guesthouses.
I believe almost anyone can come here these days, and the low-cost carriers have helped with that. Tourism in the Maldives is booming and additional resorts and guesthouses are coming up. The role of us is to add value to the destination with our new development so that the Maldives will be seen as a top destination.
HM: What are some of your greatest achievements? And that of the company?
AM: I’ve been working hard to implement huge changes. The airport has a lot of potential for development, but due to constraints, mostly of financial nature, only small advancements have been seen in the past. Yet, the government now has the vision to take bold decisions and bring about a major overhaul.
We’ve always been working towards short-term goals in the past, maybe looking only three to five years into the future. But the government believes, in order to cater to the growing economy and the country’s needs, this development is needed because tourism is growing every year, with dozens of new openings every year. Velana International Airport is the gateway to the country, and we believe the airport will be key to the future and to economic growth.
This government has taken a long-term view, looking 25 to 30 years into the future, which makes perfect sense because we need a long-term strategy for sustainable growth. Fundamentally, I believe this is a major difference. I think to me the fact that this airport is developing at a rapid pace is the greatest achievements because this is the biggest development project in the history of the Maldives.
HM: How do you foresee the future of Velana International Airport and MACL? And what are your future plans?
AM: The future looks bright, at this point of time we are working very hard to achieve what was in our master plan and to finish off our major projects like the International Passenger Terminal and other airport projects. Once all the developments are completed, we will be a world-class airport and that is the future I foresee for our airport.