Despite other destinations opening up, the island paradise remains an important holiday destination for Middle East travellers
Maldives continues to impress
“The Maldives will continue to be a top destination for Middle Eastern travellers, who appreciate convenience, luxury, top-notch service, privacy and safety. Over the last 1.5 years, the Maldives has proven to be a safe and highly reliable destination. Amongst Middle Eastern travellers, the Maldives is valued not only for its proximity but also for outstanding service levels and the high standard of infrastructure. This combination is not easy to find in many other destinations. We are convinced that the Maldives will remain top of mind for many Middle Eastern travellers, even after other destinations become more accessible,” says Amjad Thaufeeg, Director of Sales & Marketing, The Nautilus Maldives.
The opinion – and the destination confidence – is mirrored by Stephane Laguette, Chief Commercial Officer, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, as he says: “The Middle East for the Maldives – prior to the pandemic – was just a few countries from the GCC. Today, we have guests from countries we never had any business from before, like Egypt for instance. Many people from the GCC even visited Maldives for the first time during the pandemic, when all the other borders were closed. Of course, there will be an attraction to head to other countries but we have been opened for over one year – we have more experience in operating as a safe tourist destination in the Covid-19 environment than most destinations.”
“Expense is not indicative of luxury; rarity, however, is”
– Sonu Shivdasani
Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts believes in constantly challenging themselves to bring new concepts to their guests and never resting on their laurels. To that end, they have redone their spa concept recently and even brought a Russian ballet duo to Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, one of their popular properties in the Maldives.
The Nautilus Maldives has launched on “Ultra-Luxe Girlfriends’ Getaway designed exclusively for women in the GCC (and at their request) – it comes at a price tag of $70,000.
Maldives has a lot of luxury properties on offer, the competition to remain top of mind is intense and it is easy to lose sight of who you are and what your brand stands for, distinct from what’s out there. Who better to answer this question than Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and Joint Creative Director, Soneva?
“We have pursued ‘Intelligent Luxury’ in our desire to challenge and fully understand what luxury truly means. The last 30 to 40 years has seen a major shift in the demographics of the wealthy. They live in cities, where pollution is present in all its forms: unclean environments, noise, and light. They are not as in touch with nature, they hardly have time to sit down and take a breath, let alone spend large amounts of quality time with their family and friends.
“The true beauty of the Maldives is indeed our underwater world”
– Amjad Thaufeeg
“With this in mind, the experience we have created for our Soneva guests is as far removed from an urban scenario as possible, letting them indulge in things they rarely get to do in their daily lives.
“Expense, we would argue, is not indicative of luxury; rarity however, is. The features in our resorts are not often found in other resorts or restaurants around the world. Sustainability and wellness are hallmarks of something that our guests rarely experience in their cities. It is rare to enjoy oneself while doing something positive for the environment. So, we have combined apparent opposites and found ways in which they can live hand in hand.”
What makes the Maldives tick with guests from the Middle East? Is the true star of the show the underwater paradise or the luxurious properties?
“The true beauty of the Maldives is indeed our underwater world. Many of our guests visit The Nautilus because of the excellent access to its surrounding underwater life – be it our house reef surrounding the island, the proximity and easy access of Hanifaru Bay/UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the many other world-class snorkelling and diving spots around the Baa Atoll,” Thaufeeg from The Nautilus Maldives tells us.
“Maldives has more experience in operating as a safe tourist destination in the Covid-19 environment than most destinations”
– Stephane Laguette
Laguette from Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts partly agrees, adding: “The underwater, which is doubtless fantastic, attracts everybody, but not all will be able to experience it for plenty of reasons. Fear is a common deterrent, the next one is lack of interest in diving or sea life. Our islands are so beautiful. Don’t forget the over-water beauty – the sunsets, the stars! Maldives is about back to nature, not just about the underwater paradise. For many, Maldives is about the idyllic island life, switching off, disconnecting.”
Shivdasani, founder of Soneva, takes the conversation to conservation. He says: “Appreciating the underwater world whether it be swimming with manta rays, scuba diving or watching magnificent dolphins swimming in their natural environment are certainly part of the underwater paradise that surrounds our islands. However, at the same time we also believe that a company must have a clear purpose beyond turning a profit. It must serve and contribute to the society in which it operates and should not negatively impact the environment in which it is located. As guardians of our precious marine environments, we have pledged to protect the biodiversity and habitats around our resorts.”