Maldives tests waters in integrated resort, island hopping concepts

Encouraging visitors to hop from island to island and from resort to resort

The Maldives has found great success in its ‘one island one resort’ tourism concept, but industry watchers are saying the destination needs to explore new positions in order to stay attractive for international travellers.

Despite hopes that higher arrivals will come with the new airport runway and terminal in the Maldives, local resort operators remain concerned about continuing to attract tourists and repeat visitors.

Speaking at the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) 2018, Mark Hehir, CEO & curator, The Small Maldives Island, said that the “next challenge” for Maldives tourism is to “get more direct flights in” to meet the country’s projected international arrival target of five to seven million.

Encouraging visitors to hop from island to island and from resort to resort

Another speaker, David Keen, CEO, QUO, agreed: “There is a sexiness and desire for the Maldives, whose brand is incredibly strong… It has the depth and breadth to grow through verticals.”

Resorts have already begun testing the waters. Amilla Fushi, run by The Small Maldives Island, last year hosted a pop-up concept with Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen.

This was the start of upcoming efforts to lift the profile of the UNESCO Biosphere of Baa Atoll as a “destination within a destination”, shared Hehir.

He further proposed that the island resorts could consider launching inter-resort transfers, where guests can dine across different destination dining options and “not be stuck on one island”, which is often what stunts repeat visitorship.

A similar concept is already taking shape with Thai developer Singha Estate’s ongoing Emboodhoo Lagoon project, an integrated leisure and entertainment resort destination that spans nine resort islands in an area called Crossroads.

The latest brand signed for the development is Curio Collection by Hilton, which will be managed by Singha Estate subsidiary S Hotels & Resorts as part of a franchise agreement.

Opening in end-2018, the new Curio Collection by Hilton resort will have 198 guest rooms, beach villas and overwater villas as well as facilities such as a fitness centre and swimming pool. In addition to duty-free shops and multiple restaurants, guests of the resort will also enjoy access to Crossroads’ beach club, watersports, dive centre, cultural centre and kids club.

Meanwhile, Hehir asserted that if the inter-resort vision is going to be successful, resorts must cultivate “strong relationships” with DMCs and tour operators.

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