The Maldives consolidates as leading luxury destination with new openings
Viceroy, Park Hyatt and Jumeirah are just some of the latest major luxury resort developments in the Maldives. Despite international turmoil, the Maldives show strong performance and continue to attract wealthy travellers from around the world.
Uday Rao, a luxury hospitality professional with extensive experience in the Maldives, has recently spoken to CPP-LUXURY.COM in his capacity as the General Manager of the Viceroy Hotel & Resort opened less than a month.
Maldives is the first location for a Viceroy Resort Hotel in Asia, a very competitive market. Which are the key defining competitive advantages of the Viceroy brand?
Viceroy Hotel Group is opening its first resort in Asia a well established and in a very competitive market. What makes us different are a couple of factors:
• The size of the resort. It’s small, intimate and has a very much boutique feel
• The remote location: it’s isolated, a hideaway and there is not a soul in site when you gaze out from the privacy of your private deck
• The villas: they are by far the largest in the Maldives with their unique design and architecture, floor to ceiling windows, sense of space with high ceilings, large windows that one can enjoy the beauty of the maldives and the colors of the water
• The 5 outlets, room service and wine cellar give our guests a wide selection of options to dine from given their length of stay.
Above are few of the USPs for the resort. Ultimately, it will be the service and the staff that will set us apart.
In the Maldives, you have chosen a relatively remote island, the Vagaru Island, about an hour by sea plane from Male international airport. What was your motivation behind this location?
Purely because it is undiscovered, unchartered and pristine. Guests are looking for resorts, destinations that are out of the norm, that one can feel they are away on a deserted island and not surrounded by safari boats, gulf craft speed boats zipping in front of resorts, seeing Male in the distant horizon or neighbouring island lights at night. We provide ruggedness of the Maldives, surrounded by its natural beauty in a luxury environment without being pretentious.
As a hotel operator, which have been the biggest challenges in opening this resort in the Maldives?
The list is endless, but the logistics of bringing in supplies is the biggest challenge in the Maldives. Since everything is imported into the Maldives and then having them clear customs, transporting it on a barge or a Dhoni that might take anywhere from 12 to 16 hours, which may or may not arrive on time on the day one plans for, is the biggest challenge. The rewards are gratifying when one does accomplish the task.
Which is the competitive set of hotels in the Maldives for the Viceroy Hotel Resort?
Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru
W Retreat & Resort
One & Only Resort
Which are the defining features of your resort in terms of architecture and design?
The design and look of the villas and the main outlet, Vista, is in the shape of an inverted hull of a traditional Maldivian Dhoni. It’s iconic; it’s unique and has a sense of place. It stands out as there isn’t anything like it.
The Viceroy brand is little known outside the U.S. What is your strategy to create more awareness of the brand?
Viceroy brand is known in North America and with the opening of the Yas Island Hotel in Abu Dhabi and Viceroy Maldives; the name is making headways in the market. Tour Operators, Agents, Wholesalers know the brand through our properties in Miami, Anguilla, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Given that the brand is known in Europe, it makes promoting the property a bit easier. The challenge is within the Maldives and Asia. We are represented in every trade show, signed with key tour operators and have 5 GSAs in key markets (Russia, UK, Asia, Germany & GCC) that sell and promote the resort. We have two key PR agencies in the UK and USA along with a PR agency in Singapore and HK that help grow the name of the brand. Ultimately, it will be our guests and through word of mouth. So far the feedback has been excellent.
An important component of your resort is the SPA. Which are the key features both in terms of terms of facilities and treatments?
The Spa at Viceroy Maldives is designed to allow each guest to reconnect to their Essential Self – the person they are when they are free of the stresses, imbalances and toxins of daily life. In the Spa, we create a space for stillness, being, wisdom, peace, bliss and embracing of the sacred.
We partner with ILA, which is a UK based company that uses products that are all natural and organic, from India. They seek an exceptionally high degree of purity in every ingredient, every process and every blend. The create products that are truly nurture with treatments that are specific and tailor made for Viceroy.
Our second partner is Valmont, which is a signature Viceroy skincare line
founded in Switzerland is a blend of medical expertise and haute couture. Again, all treatments are tailor made for the resort and cannot be found elsewhere.
What is your offering in terms of sports and past time activities? How kids’ friendly is the resort
We offer all Dive and Water sports activities as most luxury resorts in the Maldives. However, we are different in terms of kids friendly since our Deluxe Beach Villas are specifically catered to accommodate families. It has two connecting rooms, a loft and each has its own bathroom. We have a kid’s centre, babysitting services, kids menu, kid’s spa and yoga and much more.
What is your view of hospitality human resources in the Maldives? What percentage of your staff is Maldivian?
Service with a smile and the warmth of the Maldivian people makes our jobs easy. It’s in their nature and in their blood to be kind, caring and provide service that is truly loving. Majority of our colleagues are Maldivians and hired from the Shaviyani Atoll. It gives opportunities to the community and helps people grow and develop their careers. One needs to start fresh and teach and help them learn. The willingness is there and the heart is only about providing exceptional service to the guests. We are here just catalysts in making that happen.
What is the best timing for visiting the Maldives? And what is your recommended length of stay?
The ideal vacation time for the Maldives is between 5 to 6 days. The best time to come is between November thru to April.