Muhammad Hanafi bin Hamdan is having the time of his life right now. At the age of 26, he has been to almost every country in the world, except for the USA. He is currently only one of six Bruneians who are serving Emirates as members of their airline crew. Not only has his job taken him to many exotic places, but while travelling he has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the world’s most famous celebrities, including Pele and Christiano Ronaldo during the World Cup season in 2014. He recalled that on one memorable trip he had the pleasure of serving YB Pehin Yasmin, Brunei’s Minister of Energy. When he introduced himself as a Bruneian, the Minister was both surprised and proud to meet a fellow Bruneian serving him on the international platform. “That was definitely a highlight for me!” said Hanafi.
If you had asked Hanafi six years ago if he could imagine himself doing what he does today, he would probably have said, no. In 2010, Hanafi enrolled into Institute of Brunei Technical Education, Maktab Teknik Sultan Saiful Rijal Campus (IBTE MTSSR) to do the course on Travel and Tourism. Back then, all Hanafi had in mind was that the tourism industry was one that he could one day contribute to and in doing so also help the country. “The country needs to develop its tourism market and it needs more people in the tourism sector,” this is what he remembers thinking. Friends and family thought he was crazy because they did not think there was a future in tourism in such a tiny country. But Hanafi had other ideas. He was able to convince his family that by studying tourism, not only would he have the opportunity to work in Brunei, but the world’s tourism industry would also be open to him.
With a certificate in Tourism and Traveling from IBTE MTSSR, Hanafi had no problem getting a job with Royal Brunei after graduating. He was a member of the ground staff who worked at the check-in counter for six months before applying for a job with Emirates. He explained that the tourism course at IBTE MTSSR helped him gain practical knowledge about customer service, marketing, and Brunei’s culture as well as how to deal with people internationally. One of the most unforgettable lessons he learnt at IBTE.
MTSSR was the good old Bruneian value of treating everyone as family. This lesson has served him well because on a daily basis, Hanafi needs to collaborate with many airline crews that he has never met before and it has taught him how to quickly establish a good rapport with anyone he meets; and also how to create an amicable team environment. Hanafi takes his job very seriously. He often consciously reminds himself that he is an ambassador representing Brunei on the international stage. The impression that the customers and other colleagues have of him will directly affect the way they view his beloved country.
Throughout the two years spent with Emirates, Hanafi has developed and experienced a great deal. He has been exposed to people from every walk of life. He has stayed in many different hotels and has served on some of the most luxurious aircrafts in the world (according to Hanafi, the A380 doubledecker first class is even equipped with a shower and a spa). And he even once had to help a passenger who was also a nurse, who ’d lost consciousness during a trip from Dubai to Brisbane.
And the lessons that he’s learnt from all of these various experiences have been priceless. Hanafi has learnt how to deal with people from multicultural backgrounds; to appreciate other people’s strengths and to respect their differences; to work as part of a team, but most of all, he has learnt how to practice customer service from the heart. All these lessons, Hanafi said, “will not go to waste”, because one day, he is going to bring back his knowledge and insights and share them with his fellow Bruneians.”
Hanafi plans to return one day to serve the country’s tourism industry. Who knows, he may return to help raise the standard of service on the national airline or he may help in other ways to promote Brunei to the rest of the world. But for now, Hanafi is serving as a beacon of inspiration to all Bruneians who have a dream and determination – proving that you can spread your wings and fly beyond your wildest imagination.