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MARCH - APRIL 2018

Maldives tourism: surviving in choppy waters Hottest new resorts Treading water Introducing Maldivian travel Pyrad’s paradise Deen: a true pioneer Page

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REVIEW

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


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Contents

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Pyrad’s paradise Maldives tourism: surviving in choppy waters

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Hulhumale: Maldives’ reclaimed City of Hope

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The hottest New Resorts in Maldives

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Treading water: Introducing Maldivian travel

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Cocoon Maldives: marrying Italian design with nature to bring out ‘Cultural Luxury’

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How a few pages 51 years ago prophesied Maldives’ tourism destiny

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Minister’s view: overcoming challenges for a brighter future Deen: a true pioneer Latest Happenings

Appointments

Awards


CREDITS Publisher Ismail Faseeh Publishing Director Ibrahim Mahudhee Content Director Ali Naafiz Writers Ali Naafiz Mohamed Visham Daniel Bosley Mohamed Sajid Layout and Design Moobeen Jaleel Sales and Marketing Ismail Faseeh Ibrahim Mahudhee Moobeen Jaleel Ali Naafiz Photography Aishath Naj Ibrahim Asad HDC Resort photos courtesy of the respective resort Cover Photo OZEN Contributors Nasrulla Adnan Abdulla Saaid Moosa Rameez Ahmed Hameed

PUBLISHED BY

Maldives Promotion House Pvt Ltd Unit 1B, H. Meedhoo, Finihiya Goalhi Male’ 20066, Maldives Tel: (960) 3000760 mail: info@maldives.net.mv

From the Team Dear readers, Greetings and a warm welcome to the very first issue of Maldives Insider Travel & Tourism, the newest publication by leading destination marketing agency Maldives Promotion House. A bi-monthly magazine, Travel & Tourism has been created with a single goal in mind; to inspire people close to us and from afar to discover the best of what the Maldives has to offer. Be it spectacular resort designs, holistic wellness retreats, green holidays, on-the-sea living, beach dining experiences and extraordinary personalities, we capture the essence of every aspect of the island paradise’s renowned tourism and hospitality industry. Revolving around a theme set by our travel experts for each issue, Travel & Tourism offers the discerning traveller compelling reasons to get up, come and experience the ‘Sunny Side of Life’. Hoteliers, meanwhile, will find expert intelligence and industry happenings from across the archipelago as well as from around the world served up alongside immersive, inspiring travel lifestyle content. In the first issue, we provide an in-depth look into yet another challenging year in the Maldives tourism industry, and touch on the history of the industry through the eyes of visionaries, pioneers as well as policymakers. We have also added a bit of light reading, giving you a firsthand experience of travelling around the archipelago and visiting local islands. So, enjoy reading!

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w/maldives.net.mv b @maldives @beautifulmaldives Page

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COVER STORY

Maldives to u ris m SURVIVING IN CHOPPY WATERS by Ali Naafiz

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ourism is the dominant sector of the Maldivian economy, and its operations and performance are intimately connected to a diverse range of factors, including both domestic and international matters. Internal politics as well as supply and demand are key to the overall growth of the industry, while geopolitical and economic tensions across the world can have significant impact on the visitor numbers. The tourism sector of Maldives has been through challenging times in the recent past. A rise in popularity of rival destinations along with a rapid increase in supply over the course of a few years has led to substantial declines across all key performance indicators. Although the number of new openings are set to rise this year as well, investors and operators are feeling the heat of this seemingly uncontrolled expansion of such a delicate industry. The year 2017 was no different!

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


SUPPLY SKYROCKETS AMIDST STAGNANT DEMAND

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aldives made several efforts to reach a target of 1.5 million tourists visiting the country during the past year. Several tourism promotion activities were carried out in Asia and Europe, and many competitions and events were also held within the Maldives to boost tourist arrivals. While the campaign was successful in attracting 1.39 million tourists — eight percent more than the previous year — it fell short of reaching the target of 1.5 million. The trend in tourist arrivals to the Maldives during 2017 showed that arrivals picked up strongly in the second half of the year. This increase was underpinned by improving economic conditions in European countries, coupled with a rise in flight movements by international carriers over the period. The strong growth in arrivals from the European markets more than offset the decline in arrivals from the Chinese market. Other key indicators such as bed nights growth also followed a similar trend, gaining momentum towards the latter part of the year and recording an overall growth of 10.6 percent for the year. Reflecting this, the average duration of stay, which has been on a downward trend, increased slightly to 6.2 days in 2017 from six days in 2016.

1400 1200 1000

The tourism sector witnessed a major expansion in terms of the number of resorts and bed capacity in 2017. With the opening of 14 new resorts, the total number of resorts in operation increased to 130 at the end of the year, while the number of operating guesthouses, hotels and safari vessels reached 458, 10 and 131 respectively. With regard to bed capacity, the average operational bed capacity of the industry stood at 38,592. Mirroring these developments, the average occupancy rate of resorts fell to 61.1 percent from 62.9 percent in 2016.

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COVER STORY EUROPE CONTINUES RECOVERY, CHINA SHOWS HOPE

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urope accounted for 52 percent of total tourist arrivals, while Asia accounted for 39.1 percent. Reflecting the improving economic conditions in the European markets, market share for Europe increased from 45 percent in 2016; this was a reversal of the downward trend of previous years. However, the market share of Asia — the market leader since 2014 — dipped from the 46 percent in 2016 to 39.1 percent in 2017. Arrivals from the European market grew significantly at seven percent during 2017 after recording a marginal growth rate of one percent in 2016. This was mainly supported by growth in arrivals from markets such as Italy (up 24.8 percent) and Spain (up 10.5 percent). In addition, arrivals from smaller source markets in Eastern, Central and East Mediterranean Europe also improved. On the other hand, major European markets such as the UK, Germany and France only registered a marginal growth of 2.1 percent, 5.4 percent and 4.6 percent respectively. Arrivals from Russia — the fourth largest European market — also showed strong signs of recovery after stagnant growth, with the number of Russian tourists increasing by 33.1 percent to reach 61,931 in 2017 from 46,522 in 2016. Total arrivals from the Asia and Pacific region registered a marginal decline in 2017, mainly

due to a 5.5 percent decline in arrivals from China. However, the Chinese market, which has observed major declines over the past two years, posted a stellar performance during the last two months of the year. This strong performance in November and December helped the year over year decline in arrivals from China to narrow to 5.5 percent at the end of the year from 8.2 at the end of October. Other key markets from the Asian region such as India, Malaysia and Thailand showed pronounced growth on the back of renewed interest and increased flight movements. Some operators, especially low-cost airlines, increased frequency, including new services to Thailand and Malaysia, contributing to a 58.3 percent and an 18 percent increase in arrivals respectively. Meanwhile, arrivals from South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, increased by 10.5 percent. This was largely due to a strong growth of 24 percent posted by the Indian market. However, Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, posted a sizeable decline of 4.2 percent. Arrivals from almost every major Middle Eastern market, except the United Arab Emirates which was up 30.3 percent, declined during 2017; Saudi Arabia was down by 11 percent, Qatar by 52.4 percent, Kuwait by 8.6 percent and Egypt by 5.1 percent.

Resorts

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018

Annual change

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NEW MARKETS GIVE BOOST

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elatively new markets continued their upward growth trajectory throughout the past year, as arrivals from the Americas were up 22.2 percent, Oceania up 18 percent and Africa up 36.5 percent. Arrivals from the US, which for the first time ever secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 20.2 percent to reach 39,180 last year compared to the 32,589 in 2016, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 16 percent. South Africa, which was once a major source market for the Maldives, also showed signs of recovery, as arrivals from the country increased by 51.4 percent, with monthly arrival figures crossing the 1,000-mark for the first time in years. After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth. The government has set an ambitious target of attracting two million tourists by 2020, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

Over the past five years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands and local investors have entered into the market, significantly increasing the number of resorts. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 20 new resorts over the next two years. Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 450 guesthouses in operation today. The government has recently announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to attract more travellers.

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REVIEW

MINISTER’S VIEW OVERCOMING CHALLENGES FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


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ourism is the mainstay of our economy and the largest contributor to the country’s GDP. In 2013, Maldives surpassed the one million visitor milestone. The average growth rate for tourist arrivals during the past five years has remained at 7.9 percent, which is double the global growth. Over the last five years, we have seen a major increase in investments in the sector, which illustrates the confidence in the industry from both local and international companies. In this respect, 28 new resorts with 5,328 beds have come into operation, creating more than 11,000 jobs. As this expansion continues, Maldives Insider Travel & Tourism speaks to Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer about the government’s vision for the future of the industry.

Travel & Tourism: What is the government’s policy and focus with regards to the tourism industry? Moosa Zameer : His Excellency President Yameen’s government’s tourism policy is to expand the industry in a sustainable manner in order to facilitate the economic development of our nation and the livelihood of our people. TT: What is the idea behind the current rapid growth in supply? MZ: I will refer to our primary sectoral policy document, which is our Fourth Tourism Master Plan (4TMP). If you look at the recommended bed increase in this document and the actual increase in bed capacity, it is almost in line with the recommended growth.

Additionally, the expansion of Velana International Airport, once completed, will be able to cater up to 7.5 million movements annually. With such major infrastructure development comes the need to increase the supply. In addition, the high occupancy rates we are experiencing during the peak season create the need to boost the supply.

TT: Do you think this rapid increase in supply might result in the Maldives losing its identity as the ultimate luxury holiday destination? MZ: No destination in the world is at a standstill. All are expanding the sector with the objective of courting the expanding tourism industry across the globe. Today, travel for holiday is a necessity and the number of people traveling for vacation is increasing. We believe we need to make every effort to earn the maximum from this growth in international tourism.

So, I firmly believe we will solidify our position in the international arena, as you can see that the major increase in supply is due to internationally recognised brands opening top of notch properties in the Maldives.

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INTERVIEW

TT: Maldives has an image abroad as an island destination with a beautiful, pristine natural environment. How is the policy geared towards preserving the natural environment? MZ: We will always uphold the sustainable principles of tourism development we have followed, and in fact we will be strengthening those aspects as those are the cornerstones, which earned the Maldives its current position in international tourism. TT: Climate change is seen as a major challenge to countries like the Maldives. It has devastating effects on the tourism industry too. What is being done to build resilience of the industry? MZ: Climate change is a challenge not only for us, but for mankind as a whole. The recent tragic incidents in each and every continent – from droughts to flood, frequency of occurrence of severe typhoons, cyclones, earthquakes, etc. – clearly show that each and every one of us, no matter whether you live on a remote island or in a developed country, need to take steps to minimise the contribution to climate change. We are taking measures to build our resilience at the development stage as well as at the operational phase. TT: What are the main challenges to the sustainable growth of the industry? MZ: We need to facilitate easier access to capital financing for tourism projects and develop a skilled labour force for the tourism sector. As the tourism landscape is changing so rapidly, we need to keep abreast of the new developments in the global arena. The tourism industry is becoming increasingly competitive, so we need to keep ahead of the stiff competition by our neighbouring countries as well as from far away destinations similar to us. Safety and security is an aspect we need to be vigilant as terror organisations are targeting soft targets such as tourism and travel hubs. TT: What is being done to overcome those challenges? MZ: I would like to highlight some of the initiatives being taken towards that end, including: • Benchmarking sector specific tourism investments. • Maintaining Maldives’ position in the world market through market research and analysis, private/public partnership for marketing, consolidating unique remote resort island positioning and allocating marketing resources efficiently. • Allocating resources to environmental and conservation issues by developing plans for marine protected areas and designated sensitive environments, implementing “biosphere reserve” and “responsible visitor” programmes and initiating a national low-carbon programme for the tourism sector. • Engaging more Maldivians in the tourism sector through career awareness in school curriculum, public sector-led campaign to change attitudes towards careers in tourism, world-class national hospitality training programmes and encouraging entrepreneurs at atoll level. Furthermore, it includes strengthening the ministry’s mandate and policies on human resources development by focusing on career paths for women and facilitating entrepreneurship amongst women. • Initiating sensible ways for communities to participate in tourism by determining island roles in tourism, awareness and capacity-building programmes for tourism development in inhabited island and encouraging international assistance to community tourism.

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TT: How important is a proper destination strategy, especially in light of the current growth in supply? MZ: We have always been guided by our tourism master plan, which clearly shows our commitment to strategic sectoral planning. As our fourth TMP has ended last year, we have commenced the process of enacting our fifth TMP. Discussions with various stakeholders, both public and private, will be held and the strategic directions for the sector will be compiled based on these discussions and inputs from international organisations such as UNWTO, PATA and other relevant organisations. TT: Can you highlight the government’s strategy on destination marketing? MZ: Our main strategy is to showcase the Maldives to an even wider audience and to grow the rate of marketing and promotional events to increase our exposure. We will ensure that the Maldives’ destination marketing strategy evolves in line with the growth of new resort brands. The ‘Sunny Side of Life’ brand will continue to be used in all marketing campaigns along with additional supporting positioning statements related to main segments such as ‘Romantic Side of Life’ to attract honeymoon travellers and ‘Colourful Sides of Life’ for activities such as snorkelling, diving, etc. The Maldives has been incredibly successful in exhibiting at international festivals which has driven the increase of international arrivals to the Maldives. Both the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and local ventures, including Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Association of Travel Agents (ATA), will engage in multiple international venues to promote tourism in the present year. In addition to the efforts by MATATO, ATA and new resort brands, the government has planned 15 events for tourism promotion. Altogether, the Maldives is set to host approximately 43 events in 2018 for destination promotion. TT: What is your outlook on the future of tourism in Maldives? How will it evolve in the short-term and long-term? MZ: Maldives tourism is going through a critical stage and key infrastructure developments are being addressed, most importantly the redevelopment of Velana International Airport and additional domestic airports to facilitate easy and quick access for tourists to their resort destinations. So, the bottlenecks we currently experience will be challenging, but with the completion of the ongoing infrastructure developments related to tourism, we will be reaching totally new heights.

our tourism industry with a very “I seeprosperous and bright future. ” - Moosa Zameer -

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REVIEW

NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT THE

MALDIVES

LIKE WE DO ...

MALDIVES INSIDER

a publication by maldives.net.mv

MALDIVES INSIDER maldives.net.mv

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


THE HOTTEST NEW RESORTS IN

MALDIVES The Maldives’ tourism industry has inevitably evolved. A plethora of new properties has come into play with the backing of a combination of local and international entrepreneurs and seasoned hoteliers. Dozens have forayed into new and untapped segments of the market, greatly expanding the scope of an industry that was previously

exclusive to luxury tourism. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million mark, and is on course to reach an ambitious target of 1.5 million. This rapid expansion continued with the opening of more than a dozen new resorts in the year 2017 as well. We look at nine of the hottest new properties in the Maldives:

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REVIEW

Kuda Fushi Resort & Spa Located in the northern Raa atoll, Kuda Fushi Resort and Spa can be reached by a 45-minute scenic seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport. Blindingly white sand beaches, dense inland vegetation and a fantastic house reef awaits the visitors to the island. Kuda Fushi offers guests 40 Beach Villas, 32 Beach Pool Villas, 24 Water Villas, 10 Water Pool Villas and one Presidential Suite, all tastefully decorated in luxurious comfort in a truly traditional Maldivian setting. All villas are afforded with utmost privacy and sweeping vistas of clear blue skies and glistening white sand beaches, just a step away from the inviting pleasures of the aquamarine waters and the majestic beauty of the underwater world of the Maldives. The resort also boasts a vast array of recreational facilities, well-equipped water sports and diving centre, spa, and gourmet delights at the food and beverage outlets – everything that guests needs to have a fabulous vacation in paradise.

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Located on a lush tropical island in Dhaalu atoll, Kandima Maldives is a contemporary lifestyle resort that embodies all the positive values of the Maldives, while adding its own innovative, vibrant and playful style. The new game changing destination offers a choice of 272 stylishly designed studios and villas, with 11 different categories to choose from, all of which have a private terrace and endless tropical views to enjoy. • Beach and Sky Studios: A two-storey villa, and guests can choose between a Sky or a Beach Studio. These villas are situated along the main beach, all with their own private terrace or balcony. • Family Sky Studios: Interconnecting sky studios with separate living rooms. The Family Sky Studio accommodates up to eight people. • Beach Villas with Jacuzzi: Spacious beachfront villas all with their own private deck, Jacuzzi, and endless ocean views. • Beach Pool Villas: Stunning beachfront villas, all with their own private pool, Jacuzzi and private deck. • Aqua Villas: Stylish overwater villas with private deck, offering endless views of the beautiful Indian Ocean. • Aqua Villas with Jacuzzi: Stylish and spacious overwater villas with private deck and Jacuzzi. • Aqua Pool Villas: Stunning overwater villas all with their own private deck, swimming pool, and endless ocean views.

Kandima Maldives

The four-star plus resort has first class infrastructure, boasting the largest pool in the Maldives, tennis courts, an art studio, a marine biology school, a kids’ club, a game room, a library, a gym, a yoga studio and a spa. There is plenty to keep everyone occupied and the array of activities and events on offer is endless, including a huge choice of water sports, diving or snorkelling near the house reef, yoga, Zumba, bicycles, beach volleyball, petanque, arts and crafts lessons, and much more. The island also offers one of the largest selection of F&B outlets in the country, with an incredible choice of ten restaurants and bars, all featuring unique and individual menus offering flavours of the world from Chinese and Japanese to authentic Maldivian and Mediterranean.

Be it tropical or traditional, Kandima has something to suit everyone’s tastes. Page

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FEATURED

Dhigali Maldives Dhigali Maldives sits in the remote Raa atoll and can be reached by a scenic seaplane journey of just 45 minutes from the main Velana International Airport. Alternatively, guests can take a domestic flight to either Ifuru or Dharavandhoo airport, followed by a speedboat ride to the resort — a journey of about 70 minutes. The island itself is corralled by 20 Beach Bungalows and 33 Deluxe Beach Bungalows to the south, and 62 Beach Villas which line the north and southwestern beaches. Nestled under a canopy of palms, these beach front sanctuaries provide luxurious intimacy, effortlessly marrying the interior and exterior. Outside, spend your days relaxing in the private deck’s day-bed or opt for one of the 21 Beach Villa with Pool which include a private plunge pool overlooking the sparkling Indian Ocean. Dhigali’s overwater bungalows dot the island’s azure perimetre. Extending from the south-eastern side of the island is a jetty hosting 24 Water Villas, each one rising out of the lagoon on stilts. Similarly, from the south-east of the island snakes a further jetty housing 16 larger Lagoon Villas with Pools. The singular Dhigali Suite is the pride of the island, featuring an opulent master bedroom, open-air bathroom, beachfront infinity pool and wide sundeck. With sublime ocean views and intuitive luxuries, the Dhigali Suite comes with its own bar and personal butler service, offering pure tropical peace.

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018

Dining experience is innovative and authentic, with the style and atmosphere of each restaurant reflecting the cuisine. There is a particular focus on fresh Asian dishes, including the specialist Asian restaurant, Battuta. Capers is the main restaurant, while there is also the upscale Deli, all-day dining at Jade, and freshly grilled meats and fish at Faru. At sunset, guests can make their own way to the upper level of Haali sunset bar with a cocktail in hand. The Dhigali Spa is a green retreat in the middle of the island, featuring daybeds, an outdoor pool and 12 modern, minimalist treatment rooms that cocoon guests in absolute stillness. Therapies offered by the spa draw on indigenous traditions to heal and reenergise the body and mind, while guests have the opportunity to prolong their visit in the steam room and relaxation lounge, or pamper with a pedicure and a manicure. In addition to PADI-certified diving, snorkelling and a range of water sports, Dhigali offers island hopping adventures to nearby islands to explore local culture. Access to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Hanifaru Bay in the nearby Baa atoll is available, allowing guests to discover the largest seasonal groupings of manta rays, a variety of stunning corals and huge schools of tropical marine life, as well as the opportunity to spot whale sharks.


Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort

Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort, the only resort in the Maldives with direct access to an airport, marked the entry to the Maldives of French multinational hotel chain AccorHotels. The four-star resort, developed on the island of Kooddoo in Gaafu Alif atoll, boasts 68 stylish and well-appointed villas, comprising 43 overwater villas and 25 beach villas with 20 of them featuring a private swimming pool. Attesting to the Mercure brand promise of an authentic experience, vivid colours and decorative motifs along with warm textures and local design touches are used tastefully throughout the villas in order to create a haven of peace with a strong local character. Guests are offered several attractive dining options. The all-day dining Alita Restaurant serves Pan-Asian à la carte cuisine and themed buffets, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Vistas, an overwater restaurant and lounge, serves tapas, snacks and handcrafted cocktails, while the Alita Pool Bar offers cocktails and light bites with a view.

Suvadiva Divers, the resort’s five-star PADI dive and water sports centre, provides aquatic excursions to the many unique and wonderful locations nearby. Several water sports options such as snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, catamarans, jet skis and fun tubes are also available. Additionally, the resort has several recreational activities and facilities such as the 50-metre lagoon-side swimming pool, fully equipped fitness centre, tennis court, kids’ club and off-island day trips. The marine-themed Suvadiva Spa at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, meanwhile, offers a range of treatments and therapies for guests in need of relaxation and rejuvenation. Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort is the only resort in the Maldives directly accessible via domestic flight from the main Velana International Airport, with no need for an additional speedboat transfer. The domestic plane transfer to Kooddoo, which also houses a fish processing plant, takes about 55 minutes.

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FEATURED

Grand Park Kodhipparu Located in North Male Atoll and a 15-minute speedboat ride away from the main Velana International Airport, Grand Park Kodhipparu features a collection of 120 villas, including idyllic beachfront pool villas, breath-taking overwater villas and palatial twobedroom villas. Sixty-five of the 120 villas come with their own private pools and the five two-bedroom suites feature extensive private terraces. Designed by world-renowned hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, the resort showcases sophisticated architecture, state-of-the-art interior, high ceiling of palm fringed roof, and contemporary exterior with Maldives’ traditional influence of wood and rattan, inventive rustic appeal and inviting peaceful atmosphere. Neutral tones, natural fundamentals and spacious social settings balance the unrivalled beauty of the cobalt sea and tranquillity.

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Grand Park Kodhipparu offers three restaurants and a pool bar, including the overwater Edge restaurant, which offers a wide selection of international culinary creations, Breeze poolside restaurant and bar, which serves lunch and light bites throughout the day followed by inventive cocktails and fine wines in the night, and the Firedoor speciality restaurant, which offers grilled meats and fish coupled with the finest wines. Recreational facilities at the resort include an outdoor swimming pool, gymnasium, sunrise yoga deck, wellness centre with spa and salon treatments, water sports and dive centre, children’s activity centre, and specialty shops.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


Fushifaru Maldives

Located on the far north-east border of the northern Lhaviyani atoll and accessible by a 35-minute seaplane flight from the Maldives main Velana International Airport, the exquisite island of Fushifaru is home to an extraordinary landscape above and below the waterline. With ‘Fushi’ meaning ‘island’ and ‘Faru’ meaning ‘reef ’ in local Dhivehi language, Fushifaru is an ideal reflection of its name. The island is uniquely positioned between two channels connecting the atoll’s inner lagoon to the vast Indian Ocean. The bigger of the two channels, Fushifaru Kandu is a national Marine Protected Area teeming with marine life. Fushifaru Kandu is home to three iconic dive sites including the renowned Fushifaru Thila, one of the Maldives most popular dive spots and a marine cleaning station where sums of cleaner fish attract the likes of manta rays, turtles and many more. Only a few metres away is the island’s very own sandbank, perfect for desert island getaways and all-day lounging. Forty-nine beach and overwater villas exude luxurious cosiness with carefully selected amenities. Various categories of villas face the Maakandu (open ocean), Etherevari (lagoon) or Kandu-Olhi (channel) reflecting designs inspired by their locations on the island. Guests can choose from 18 beach villas with private plunge pool, 26 beach villas and five water villas, all with stunning outdoor bathrooms, large outdoor decking, 43” IPTV, Egyptian-cotton linen and 24-hour personalised ‘Resident’ service, the island’s very own butler service concept.

Fushifaru has three food and beverage outlets that will take guests on a gastronomic journey starting at Korakali for an international breakfast, lunch and dinner, while Raakani Grill showcases signature Asian recipes with a focus on the finest local seafood. Fanihandhi Bar is perfect for catching some sun with a cocktail in hand or unwinding to a famous Maldivian sunset. Guests can also choose from a variety of dining experiences such as a private sandbank picnic, dinner on the deck of your own villa or even aboard the resort’s private yacht. Your ‘Resident’ will stop at nothing to curate a truly memorable experience. Heylhi Spa has five treatment rooms or sanctuaries that embody the spirit of rejuvenation; a concept inspired by the Cleaner Wrasse fish found commonly throughout the island’s reef. Designed with lush, green surroundings, the spa echoes its name Heylhi, which in Dhivehi refers to jungle-like vegetation found at the shoreline. Each treatment room resembles traditional Maldivian cottages, complete with outdoor garden bathrooms. Through the island’s partnership with renowned UK well-being experts Aromatherapy Associates, combined with an indigenous product range from local artisans, Heylhi Spa is the beating heart of Fushifaru. From a state-of-the-art gym and multisports court, to paddle boarding, snorkelling, diving and semi-submarine expeditions, activities are endless at Fushifaru. For an insight into coral rehabilitation and marine education, a resident marine biologist is on hand to share lessons on conservation and conduct guided snorkelling tours around the island and nearby reefs.

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REVIEW

Robinson Club Noonu Robinson Club Noonu, the second resort run in the Maldives by Robinson, is located on the island of Orivaru in the northern Noonu atoll, and is accessible by a 45-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport. The resort consists of 60 water villas, 46 beach villas and 11 duplex villas, with two-thirds of the rooms having their own private pools. Dining options include three restaurants, including a main, a speciality and a Teppanyaki restaurant. There are also two bars.

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The resort features an infinity pool, Robinson’s signature WellFit fitness centre, a spa and a kid’s club. The Robinson Club Noonu is one of the three Robinson FeelGood clubs, a place special for singles and couples looking for a perfect blend of relaxation and partying in a stylish ambiance with stunning landscapes. Robinson, owned by world’s largest leisure company TUI Group, already manages the Robinson Club Maldives resort at Fanumadua island in the southern Gaafu Alif atoll.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


Reethi Faru Resort A four-star plus resort, Reethi Faru is developed on the remote island of Filaidhoo in the northern Raa atoll. It can be reached by a scenic 45-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport or a 20-minute domestic flight to Dharavandhoo domestic airport followed by a 30-minute speedboat ride. The island, which measures 600 by 350 metres, offers 150 well-furnished, homely and spacious detached and semidetached villas built in traditional style and that blend perfectly with the natural beauty of the environment. The unique setting – amidst tropical foliage, fringing a long expanse of powder soft beach or on stilts over the clear blue lagoon – will make every guest wish to stay on and on.

Reethi Faru, which means Beautiful Reef in local Dhivehi language, has numerous restaurants to cater for everybody’s tastes, while its poolside bar and beachfront bar invite guests to linger. Along with a stunning white sand beach, a house reef just 30 to 80 meters from shore, coconut palm groves and lush vegetation, the resort offers a wide range of recreational facilities, including diving, water sports, tennis, squash, badminton, a gym, an aerobic room as well as a spa to pamper your body and soul. Reethi Faru is owned and operated by Mahogany Pvt Ltd, the company that runs the four-star Reethi Beach Resort in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa atoll.

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Vakkaru Maldives Located in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa atoll, Vakkaru Maldives is accessible by a 25-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport. A secluded tropical island resort blessed with timeless ocean views, white sandy beaches and nurtured by nature, Vakkaru offers guests a holistic approach to unassuming luxury and unforgettable experiences. Drawing on the rich traditions of the locale, design elements are focused on traditional Maldivian style and fused with the finest natural elements. The result is the creation of amazing spaces for guests to connect with each other and the environment around them.

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Whether travelling on a romantic break or with family and friends, the resort offers a superlative choice of accommodation types, including family rooms. Each of the 125 beach and overwater villas and suites have a natural aesthetic and sense of privacy. An indulgent selection of dining choices awaits guests in four restaurants and two bars, with several ingredients handpicked from the island’s very own organic farm. The beachfront Amaany restaurant specialises in international cuisine, and serves breakfast and dinner. Isoletta overlooks the garden and specialises in Italian cuisine, while Vakku is a beach restaurant that specialises in international cuisine and serves dinner. Overlooking the garden, Onu specialises in Asian cuisine and serves dinner. Extensive Parrot Fish Club facilities offer tailored activities for children aged between three and 12 years. Indoor play and activity areas have been designed to capture the imagination, and the outdoor exploration space features a children’s pool.


WHERE BREATHTAK ING MEETS MOUTHWATERING

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REVIEW

How a Few Pages 51 Years Ago Prophesied Maldives’ Tourism Destiny

by Mohamed Visham

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018

Idyllic. Lavish. Exquisite. Remote. Paradise. Some of the maxims commonly associated with modern-day tourism in the Maldives, a tiny island nation scattered across the middle of the Indian Ocean. But it certainly was not always the case. We all love a story about a castoff, a reject overcoming all odds and extreme adversity with sheer determination and hard work to ultimately get to the top. Such underdog stories inspire us and give us hope. It’s hard to even imagine now the rather dire state of affairs in the Maldives


not- so long ago - 45 years if one wishes to be precise. The now luxury tourism destination – arguably the best in the world boasting the cream of global hotel chains– was shockingly once rejected by a team of United Nations experts. Too isolated, no transportation, no telecommunication, no banking service, a few of the numerous factors the experts highlighted to write off Maldives for tourism development. Despite the cynicism, in 1972, Maldives welcomed the first paying guests to its shores who were then housed in rooms made of coral, beams of coconut wood and palm thatched roofs. And the rest, as they say, is history. But history remains hazy on a key point. Whose idea was it? Who in a third world country with no global standing had the audacity to challenge foreign experts? Who had the foresight to defy logic and common sense? The only verifiable evidence can be traced back to an article in a local magazine – published in 1966 by the Maldives student association in Egypt. The editor of the student magazine titled ‘Reynis’ was former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the visionary author of the article was Mohamed Zahir Hussain. Zahir, who would later go on to revolutionize local media, in the op-ed piece written in the local languag e

‘Dhivehi’ described how Maldives could become a globally renowned beach destination if it can present its unique sandy white beaches for international visitors. ‘Maldives through the eyes of a traveler’ was the title of the farsighted article where Zahir who was later conferred the second highest civilian honour predicted that tourism had the potential to become the linchpin of the archipelago’s economy if it can win over the hearts of tourists with its God given beauty. He also stressed on the importance of introducing Maldives to the world and underlined that it was the duty of its people to view the country from a tourism angle. “There is no doubt. If we can present our beaches to international visitors, our beaches can become globally revered. So if Maldives can take the necessary steps to capture the hearts of tourists, the benefits are endless. Yes, tourism can become the second largest revenue generator for the country,” Zahir, who would go on to serve in Gayoom’s cabinet, foretold. “At a time when the rest of the world has given such precedence to tourism it is

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definitely the duty of the Maldivian people to look at our future through a tourism angle.” The article written over half a century ago had described the paradise on earth. Amazingly, Zahir’s handwritten utopian narrative then had captured the essence of what the Maldives is famed for today. “It’s a fact. There is no one on earth who would be able to resist the beauty of the Maldives. Yes, Maldives is a museum of nature. It will be near impossible for anyone who hasn’t seen the Maldives firsthand to describe its splendor. Maldives undoubtedly is a true wonder of nature beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. In such case, there are no qualms about the fact that there would be people who would want to vacation in our tiny country; to spend the perfect holiday in a relaxing and tranquil environment, to witness the magnificence of the floating paradise, to unwind on our sandy white beaches.” The now respected statesman had also envisaged the enormous potential of Hulhule, the airport island located a kilometre away from the capital Male, describing it as the ‘new Male’. “I imagine Hulhule to be the new Male in future. In the not so distant future, it would have free market and tourist agencies, media agencies and aviation centres, picturesque hotels and vacation spots. So, we definitely need to view the new Male in a new train of thought.”

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Over the decades since, the once visionary article has been largely lost in history. But I was fortunate enough to be amongst the young eager journalists 13 years ago when Zahir shared a rare insight into his opinion piece. The article, according to Zahir, was a few thoughts that had crossed his mind after witnessing the rich history and culture and beaches in Egypt during his time there as a student. “I started saying even then. Our [Maldives] beaches are much whiter and more beautiful than the ones here [Egypt],” Zahir recounted. “Egypt has brown beaches… When we swim in the beaches in Alexandria, we can feel the difference to what we have in the Maldives.” In another brief account on the article, Zahir had told the now defunct local magazine ‘Huvaas’ that his vision to introduce tourism to the Maldives was given further weight after he saw the potential when he visited the Maldives on a holiday in 1964. In the extensive forecast, Zahir had also included a couple of hand drawn pictures. The artist was the late Fathuhulla Jameel, who served as the country’s foreign minister for nearly three decades. There is of course no way to corroborate this fact. But the rough sketches illustrating tourism on the sandy white shores of the tiny island nation could very well be the first prototypical drawing of its kind.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


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O O C O C REVIEW REVIEW

L A M

E V I D

g n i y r Mar ure t a n h t i ’ y w r u n x u sig L e l d ra n u t l a i l u aafiz C ‘ Ita Ali N t y b u o g n i r b to

If

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there is any postcard destination in the world, the Maldives deserves the top spot. With islets of powder white sand topped by tropical palms and vegetation, and strung like pearl necklaces onto dreamy atolls that seemingly float on the turquoise ocean, the Maldives provides the perfect setting for the best luxury beach resorts in the world.

net worth individuals from the world over. It has pioneered barefoot luxury and several innovative concepts such as overwater villas and so on. Great design, unostentatious luxury and personalised service coupled with utmost exclusivity and authentic experiences have made each and every resort in the Maldives the perfect beach holiday destination.

Rightly so, the Maldives has come to be known as the ultimate luxury travel destination, favoured by celebrities and high

And nothing like that still exists anywhere in the world!

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N O

ES

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But travel trends are changing across the world with the emergence of millennial travellers that are on the lookout for something beyond the usual luxury. The Maldives too is inevitably adapting to these changes as well, and this phenomenon is evident nowhere else more than at the recently opened Cocoon Maldives resort. Officially opened just a year ago, Cocoon Maldives is developed on the 6.9-hectare island of Ookolhufinolhu in the northern Lhaviyani atoll. Nestled in a relatively large lagoon even by Maldives standards, Cocoon Maldives is accessible by a 30-minute scenic seaplane from the main Velana International Airport. As the seaplane brings you directly to the arrival jetty, your first impressions may very well be the same as when you arrive in another resort in the Maldives. But at Cocoon Maldives, there is a whole world for you to admire and explore, as Italian design and the Maldives natural beauty creates a harmony never

seen before. Through simple and chic interiors exclusively designed by worldrenowned Italian design firm LAGO, Cocoon Maldives takes its guests through a cultural journey with a contemporary outlook. Here, Italian design takes a unique turn as it sets about telling a story of a culture that is deep-rooted in arts and crafts. “My friend Alessandro Azzola [Managing Director of Cocoon Investments which owns and manages the resort] asked me to come to the Maldives to have a look at his island. I came down here when it was just another island in the Maldives, and I was awestruck by the natural beauty,” Daniele Lago, the Chief Executive Officer and Head of Design at LAGO, told Maldives Insider. “Every design has a story, but we live in the present. So, Cocoon Maldives presents that story with a contemporary twist.” The story begins as soon as you reach the reception where simple, modern swings that pay tribute to the traditional swings often found in isolated islands complement woven chairs set inside the thatched building. There is nothing much here except a desk with a computer system and shelf to hold necessary items for the operations. From this point on, guests are invited to leave the complexities and complications of the world behind, and embrace their own well-being in an environment beautiful beyond imagination. In the 150 guest villas — including Beach Villas, Beach Suites, Family Beach Villas, Beach Suites with Pool, Lagoon Villas, Lagoon Suites, Lagoon Suites with Poo and a separate Cocoon Suite — a floating bed welcomes guests to a ‘cocoon’ of solitude where a carefully planned

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view constantly links eyes and landscape, and preserves and highlights its natural surroundings. Walls beaming with calming shades of powder blue and peach match with wooden details of the room and the bathroom, while the wallpaper projects an endless image on the facing wall when lights in the room are turned on. “The main focus of the design is to reflect the vivid blue of the ocean and the natural beauty of the Maldives. The beds, chairs and tables are all suspended using glass bottoms. This reflects the crystal-clear waters of the Maldives,” Daniele said. This simplicity and tribute to culture is seen across all dining venues of the resort as well. The main Octopus restaurant is a large open area with large oak tree tables where guests can enjoy freshly cooked meals while letting their mind drift away and forget about time. Deep into the greenery, a LAGO Community Table tears down all cultural barriers, and brings different worlds and people together. In the speciality overwater Manta restaurant, tables suspended with glass bottoms come with table tops made from ceramic tiles decorated with traditional art. As Maldives has come to be synonymous with luxury tourism, so has its resorts. Properties across the archipelago are constantly adding new features to satisfy those that splurge on their vacations — from private residences, in-villa pools to branded amenities and spa treatments. But Cocoon Maldives keeps it simple. Here, food is simple but great tasting. Villas have minimal furnishing and basic amenities. Spa treatments are ordinary but especially designed to ensure peacefulness of the mind, body and spirit. Recreational facilities and activities are not grand but exhaustive. All in all, Cocoon Maldives does not go overboard; instead, the resort offers a well

thoughtout and elegant holiday experience with the feeling of lightness and joy. “We have conceived a design resort that is deeply connected with the unspoiled natural surroundings and crystal-clear water. Every space in the resort has been created with meticulous precision to give life to as fantastic an experience as the environment they belong to,” Daniele explained, still paying tribute to the Maldives, which he enthusiastically described as “paradise” on several occasions. “This is the new luxury. It’s cultural luxury, born from the environment.” The simplicity offered by Cocoon Maldives brings a new face to the luxury that the Maldives is known for. Starting from the swings at the reception to villas and dining experiences, this is the place where luxury is redefined to connect with one’s mind and soul. This new form of ‘Cultural Luxury’ does not disconnect you from the breathtaking environment and scenery of the paradise island, but allows you be at ease. At Cocoon Maldives, as you ‘float’ on one of the swings, on your bed or while you are dining, your troubles float away as well.

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TREADING

Water Words: Daniel Bosley | Photos: Aishath Naj

Introducing Maldivian Travel

O

ver the past 40 years, the concept of Maldivian tourism has become a familiar one. Within a decade of the newly-independent island nation announcing its arrival on the world stage in 1965, pioneering businessmen were transforming the country’s future. Two millennia after fishermen, traders, castaways, and exiles gathered on the atoll archipelago, European guests started to join them, drawn in by the western idyll of an island paradise. Today, well over a million people come to the isles each year, the vast majority to experience the iconic single-island resorts of Maldivian tourism. An increasing number, however, are journeying to the atolls for something new; something very few have previously had the opportunity to do. With the re-emergence of guest houses within island communities almost a decade ago, more and more people are seeking to experience Maldivian travel.

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LIFESTYLE

M

id-market tourism in the Maldives has never been straightforward. The sheer logistics of travel around more than a thousand islands, less than two hundred of which are inhabited, made the one-island one-resort tourism model the logical choice for early endeavours (and many had predicted that even this idea wouldn’t work). Initial attempts to host guests alongside local communities were deemed unsuccessful, and discontinued by the early 1980s. Four decades of phenomenal economic growth on, however, and times have changed. As a third generation of resort workers enters the industry, the clamour to show guests what lies beyond the sun, sea, and seven-star rooms became overwhelming. Since that time, more than 600 guest houses have opened their doors, seeking to turn some of the Maldives’ many tourists into Maldives travellers.

Tropical Travellers

W

hile the difference between a tourist and a traveller is never clear, being perhaps more about the visitor’s own state of mind, in the Maldives it might be defined by those who seek to experience the natural wonders and exotic luxury of an Indian Ocean paradise, and those who wish to explore the lifestyle and culture of a unique island civilisation. Foreign visitors to local islands over the past centuries had mostly been involuntary, victims of shipwreck and then usually exotic fevers, before decades of western consumerism and ‘Robinsonade’ literature developed the mythical desert island as a place of rejuvenation, redemption and relaxation. But today, for the first time, the Maldives traveller can experience the reality between the peril and the paradise, before returning home to tell the tale. Anyone who’s lived and travelled across the atolls in recent years will have experienced the so-called ‘three Maldives’: the capital, Male;

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the luxury resorts; and the local island villages. While living in the bustling capital is definitely still an acquired taste, there is no doubt that staying on one of the Maldives resorts is an experience like no other; the best food, the best service, the best scenery - the peak of human leisure. Travelling through the atolls, however witnessing a unique culture on the less-trodden path (or lagoon), evokes a different feeling entirely; one that flickers inside all of us, even as we daydream on the beach. For while the pristine islands of the Maldives have graced the front covers of holiday brochures for longer than most in the isles can remember, stories of the islands’ culture and history are seldom heard. Fantastic tales of Sultans and pirates, treacherous tides and plentiful palms, communities perched on the corals.


Maldives and More

T

he Dhivehi civilisation has developed in its beautiful isolation for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest such island cultures on earth. While the capital resembles a modern metropolis more with each passing year - albeit a very unusual one - life in much of the country remains as it ever was, moving into the 21st century at its own pace. But moving forward the atolls surely are, as experienced resort workers are now bringing their wealth of hospitality know-how back home, helping local island economies benefit directly from the tourism boom. The range of options continues to grow, from grand island

hotels to beach-side shacks; who said travellers can’t be choosers? What results is the opportunity to see a lifestyle only a select few ever have, combined with the tropical hospitality that has made the neighbouring resorts famous the world over. Every island has its own stories to tell, its own traditions, and its own way of making you feel as if you are witnessing something significant; a new perspective on life from an ancient culture, and a small glimpse at a wider world you never knew existed; the life that exists beyond, beneath, and before, the tropical fantasy we all know.

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It is in these mind-opening and heartwarming experiences that define truly great travel is found. No doubt, there will always be a few bumps in the road on any good adventure (even travelling by boat). Yes, the reality of life in the atolls means that transport can be unreliable, certain luxuries may be unavailable, and local timekeeping can be untamed. But, Maldivian travel is not the same as Maldivian tourism as the world knows it, and the bold traveller would never wish it to be; less manicured, less managed, but never - ever - monotonous. What’s more, with rapidly changing economic realities, higher standards of living, and the

ever-present threat of a changing climate, the continued existence of these fragile atoll communities is by no means guaranteed. The development of local island economies will empower many Maldivians the chance to preserve their way of life, and to control their own destinies. In a globalised world, there are few adventures such as this left for the curious of mind and fleet of foot, and this natural development of the Maldives’ effortless hospitality opens up priceless opportunities for Maldivian travel and Maldives travellers. Can you really pass on the chance to tread water in paradise?

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REVIEW

TAKE TASTE TO NEW HEIGHTS

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REVIEW

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


Pyrad’s paradise Words: Daniel Bosley | Photos: Aishath Naj

Who knows what Francois Pyrard thought of as he gazed out from the pristine beaches of Fehendhoo four centuries ago. Maybe he longed to see the medieval chateau perched on the Mayenne river in his home town of Laval, western France; or the solid fortress walls of St. Malo port, from which he had sailed 12 months earlier; or maybe he just brooded over the wreck of his vessel, the Corbin, now prostrate on the coral reef of Goidhoo atoll. Separated from all but a couple of his shipmates, left languishing on the beaches of Fulhadhoo, the French castaway would not make it home for almost a decade. He would go onto write the archetypal tale of the island castaway, providing an unparalleled window into the hermetic ocean kingdom that continues to delight and amaze readers. For now, however, he was off the charts; that is, if there had been any charts.

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LIFESTYLE

In fact, it would be more than 200 years until the British Admiralty would produce the first survey of the area, naming Pyrard’s patch ‘Horsburgh Atoll’, after a Scotsman whose passion for mapping unknown isles had followed his own grounding on Diego Garcia, an atoll almost 1,000 miles to the south. Diego Garcia was, incidentally, where Pyrard’s captain had mistakenly assumed they were that fateful night in June, 1602; Pyrard himself had suspected they were approaching the mysterious Maldive islands. One thing he knew for sure was that he was far from France, and far from the world as he knew it. Cut to 2018, and Goidhoo atoll is once more hosting foreign travellers on its secluded shores. After a shaky start, Pyrard had befriended the island chief and then the Sultan, before leaving the Maldives with his fabulous stories in 1607. For today’s visitors, his famous footsteps can now be followed on the beautiful beaches of Fehendhoo. The atoll today forms part of the administrative division of Baa atoll. incorporating South Maalhosmadulu and one of only

two managed protected areas in the Maldives, Hanifaru Bay. The atoll was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011 due to its precious marine environment, making it one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Despite Fehendhoo’s relative proximity to this busy region, the island remains a reassuring distance for visitors seeking the chance to play the comfortable castaway - a 45-minute boat ride away from Dharavandhoo Airport. The oval-shaped atoll - 11km across - is home to just three islands, with Goidhoo and Fulhadhoo completing this tropical trio. With two guesthouses currently operating and another on the way, Fehendhoo’s sandy streets are increasingly frequented by 21st century explorers, padding around silently in the hope that word of their secret paradise doesn’t get back to ‘the world’. For Fehendhoo can have changed little since Pyrard and his unfortunate fellows crashed into its coral neighbourhood. Despite the modern luxuries of 24 hour electricity, internet connectivity, and air-conditioning, the population is still one of the smallest of the Maldives’ 187 inhabited islands; censustakers in 2014 counted less than 100 people. With no large vehicles, heavy lifting is still done by hand-pulled carts, and though the island is currently developing a new harbour, the small jetty taking shape is a far cry from the disfiguring concrete appendages on larger islands. A couple of shops and a single cafe - serving hedhika, sweet tea, betel nuts and and tiny bills - are sufficient, with the guesthouses offering full board to visitors. With the village’s half-dozen streets huddled to the east of the narrow 2.5km island, the majority remains a mixture of

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dense forest and white beaches, leaving ample room for a small number of guesthouses to blend into the tiny community with the minimum of impact. “We are lucky as Fehendhoo has limited space for investment and our island will not get crowded like others,” explained Lucie Mohelnikova, general manager at the sixroom Atholhu Residence, which is scheduled to open later this year. “The island of Fehendhoo is surrounded by a huge lagoon and a lot of sandbanks. You can see many different animals here, whale shark, pilot whale, hammerhead shark, tiger shark and Goidhoo Atoll is perfect for snorkelers, divers, and fisherman.” A few streets away, the Tropical Paradise guesthouse has recently expanded to take more island adventurers, while Fehendhoo’s first guest house, Fehendhoo Stay, continues to offer safe harbour for today’s traveller. Additionally, the Aqua Blue watersports centre ensures guests can experience life on the reef without having to crash a ship on it (which nowadays is frowned upon). Pyrard’s accommodation, which consisted of a palmthatched boat-shed is, unfortunately, no longer taking guests.

As the Maldives continues to develop at a rate of knots on the back of its environmental treasures, cultural jewels such as Fehendhoo can often be an afterthought. Even in the Maldives, however, islands like this are few and far between, offering a rare glimpse of an exotic past and a secretive culture, whose existence is every bit as precarious as the coral on which it stands. Contemplating the vast unbroken ocean with the sand between your toes and palm trees at your back, Fehendhoo’s visitors are transported out of the modern world into a timeless tropical nature; it could 1602 or 2018? Who can say what Pyrard really felt as he watched the sun setting over the Indian Ocean horizon, scarcely believing it was the same one he’d seen in Laval and St Malo. Relaxation; unlikely. Isolation; probably. Wonder; most definitely. For those who want to know how Pyrard’s paradise really feels today, there’s only one way to find out.

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DEEN: A TRUE PIONEER by Mohamed Sajid

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e are all in our own unique ways, gifted. We are the agents of our own destiny. In our hands, we hold the brush that can paint our dreams and desires. Those who embrace the difficulties of life and master its art, bloom to become pioneers, leaders and talents.

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Mohamed Waheed Deen, more commonly known as Deen, is one of the pioneers of tourism in Maldives. While many have surely benefited from his wisdom, there are those who can still learn much from his life. His story is remarkable in many ways, mostly because he did not really choose to begin in the industry.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


Travel & Tourism: Can you tell us how you ventured into the tourism industry? Deen: I didn’t start in the industry. I was obliged to join the industry when the government of President Ibrahim Nasir changed, and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became president. There wasn’t anyone in the industry with enough experience. At the time, I was working for Naseem, for Bandos Island Resort, Kurumba Village and for about 12 resorts as an airport representative. So, because I had that experience and because I was also working in Bandos the government decided that they would appoint me as the general manager. I worked as general manager for more than four and a half years.

My first job was in public relations. I had to entertain guests. I had to talk to them and that was the job Naseem gave me. He said I would be very good at it. Afterwards, Ibrahim Nooruddeen, who was working as an airport rep, had to go to Australia for education. So, I started working at the airport, and that was the beginning.

I would also like to thank the State Bank of India (SBI). The General Manager of the bank at the time gave me about USD 200,000 to 300,000 of overdraft facilities without any collateral. With that, I was able to bring Bandos to a better level and create a running capital of about USD 300,000 to 350,000.

TT: Can you highlight some of your experiences in managing Bandos during the early stages of your career? D: I was involved in marketing, construction, running the hotel, purchasing and human resources. I remember the first time I went to ITB Berlin. It was the first time we had an exhibit at ITB and the government said that it should look like a Maldivian exhibit. So, we took sand, hammers and even nails. We took rope and even a carpenter, Saleem from Kelaa. That’s how we worked back then. The worst part was we had to work in the cold ITB hall, because they only heated the place just before the opening time. So, we had to work for three days, in very low temperatures. That was the level that we got involved.

You must understand, back than we were hands-on the job. We weren’t proud of being general managers. We could go down to the level of eating and joking with the staff.

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REVIEW

TT: What were the challenges you faced? D: The biggest challenges were finding proper facilities and services for the guests as well as the staff. I realised that if the staff wasn’t satisfied, they wouldn’t be able to give a good service to the guests.

We had to bring in enough supplies for a month and store them. That was a challenge too. Those days there were no large-scale construction companies, so we had to do everything ourselves. I remember I had to go to Thailand to get toiletries. There was another big challenge because all the generators in Bandos were all different brands. So, as you can imagine, I had to go to all these companies to buy spare parts. But slowly we changed them to a single brand.

TT: You went onto develop several other iconic resorts in the Maldives. Can you tell us about those ventures? D: Some of the resorts such as Hudhuveli, we started with totally Maldivian culture and style. Then Four Seasons wanted to come to Maldives when we started Kuda Huraa. We had the same concept; I remember the architect was the famous Kurahaa Sappe. I told him that the island must be 100 percent Maldivian; the ambience and atmosphere.

I was very careful to spare the natural vegetation. So, in Thulhagiri you can find even coconut palms going through the waiting rooms. We had to build the roof around the tree. We would tell the architects, ‘please draw what we tell you to draw’. The architects at the time did a good job. They would take our ideas and mix it with their architectural ideas and produced great results.

TT: The industry has evolved with the introduction of international brands. How do you see this transformation? D: When international brands first came here, the public opinion was that our country was going into foreigners’ hands. You must understand that it was indeed a problem because the country didn’t have proper laws and regulations. I believe it’s a very dangerous thing to have foreign investments in the country unless you have proper laws and regulations to protect the rights of the citizens and businessmen. So, if you don’t have such laws, you could say it’s better not to have foreign investments.

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But then again without foreign investments, the country can’t prosper. Locals and local banks don’t have that much money, so the money has to come as assets and capital investments from foreigners. These

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


foreigners didn’t own properties then. Depending on their arrangement, they might get a percentage of profits or a management fee. So, bringing in foreigners isn’t bad, if we have the required laws and regulations.

Bringing in international brands has also standardised the industry. It will also provide more opportunities for Maldivians. For example, a Maldivian working in Four Seasons Kuda Huraa might get a chance to work in Four Seasons France or Four Seasons Italy or Qatar.

TT: With the rapid expansion that we are witnessing today, how do you see the future of the tourism industry in Maldives? D: The future is indeed very bright, but we have to be very cautious when we lease islands for future development. When construction doesn’t take place for two to three years, this will cause serious problems. At the same time, we can’t have an oversupply. So, I think the government should understand the problems and address those, be it funding issues.

It’s funny that though the government has its own bank, it doesn’t have an investment wing. They should support young entrepreneurs, and the government should understand that investment banks will create more businessmen. In turn, they can tax more businessmen, which will increase state revenue.

The government should also be concerned about the issue of few people controlling the industry. This is a very dangerous thing for any government, because whether you accept it or not businessmen will, to a large extent, have influence on public perception. So, if the government doesn’t want to be controlled by one or two businessmen, what they should do is create more young entrepreneurs. As more people prosper, the country will share their prosperity.

TT: What’s your message to future leaders of the industry? D: You can’t let blunders hold you down. There is a genius hiding inside every person. From the carpenter who constructed the exhibit at ITB to the architect of Bandos, these are all important people, without whom my story wouldn’t have been possible.

We all feel the need to achieve something in our life. We walk through time, opening a thousand doors in search of some sort of meaning, to make sense of our lives. That’s what gives birth to our passions and desires. Everyone has those hopes and dreams. We should all learn to never give up, and to embrace our own uniqueness and talents. We are all gifted in our own way.

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


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HULHUMALÈ

Maldives’ Reclaimed City of Hope by Mohamed Visham

I

magine a country with just one percent land and 99 percent water.” This eloquent narrative of the Maldives – a low lying island nation nestled in the middle of the Indian Ocean has been tossed around in tourism catchphrases so much so that it has been reduced to nothing more than a cliché for locals.

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It’s understandably difficult for the approximately 350,000 populace to unremittingly bask in one of nature’s glorious eccentricities when nearly two thirds are crammed into a 3km stretch of land. Scanty planning and lack of foresight from successive governments have led to mass internal migration to the capital Male earning it the rather unwelcome title of the most densely populated capital in the world. Centralized development and years of neglect in the more remote Atolls have forced the majority of the population to flock to the capital in the quest for better employment, education and health care.

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BUSINESS

Expectedly, the ballooning population led to a major housing shortage and as demand exceeded supply, rent in the capital skyrocketed while the government struggled to combat snowballing social issues. In a desperate bid to ease the congestion, the then government in 1997, kick-started a bold project to reclaim 188 hectares of land – a shade under the size of the capital – 8km off its north east coast and 6.5km from the main airport island Hulhule. The reclamation of Phase I of the two pronged project took half a decade to complete and the man-made suburb welcomed its first settlement with a resident population of just over 1,000 in 2004. At long last, it offered hope of a better future for the capital that for years had been crumbling under its own weight. The original development concept, intelligently planned and designed to incorporate a refreshing mix of urban and island life to accommodate a target population of 180,000.

YOUTH CITY – The city of hope In 2013, the incumbent government took office on the back of an ambitious youth heavy manifesto with Phase II of Hulhumalè earmarked as the ‘Youth City’ boasting much needed social housing, recreation and employment opportunities complemented by a multitude of tourism, healthcare, industrial and communications infrastructure. As the government completed the reclamation of Phase II in 2015, at breakneck pace of just

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63 days, the resident population of the suburb had swelled well past 40,000. The hugely politically advertised substantial changes to the original Hulhumalè development plan, especially the decision to boost the target population to 240,000 have sparked fears that the reclaimed suburb could eventually suffer a similar fate to Male.

Exorcising past mistakes However, Housing Development Corporation (HDC), the state owned enterprise tasked with planning and regulating development in Hulhumalè, insists the original plan offers sufficient leeway for revisions without compromising the objective of ‘healthy living.’ HDC’s Managing Director Mohamed Saiman assures that the city would be able to cope as the core objective of establishing a livable community and promoting healthy living through all features of a contemporary city remains. “Unlike Male, we had the luxury of a green field to develop a brand new city. It’s true that this government brought significant changes to the development plan, especially for Phase II. But the detailed and extensive nature of the original plan allowed us to increase the target population without undermining what we call healthy living,” Saiman explained.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


He detailed that the open space ratio to complement high rise buildings to house vertical communities allowed more than enough wiggle room for any changes to the conceptual plan. “Great emphasis has been to have sufficient open space ratio around the high rise buildings. Major road networks and four lane roads would complement these vertical communities. We’ve also designed it to have parks, hospitals, schools, mosques, community centres, recreation and support services within a certain radius.” The fact that only a fraction of Hulhumalè has been developed thus far has also enabled HDC to entertain the new government’s quixotic ideas while avoiding mistakes made in Male, according to Saiman. “After we developed Phase I, some plans changed and we’ve faced similar difficulties to that of Male. So in Phase II we have considered the estimated number of people who would be living, working and visiting. With that in mind, we are first establishing the utility and road n e t wo r k s

in one go, so that it would be in place for the infrastructure that is to come,” Saiman explained.

Landmark Overwater Bridge The greatest obstacle to luring people to Hulhumalè has undoubtedly been the rather cumbersome transportation – a 20-minute ferry ride from the capital Male. After years of toying with a rather outlandish idea, the incumbent government in 2015 launched arguably the biggest project ever seen in the Maldives, which in mid-2018 is set to transform the entire landscape of the archipelago, especially in the greater Male region. The USD150 million mega project, partly funded by China and aptly dubbed the ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’ would link the capital’s eastern edge to the western corner of the airport island and by extension to Hulhumalè – via a highway. The monumental project coupled with the ongoing expansion of the airport has the potential to unlock the country’s economy and more essentially boost investor lure to Hulhumalè. But for HDC the bridge, though welcome, has posed fresh challenges, as the suburb would become a drivable extension of the capital, which in turn would multiply the floating population and traffic exponentially.

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Saiman admitted that when the master plan was drawn up, the bridge, which connects to the already developed Phase I, was understandably not in the equation. “No one would have even dreamed of the bridge at that time. But it’s not only the bridge, no one could have envisioned the unprecedented development of the greater Male region which we have seen in the past four years,” Saiman said. However, according to Saiman allowances are already being made to accommodate the influx of people and vehicles that the bridge is expected to induce. “Once the bridge became a reality we were thinking of the changes that needed to be made. We are already building the highway to international standards. But we’re aware that the floating population would increase. So we have thought about what it would do to the traffic flow and we have changed some two lane roads to four. We have identified intersections that could cause bottle necks and expropriated some of the land plots around these areas to widen them,” Saiman explained.

An Investment Haven Like modern day cities the world over, several aspects of the development of Hulhumalè are reliant on outside investors and private developers. An exclusive and separate tourism district, luxury housing,

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multi-specialty hospital, a yacht marina and a cruise terminal to name a few, the potential investment opportunities across an array of sectors are endless. And according to HDC, with extended lease and grace periods, minimal taxes, relaxed and investor-friendly laws, the attractive incentives for investors are what makes Hulhumalè a true haven for investment. “The response from interested investors has been remarkable. We’ve had great interest from private developers and investors,” Saiman said easing skepticism over the ability to attract investors of such magnitude. Hulhumalè had definitely started out as a solution to the congestion in the capital. However, the city through the years has evolved into much more than a mere suburb. HDC’s vision for Hulhumalè is simple enough; to become the undisputed commercial capital of the country by building a complete city through integrated development, boasting world class infrastructure to rival any in Asia and the Gulf region. It’s the answer to the country’s long standing social and economic issues. The stunningly designed sustainable city promises to offer a global lifestyle for the country’s youth dominant population. A city for youth and a city of hope the entire country can be proud of. As Saiman fittingly described, the best place to invest, live, work and play.

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LATEST HAPPENINGS

Industry leaders call for united marketing effort to sustain Maldives tourism growth “Last year was a good year for the industry. This year looks promising too,” Maniku said. The owner of Universal, which owns and operates eight resorts across the Maldives, hailed the ongoing development of the country’s main Velana International Airport.

Leading players in Maldives tourism have called for a united front to promote the destination, as members of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) gathered on January 22 for the industry body’s annual general meeting. Tourism pioneer Mohamed Umar Maniku, who serves as the chairman of the association, highlighted the rapid expansion of the industry. Destination marketing is vital to sustain the industry’s growth, he said.

“Last year was a good year for the industry. This year looks promising too”

Umar Maniku

In addition to minor improvements, a USD 800 million mega project has been launched to expand and upgrade the main Velana International Airport. The project involves building a brand-new runway, an international passenger terminal and a seaplane terminal as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000-tonne cargo facility.

Abu Dhabi-funded new intl airport in Maldives north to open July 2018 Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has agreed to fund a brand new international airport in the northern atoll of Noonu, Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has revealed, as the government looks to open the country’s newest international airport in July 2018. President Yameen told the residents of Henbadhoo in Noonu atoll in December that the airport, to be developed on the neighbouring island of Maafaru, will symbolise the friendship and cooperation between the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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“A city hotel will also be built along with the airport,” he said. “We’re hoping that the airport will be operational by July 26, 2018.” Tourism minister Moosa Zameer later told local daily Mihaaru that Abu Dhabi Fund will extend a grant of USD 60 million for the project. The fund has already awarded the project to Singapore’s leading engineering company Tuff Offshore, with the project completion set for July 2018, he added.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


According to the minister, the airport will feature a two-kilometre runway along with state-of-theart facilities to cater international flight operations and private jets. “The airport will be operated by the same company that runs the city hotel. Once the facilities are handed over to the government, we’ll open bidding for interested parties to manage both the airport and the city hotel,” he said.

of capital Male, on the southern edge of the Maldives’ northernmost geographical atoll. Existing high-end resorts in Noonu atoll include the Velaa Private Island, The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Cheval Blanc Randheli and the recently opened Soneva Jani. Several new resorts, including those by international hotel chains, are being developed in the atoll.

Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year The project to develop an airport on the island of to holiday in one of the 120 resorts and 450 plus Maafaru was earlier awarded guesthouses located in all to The Sun Siyam Resorts, a corners of the country. The local company that operates “We’re hoping that multi-billion-dollar tourism three resorts in the Maldives, industry, which is the country’s the airport will be including The Sun Siyam Iru main economic activity, relies Fushi resort in Noonu atoll. operational heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, 2 2018” The Sun Siyam Resorts, especially air travel. owned by ruling coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance’s (MDA) Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, had planned to with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 develop a domestic airport with a 1.8-kilometre square kilometres, already has 11 airports, including runway and along with a transit hotel of 50 beds. three international airports. The country’s flagship carrier Maldivian operates flights to all the airports Minister Zameer, however, said Siyam had in the country, while a private airline flies to a few withdrawn from the project after a special request select airports. by the president. The agreement with The Sun Siyam Resorts was terminated due to the grant by Government has contracted both local and the Abu Dhabi Fund, he added. international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid Noonu atoll is located about 180 kilometres north to boost tourism.

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LATEST HAPPENINGS

Maldives amongst most popular luxury travel destinations in 2017, new survey says Maldives is amongst the most popular destinations for luxury travellers in 2017, a recent survey by luxury travel website LuxuryHotelsGuides.com has found. The survey ranked the Maldives at the 11th spot in its list of the top 25 luxury travel destinations for the year. This ranking stacked the Indian Ocean island nation after Hawaii and before the Greek island of Santorini. The survey combines both the overall popularity of each destination, from over three million visitors to the LuxuryHotelsGuides.com website in 2017 with the average transaction amount each traveller spends on their hotel. Results weighted towards popularity (60 percent), then average booking amount (40 percent). The higher the average spend per destination and the more visitors, the higher the destination appears. LuxuryHotelsGuides.com is an independent guide to luxury hotels worldwide. Comparing over one million properties from dozens of travel partners. This ranking is in line with several other recent studies and surveys that listed the Maldives amongst the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Data from Google has revealed that the Maldives was one of the most searched for destinations in the world last year. A survey by Australia-based booking agency Kayak.com.au has also shown that the Maldives is becoming more and more popular amongst Australian travellers. The destination has also won multiple awards this year, with the most recent being World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination and World’s leading Dive Destination titles at the 24th annual World Travel Awards and Indian Ocean’s Best Spa Destination at the 3rd annual World Spa Awards.

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018

The top 25 luxury travel destinations for 2017 1. Paris, France 2. Dubai, UAE 3. New York, US 4. London, UK 5. Singapore 6. Amsterdam, Netherlands 7. Rome, Italy 8. Bali, Indonesia 9. Hong Kong 10. Hawaii, US 11. Maldives 12. Santorini, Greece 13. Florida, US 14. Majorca, Spain 15. Cancun, Mexico 16. Barcelona, Spain 17. Venice, Italy 18. Amalfi Coast, Italy 19. Abu Dhabi, UAE 20. Bahamas 21. Tokyo, Japan 22. Sydney, Australia 23. Phuket, Thailand 24. Milan, Italy 25. Vienna, Austria


SATA 2018 to take place in Mumbai South Asian Travel Awards (SATA) has announced India’s Mumbai as the host city for this year’s annual gala.

Club (KHGMC), Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM).

SATA Secretariat said its officials travelled to India’s commercial capital in January and met officials from the Maharashtra Tourism Board. Vijay B Wagmare, the Managing Director of Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, assured his full commitment and support to the event, it added.

SATA is the first ever regional travel awards endorsed by multinational associations, providing the tourism sector of the South Asian region with recognition towards their facilities and service excellence. It aims to encourage and raise service standards in the region’s tourism industry.

According to SATA, the 2018 edition of SATA will take place in September or October as a retreat. However, the venue is yet to be finalised, it said.

The awards’ first edition, which wrapped up with a gala ceremony at the iconic Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka, saw an overwhelming support with more than 260 nominations. Major travel media organisations, including Maldives Insider, Asian Traveller, Asian Geographic, Asian Diver and Floating Asia were appointed as media partners of SATA 2016

Nominations have already been opened for SATA 2018. Launched in 2016 by Maldives-based event management company Highrise, SATA has been endorsed by regional tourism authorities and organisations, including the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka (FCCISL), Colombo Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), Confederation of Associated Tour Operators (India), Association of Travel Agents (ATA) Maldives, Association of Travel and Tour Operators India (ATTOI), Association of Professionals in Tourism (APT, India), Kerala Hotel General Managers

More than 414 nominations from the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal were received for the 39 categories included in the 2017 edition of SATA, which took place at the southernmost Maldives atoll of Addu in October.

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LATEST HAPPENINGS

Construction of new seaplane terminal at Maldives main airport kicks off

Construction of a new seaplane terminal at the Maldives main Velana International Airport has kicked off.

Passenger facilities will include a spacious arrival lobby, VIP lounges and restaurants, it added.

At a ceremony held on January 30 at the land reclaimed for the new terminal, economic minister Mohamed Saeed inaugurated the project. It was attended by the Chinese ambassador in Maldives Zhang Lizhong and officials from contractor Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).

The new seaplane terminal, which costs USD 40 million, is part of a USD 800 million mega project to expand and upgrade the Maldives’ main gateway. The seaplane terminal currently in operation has to be moved in order to make space for a new runway and terminal.

Adil Moosa, Managing Director of state owned airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), told the attendees that the new terminal would be twice the size of the existing seaplane terminal.

Seaplane is the preferred mode of transport between the main Velana International Airport and dozens of resorts, especially those located in outer atolls.

“This terminal will be a major boost to the seaplane operation, which is the largest in the world. The terminal can be expanded even further if need be,” he said. The new seaplane terminal is being developed on the reclaimed lagoon behind the air traffic control tower on the eastern side of the airport island of Hulhule. The new terminal will sit on 18,000 square metres of reclaimed land and the accompanying seaplane hanger and MRO facility will be built on additional 14,000 square metre reclaimed land. MACL said the four-storey terminal will be equipped with over 80 docking platforms.

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Two companies handle seaplane operations; flagship carrier Maldivian and privately-run Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA). TMA, which is controlled by a consortium led by US-based Bain Capital and Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group, operates an all-amphibian fleet of 49 aircrafts making it the largest seaplane operator in the world. Maldivian has a fleet of 13 seaplanes and serves over 10 resorts. The seaplane operators are investing heavily in expanding their operations, especially their fleet. The expansion comes in line with growing tourist arrivals and increasing bed capacity due to the opening of dozens of new resorts in the Maldives.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


New resort development in Thaa Atoll kicks off Development of a resort on the uninhabited island of Ruhthibirah in Thaa atoll has begun.

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian, as an incentive for developing a domestic airport on the island of Thimarafushi in Thaa atoll.

The project was inaugurated in January, with the foundation stone being laid by developer MSN Reality Maldives’ Managing Director Maldi Muzawwir and Director Faisal Ibrahim.

IAS had in 2016 signed a sublease agreement with MSN Reality, a joint venture between an unnamed Singapore company and a local partner.

According to MSN Reality, The Indus Maldives Resort and Spa will open in late 2019 with 170 guest villas and four F&B outlets. In-house guests will have exclusive access to three uninhabited islands that are located close to the resort, it said. Ruhthibirah was given to Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS), which operates the

Under the sublease agreement, MSN Reality is required to complete the project in two years. Thaa atoll is home to just one resort; COMO Maalifushi. However, Meliá Hotels International’s first resort in the Maldives, the Gran Meliá Maldives, is set to open in Thaa atoll soon.

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Appointments JA Resorts appoints Anthony Ross as new CEO Dubai-based hospitality firm JA Resorts and Hotels has appointed Anthony Ross as the company’s new CEO.

Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in business, catering and hotel management from Victoria University in Melbourne.

The Australian hotelier and corporate strategist started his tenure in January with the established hospitality company known for offering “heartfelt hospitality” and “casual luxury” in the Middle East and Indian Ocean.

“The team has done a great job in delivering ‘Heartfelt Hospitality’ and ‘Casual Luxury’ across our diverse portfolio from the gorgeous JA Manafaru in the Maldives, to our Dubai resorts and Bateaux Dubai. We aim to enhance how our guests experience both brand values, expand and deepen our reach and eventually bring heartfelt hospitality to new destinations in the region and beyond,” the new CEO was quoted in a statement, as saying.

Ross has over 30 years’ leadership experience in the hospitality sector, spanning roles on multiple continents. Prior to joining JA Resorts & Hotels, he was CEO at the Indonesia-based Aryaduta Hotel Group, and held the Executive Vice President position at Preferred Hotels and Resorts, where he oversaw 120 hotels in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. As a former unit general manager, in addition to developing and operating his own luxury lodge in New Zealand, Ross also contributes an ownership approach and indepth understanding of hotel operations. Apart from managing independent hotels in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia, he spent several years with Swire Hotels where he subsequently became the group’s Area General Manager for China.

In the Maldives, JA Resorts and Hotels runs the private island resort of JA Manafaru. Accessible via a 75-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport or by a 45-minute domestic flight to Hanimaadhoo Airport followed by a 35-minute luxury speedboat transfer, JA Manafaru is a peaceful haven situated in the northernmost atoll of Haa Alif, where worldclass service is delivered amidst dazzling turquoise waters, white sand beaches, distinct Maldivian architecture and lush vegetation. A total of 83 villas and suites, each with their own private plunge pool are dotted throughout the spacious island. Additionally, find island bliss with over eight spa treatment rooms at the award-winning Calm Spa, gourmet galore at one of seven restaurants and create lasting memories with water sports such as scuba diving, jet skiing and kayaking.

Anthony Ross Page

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Jumeirah appoints ex-Four Seasons Top Executive Jose Silva as new CEO Global luxury hotel company Jumeirah has announced the appointment of Jose Silva as the new Chief Executive Officer. In a statement, the member of Dubai Holding said Silva will be responsible for the group’s international expansion, and continue to elevate the brand and its growing portfolio building on the company’s extraordinary success over the years. “We are determined to continue developing Jumeirah into a globally recognised national champion; setting new industry benchmarks for world class service and quality. Mr Silva has had a distinguished career in hospitality with some of the world’s leading brands. I am confident his passion for designing unique guest experiences and driving innovation in the sector will build on Jumeirah’s strong growth, as we continue to enter new markets and open new hotels both at home and abroad,” Abdulla Al Habbai, Chairman of Dubai Holding, was quoted in a statement, as saying. Silva brings over 35 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, including almost 25 years with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. In his last role, he was Regional Vice President overseeing France, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal as well as General Manager of the highly acclaimed Hotel George V in Paris. He is regarded by the industry as an innovative mind and a hotelier who is consistently redefining the new norm of luxury.

to take this iconic landmark hotel to even greater heights by introducing the first fiveMichelin-star European Hotel including a complete reinvention of the Hotel’s architectural identity. Silva was awarded “Hotelier of Year” in 2016 by Virtuoso – “Best of the Best”. “I have always admired Jumeirah for its “dare to be different” culture and its forward-looking vision. I am honoured to have been appointed and fully committed to leading the business and the brand into its next level of growth. Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s most iconic brands and a symbol of the Emirate,” Silva said, about his new post. Jumeirah operates a world-class portfolio of hotels and resorts including the flagship Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Jumeirah manages 19 properties around the world with 25 properties under development.

Amongst his recent accomplishments is the repositioning of the Hotel George V, consistently recognised as one of the best hotels in the world. Silva managed

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Appointments Baros Maldives appoints new General Manager, Sales Director His career took him to Niyama Private Islands Maldives in 2011, followed by Huvafen Fushi where he remained Resort Manager for the past five years.

Baros Maldives has appointed Ahmed Jihad-Jay as its new General Manager and Nasrulla Adam as the new Sales Director. Having worked at Baros Maldives in 2010 as Operations Manager, Ahmed is coming ‘home’ to Baros, this time as General Manager, after gaining a wealth of experience in the Maldives.

Meanwhile, Nasrulla, who has 14 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, was most recently Director of Sales at Amilla Fushi. Prior to that, he held sales and reservations roles at Sun Island Resort and Spa, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, Huvafen Fushi, and Niyama Private Islands Maldives.

“I am delighted return to my Baros Maldives family as General Manager and am thrilled to be a part of a resort and team with such strong Maldivian connections. The hotel is Maldivianowned and is extremely proud of its roots and culture, just as I am, so I am so excited to take on this new challenge,” Ahmed was quoted in a statement, as saying.

He holds an Honours Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Birmingham College of Food Tourism and Creative Studies. Only the third resort to open in the Maldives (1973) and the first Dive Centre to open in the archipelago (1979), Baros is situated in the central southern part of North Male Atoll, just 25 minutes by speedboat from the international airport. It is surrounded by a beautiful house reef, only 15 to 30 metres from the shore, alive with colours, fish, turtles, rays and coral.

Ahmed began his hospitality career at Full Moon Maldives, after completing a degree in Hospitality Management at TAFE, QLD, Australia. He started as Front Office Manager, working his way up to Resident Manager. This was followed by a stint at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa, before he joined the team at Baros for the first time in 2008.

Nasrulla Adam

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Ahmed Jihad-Jay


Brice Borin

Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts has appointed Brice Borin as the General Manager of the group’s first property in Maldives, the upcoming Mövenpick Resort and Spa Kuredhivaru Maldives. Brice has almost 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, more than 20 of which have been spent in the Asia Pacific region. Most recently he was the General Manager of the Soori Bali, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. The French hotelier will now return to the country where he previously spent two years as the General Manager of The Regent Maldives, and opened three properties for Anantara. Scheduled to open later this year on a private island in the stunning Noonu atoll, Mövenpick Resort and Spa Kuredhivaru Maldives will feature 105 luxury villas, all with their own private swimming pool, including overwater accommodation. While designed as a destination for relaxing and rejuvenating escapes offering a high degree of privacy, the contemporary tropical resort will combine comfort and style while featuring an array of onsite recreational facilities to entertain a wide range of guests, from honeymooners to adventurous families. Rich in marine life and excellent diving opportunities, the waters surrounding the resort will play an integral role in its appeal through a variety of above and underwater experiences. The resort will feature a comprehensive dive

Ahead of 2018 launch, Mövenpick appoints Brice Borin as first Maldives resort’s General Manager centre, beach sports activity centre, exclusive guest-only superyacht, as well as a small scale marine research centre and private marina. The first Marine National Park (MNP) in the Maldives, which consists of a group of nine uninhabited islands commonly known as Edu Faru, is approximately 15 minutes from the resort via speedboat. The popular Christmas Tree Rock and Orimas Thila dive sites are also an easy boat ride away. Exquisite culinary experiences are a cornerstone of the Mövenpick experience and the new Maldivian resort will offer five unique dining venues. Among these are a welcoming all-day dining restaurant, a speciality restaurant with sunset views, a seafood restaurant, a grill bar and private dining room for special occasions. Enticing wellness and recreational facilities will include a luxurious spa with 14 private treatment rooms. Other features include a tranquil yoga pavilion, a state of the art gym, water sports centre, volleyball and tennis courts. The resort will also have a business centre, library and retail boutique to further ensure guests enjoy a convenient and carefree stay. Mövenpick expects to launch at least eight new hotels in the Asia Pacific region in 2018. These highly-anticipated new properties will join the Swiss hotel group’s existing portfolio of 11 operating Asia Pacific hotels, meaning that in 2018 alone, Mövenpick’s collection of Asia Pacific hotels is expected to increase by more than 50 percent.

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Appointments Six Senses Laamu appoints Stefan Goehcke as Executive Chef Six Senses Laamu has appointed Stefan Goehcke as its Executive Chef. Appointed in November, Chef Stefan currently manages a team of more than 75 people who operate five kitchens on the island. Having worked with high-end brands, Stefan has gained a vast professional experience and skills in managing large teams. “I am glad and delighted to work with a great team of young and talented local and international chefs here at Six Senses Laamu,” Chef Stefan was quoted in a statement, as saying. Chef Stefan started the culinary career in his native Germany in 2001. After working under some of the finest chefs in Europe, Stefan’s expertise and services as a head chef were devoted to top resorts such as the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam, Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts in St. Lucia as well as Gili Lankanfushi and Baros in the Maldives. With his extensive knowledge of delicacies from around the globe and his experience of

global cuisines, Stefan loves to incorporate local ingredients and the freshest produce from the island’s organic garden into each recipe. A perfectionist by nature, contributing to the Six Senses values of using local and sustainable ingredients, Chef Stefan is determined to create the most memorable and tasty dishes for guests during their stay with Six Senses. “Chef Stefan is an extremely passionate and creative chef and we are delighted to welcome him to the team. Known for his innovative ideas and focus on fresh and healthy cuisines, an executive chef of Stefan’s caliber will give a fresh new perspective to what we offer and provide a solid foundation for what is to come,” Marteyne van Well, General Manager of Six Senses Laamu, was quoted in the statement. Six Senses Laamu is the only resort located in the Laamu atoll, which lies in the southern part of the Maldives. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the resort prides itself on its commitment to sustainable operations and development as outlined by Agenda 21 and Green Globe Benchmarking. At Six Senses Laamu, most of the villas and facilities are built overwater. However, beach villas and on-land dining is an option. All villas offer a sense of privacy and seclusion, with an amazing view to the Ocean and Maldivian nature. Six Senses Laamu offers a wide range of dining options, with cuisines from around the world, a swimming pool with a sunken bar, an ice cream parlour, an overwater wine cellar and a signature Chill bar. Many activities, excursions and options are available for everyone to enjoy, both overwater and underwater, in addition to the Six Senses Spa.

Stefan Goehcke Page

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Awards Crown and Champa Resorts’ award-winning spree continues with prestigious TUI, TraveLife accolades Crown and Champa Resorts’ award-winning spree has continued with a host of honours, including the TUI Holly 2018, the TUI Environmental Champion Award, and the TraveLife Gold Award. Meeru Island Resort and Spa is amongst the top winners of the much-revered TUI Holly 2018. The award is given to the most popular hotels and Resorts worldwide, which guests consider to be the best TUI holiday hotels/ resorts for the year 2018. The TUI Holly represents the highest appreciation of mutual guests, and offers clients and travel agencies assurance when choosing a holiday hotel or resort. In addition to the TUI Holly 2018, both Meeru and Kuredu Island Resort and Spa obtained another quality label – the TUI Top Quality 2018 Award. The TUI Top Quality Award recognises resorts with an exceptional customer satisfaction rating; a minimum of 8.7 out of 10. Meanwhile, for the fourth year in a row, Meeru and Kuredu received the prestigious TUI Environmental Champion Award 2018. The accolade is limited to a select group of TUI Germany resorts worldwide, whose performance achieves exemplary sustainable tourism. To qualify for this award, TUI Germany guests must rate a resort more than 8 of 10 in the Environment section and

hold a Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognised certificate such as Travelife. All Crown and Champa Resorts’ properties have received the TravelLife Gold Award, maintaining their status as leading sustainable resorts and driving forces towards sustainable tourism in the Maldives. Located on an 1,800 metre by 325 metre remote island in the northern atoll of Lhaviyani, Kuredu is accessible by a 40-minute scenic seaplane flight from the main airport. This 4.5-star resort has 383 rooms, including beach and water villas, making it the second largest resort in the Maldives. Meeru is one of the largest resorts in the Maldives, offering its guests a variety of facilities and affordable to superior accommodation. With five types of room categories to offer, Meeru counts more than 280 rooms, five restaurants, five bars, a renowned spa featuring treatment rooms both overwater and on land, and a wide range of sports and other recreation facilities. In addition to Meeru and Kuredu, Crown and Champa Resorts owns and operates five resorts in the Maldives, including Veligandu Island Resort and Spa, Komandoo Island Resort and Spa, Vilamendhoo Island Resort and Spa, Hurawalhi Maldives, and the upcoming Kudadoo Private Island by Hurawalhi. The company also manages the Champa Central Hotel in capital Male.

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Awards Kuredu wins HolidayCheck Gold Award for fifth year Kuredu Resort Maldives has been awarded the HolidayCheck Gold Award, for the fifth year in a row. With just four resorts in the Maldives being selected for this prestigious award in 2018, it recognises the exceptional experience Kuredu’s guests have when visiting the paradise island. Based on the reviews and recommendations of visitors to the island, the HolidayCheck Award, from German travel company Holidaycheck.de, is a great testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team at the resort. “Offering excellent service and often exceeding expectations, the team at Kuredu is always striving to make every guest’s stay a wonderful, memorable occasion that will stay with them forever,” a statement by the resort read. “While these awards are great recognition for hard work, we know it is the reaction the team gets from guests that is their true reward. We are very lucky to have such an amazing island in wonderful surroundings to call home, and to be able to share it and with all of our guests is a real privilege.” Kuredu thanked all its guests for providing positive feedback from their past visits, voting Kuredu as one of the top resorts in the country. HolidayCheck Awards, the highly sought-after tourism prize given by the

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largest German speaking travel portal that offers extensive travel know-how, is being conferred for the twelfth year to the most popular hotels worldwide. In order to be nominated, the hotel needs to have a minimum number of reviews during the year of 2017 with a stay in 2016, a recommendation rate of minimum 90 percent from reviews in 2017 and a score of at least five out of six suns on HolidayCheck from reviews in 2017. Located on an 1,800 metre by 325 metre remote island in the northern atoll of Lhaviyani, Kuredu is accessible by a 35-minute scenic seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport. This 4.5-star resort has 383 rooms, including beach and water villas, making it the second largest resort in the Maldives. The island boasts a dive and snorkel centre, a water sports centre, a spa, golf and tennis courses, a kids’ club, and an extensive choice of restaurants and bars. Kuredu guests can also dine in 5.8 Undersea Restaurant at the neighbouring Hurawalhi Maldives resort.

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


Prodivers wins Tauchen Award for Maldives’ Best Dive Centre Prodivers has won the much coveted Tauchen Award for the Best Dive Centre in Maldives. As Germany’s leading dive magazine, Tauchen has been sharing dive industry news for the past 40 years, and is well-known and respected amongst the diving community. Each year, Tauchen asks the public to vote for those in the dive industry that have provided an outstanding service that makes diving an enjoyable sport. Winners of Tauchen Awards receive a Bronze Dolphin – an Oscar in the diving world. Prodivers was awarded the Bronze Dolphin at the much-anticipated awards ceremony

during Düsseldorf ’s Boot show held from January 20 to 22. “With all the excellent dive centres in the Maldives, competition was fierce and it’s an honour to have been recognised with one of the most prestigious awards in the industry. This achievement is affirmation of the great work our teams at Kuredu, Komandoo, Hurawalhi, Vakarufalhi and Lily Beach are doing,” Prodivers said, in a statement. Founded in 1988, Prodivers is currently based at Hurawalhi Maldives, Kuredu Island Resort and Spa, Komandoo Maldives, Lily Beach Resort and Spa, and Vakarufalhi Island Resort. It offers world-class diving and the full range of PADI courses.

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REVIEW 8

TRAVELERS’ CHOICEŠ 2018

Baros Maldives 1 st place 15 th place 24 th place 13 th place

Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the World Top 25 Hotels in the World Top 25 Hotels for Service in the World Top 25 Hotels for Romance in the World

Top 10 Hotels in the Maldives Top 10 Luxury Hotels in the Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Romance in the Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Service in the Maldives

2 nd place 1 st place 1 st place 1 st place Gili Lankanfushi

5 th place Top 25 Hotels in the World 13 th place Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the World 1 st place 2 nd place 8 th place 2 nd place

Top 10 Hotels in the Maldives Top 10 Luxury Hotels in the Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Romance in the Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Service in the Maldives

Kurumba Maldives

10 th place Top 25 All-Inclusive Resorts in the World

Kandolhu Maldives

19 th place Top 25 Hotels for Romance in the World

Lily Beach Resort and Spa Maldives

20 th place Top 25 All-Inclusive Resorts in the World

Club Med Kani

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24 th place Top 25 All-Inclusive Resorts in the World

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


JA Manafaru

5 th place 5 th place 6 th place 10 th place

Top 10 Hotels in Maldives Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives

LUX* South Ari Atoll

8 th place Top 10 Hotels in Maldives 3 rd place Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives 5 th place Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives

Mirihi Island Resort Maldives 4 th place Top 10 Hotels in Maldives 7 th place Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives 3 rd place Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives 6 th place Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives Constance Moofushi

3 rd place 8 th place 8 th place 9 th place

Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives Top 10 Hotels in Maldives Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives

Constance Halaveli

10 th place Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives 5 th place Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives 7 th place Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives

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REVIEW 8

TRAVELERS’ CHOICEŠ 2018

Soneva Fushi

3 rd place Top 10 Hotels in Maldives 4 th place Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives 4 th place Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives

Six Senses Laamu

10 th place Top 10 Hotels in Maldives 6 th place Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Maldives

Velaa Private Island Maldives 9 th place Top 10 Hotels in Maldives COMO Cocoa Island 10 th place Top 10 Hotels for Service in Maldives Anantara Veli Maldives Resort

9 th place Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives

Veligandu Island Resort and Spa

7 th place Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives

Komandoo Maldives Island Resort

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4 th place Top 10 Hotels for Romance in Maldives

MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018


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REVIEW

圀伀刀䰀䐀ᤠ匀 䰀䔀䄀䐀䤀一䜀 伀唀吀䈀伀䄀刀䐀匀

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MALDIVES INSIDER TRAVEL & TOURISM | MARCH - APRIL 2018

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Travel & Tourism - March April 2018  
Travel & Tourism - March April 2018  
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