Onyx Hospitality Group’s latest opening, the Amari Raaya Maldives, is expected to align well with the Maldives tourism ministry’s ambition to position the destination as one that welcomes a wide range of travellers, not just the rich and romantic.
Rainer Steinhilber, general manager of Amari Raaya Maldives, who led his team towards the official launch on August 1, said the 187-key resort will show visitors that they will get more than just azure seas and blue skies.
He told TTG Asia: “Many people who come to the Maldives often wonder what they could do on an island so small that it could be covered in 20 minutes, and there would be nothing else new to see by the second day.
“However, Amari Raaya Maldives is a rather big property in the Maldives, where resorts typically offer 100 to 120 rooms. Here, we have 187 beach villas and overwater villas. The island we stand on is rather big as well – three kilometres all around and 37 hectares – which is nice because it allows us to create a variety of experiences and facilities.”
Describing his property as “an island of discovery”, Steinhilber said the resort retained a lot of wild vegetation during construction, so as to preserve the natural vibe and environment, but also brought in “all the quality facilities you would expect from a leading, five-star resort”.
The hardware line-up consists of eight restaurants and bars; a spa with 10 treatment villas that deliver Thai wellness treatments; a water sports and dive centre; a sprawling kids’ zone with an outdoor play area housing a shipwreck structure, zip-line and obstacle course; an artist’s village where craft workshops are conducted; a natural mangrove forest where ecology walk-throughs with a local flora and fauna expert can be hosted, and more.
On top of these offerings, the resort has built a backstory based on a fictitious character, Seb, who was shipwrecked and started life anew on the island. He built his own hut, set up a little farm to feed himself, erected three watch towers to look out for ships, and entertained himself with arts and craft.
“Our guests will discover things Seb built and left behind as they explore the island,” he said, adding that such an approach is unique to the Maldives.
“Seb can be as real as guests want him to be, and we will be happy to tell them Seb’s stories and where traces of him can be found. This will appeal very much to the kids, as the castaway vibe is built into the design of our kids club and outdoor playground.”
In the lead up to the coming high season, even more hardware and activities will come online – a herb garden with an open kitchen and dining area, a skate park, themed parties that rotate through the calendar, day trips to nearby islands where guests can experience Maldivian traditions, and various sustainability-focused guest engagement programmes.
With only 11 per cent of the island utilised for resort infrastructure, Onyx’s CEO Yuthachai Charanachitta said there is room for expansion. At present, work is underway to add two-bedroom beach villas for multigenerational family groups. These villas will come with separate pools, a living room pavilion, and dining room.
“This is at the design stage now, with a vision to complete the mock-up next year. Construction can begin immediately, once all approvals are in,” revealed Yuthachai.
Steinhilber is confident that the scale of resort offerings as well as beautifully-designed beachfront dining venues will also attract the attention of corporate event planners, who can easily develop team-building and incentive programmes on the island. He welcomes resort buyouts during the low season.
Keeping the resort’s massive scale in mind, Steinhilber will boost manpower in the coming months, as occupancy hits a “healthy level, sometime in January 2024”. The resort is presently supported by 250 staff, and his target is 350. Along with the commencement of more activities at the resort, some of which are provided by partners, there could be more than 400 employees on the island eventually.