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What Are the Maldives' Most Luxurious Hotels Doing

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What Are the Maldives

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Tourism only began in the Maldives in 1972 and since then, the Indian Ocean island nation has risen to be a top luxury destinations, receiving about a million visitors per year. Though there’s been a recent push to build three- and four-star multi-unit guest houses that make the destination more affordable, the main theme of tourism development thus far in the Maldives has been high-end luxury resorts each on their own island. With about 1,200 islands, there’s plenty of room for everyone. The Maldives is well known to divers and romantic couples around the world. “As a year-round holiday destination the Maldives has become firmly established among tourists the world over,” said Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor, the country’s minister of tourism.

Luxury market competition is not really waged on price in the Maldives. With so many big brands including Anantara, Angsara, Four Seasons, Hilton, Jumeirah, One & Only, Outrigger, Regent, Shangri-La, Taj and others the various properties seek distinguishing points of difference (PODs) to separate themselves from an elegant pack. The Six Senses Laamu, for instance, finds its POD in bringing the “table to the farm” at LEAF, a restaurant incorporated into the farm. The restaurant features an imaginative menu that sources all ingredients from the organic garden, Maldivian fishermen and farmers.
The NIYAMA by Per AQUUM even has an underwater disco to help the resort stand out. Anantara’s Maldives resorts and Naladhu Maldives are taking a more traditional approach by investing in service. They recently put their team of Villa Hosts and House Masters through a training course delivered by British-born Steven Ferry, Chairman of The International Institute of Modern Butlers.
One POD for the Naladhu Maldives is the new 600 square meter two bedroom pool residence, which has a wrap-around dining terrace leading to a 95 square meter pool, edged by a sun deck with a dining pavilion and sala at each end. A butler’s kitchen and well-stocked pantry have been designed for entertaining in an indoor dining and living room, which flows onto the outdoor deck and pool.

A second story master suite has a bedroom, lounge space and a daybed balcony overlooking the ocean, while floor-to-ceiling wardrobes in his and hers dressing rooms lead into the adjoining stately bathroom with a rain shower and tub. Downstairs the twin bedroom can be used for children and leads to a dressing room and bathroom, featuring a bathtub as well as indoor and outdoor showers. The suite comes with butler service as do all of the other 19 Beach Houses or Ocean Houses on Naladhu.
The One&Only Reethi Rah recently unveiled six new water villas with pools to emphasize its POD. The verandas come with hammocks, day beds and private fresh-water infinity pools (measuring nearly 325 square feet each). The 850-square-foot villas are combined in a cluster of four villas configured in such a way that even guests in adjacent villas are completely unaware of one another. All villas have direct access to the secluded lagoon and come with a dedicated concierge.
Outside recognition makes for a fine POD. The Ayada Maldives and the Hulhule Island Hotel were named to the list of the World’s Best Hotels as respectively the World’s Leading Water Villa Resort and the World's Leading Airport Resort at the World Travel Awards ceremony, held in Anguilla. The Ayada and its 112 villas and suites were also placed on the Conde Nast Traveller’s list of best hotels in the Maldives, voted as the “Indian Ocean's Leading Luxury Resort” and the “Indian Ocean's Leading Villa Resort & Spa.”
Finally a last, large and very different POD from the hotels above comes from Secret Paradise, a Maldives-based operator who offers more affordable Maldives holidays. Formed in 2012, Secret Paradise is owned by Male businessman, Mohamed Ziyad and managed by Ruth Franklin, a former GM for the UK retailer BHS. An avid diver who had made more than 30 trips to the Maldives, Franklin packed her scuba gear and headed for the Maldives determined to create an alternative to the exclusive resort style holidays that would have in her words, “a direct impact on the local communities I knew and respected.”
Franklin and Secret Paradise offer guest house accommodation. “The guesthouse sector's capacity has tripled in the three years since the laws allowed guests to stay on local islands and this is without any worldwide promotion.” From Franklin’s point of view, the government is focused only on the top end in its marketing because they are coming. “The government supports the running of guest houses even though it will not promote them in international markets,” said Franklin.
Franklin promises the “real Maldives” to those who give her company a try. They will also support local communities and their economy, whilst also leading the way in promoting responsible tourism in the local market.
Mario Scozia, the executive director of A&A Southeast Asia Tours, who has run several programs to the Maldives, focuses on luxury travel and warns that the Maldives would not be easy for budget independent travelers. “Not sure that Maldives is ready to accommodate the low budget /moderate market,” said Scozia.
“Costs are very high. Sea plane costs are skyrocketing and there’s great difficulty in accessing the Atolls. The first time traveler will have huge difficulties in dealing with the various boat water transfers such as from airport to sea plane, then on to pontoon, back on to a boat before arriving to the assigned Atoll. Also, the boat transfers can be very taxing as the ocean there is quite rough and some transfers from airport to some Atoll resort islands take as long as 45 minutes of bumpy (very bumpy) waters and rough ride.

It is written by JAMES RUGGIA on DECEMBER 24, 2014

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