The Maldives is the poster child of luxury holidays. It has been associated with palm-painted island, marine life, luxurious villas, pampering SPAs, and fine dining restaurants.
But, over the past few years, these run-of-the-millionaire ideas have evolved, particularly in light of the pandemic. In 2021, ten new resorts will open across the country, and several older ones will reopen after major renovations. All resorts have designer looks, and are following new health and safety protocol, such as enhanced cleaning, hygiene kits for guests in their rooms, and staff testing.
They’ve also brought with them a wealth trends that are set to redefine the Maldives luxury experience. The trends include sustainable travel, authentic experiences that connect guests to the local environment, and a greater focus on health and wellbeing. According to Global Wellness Institute, the economy grew from US$4.3 billion in 2017 to US$4.9 billion in 2019.
Luxury on a new level
Marco de Ouden is the general manager of Patina Maldives. He says that a new generation of travellers are redefining luxury. They no longer care about polished experiences, fine-dining, and the level of predictability associated with traditional hotels. “At Patina we have spent a great deal of time researching and rethinking what the post-Covid traveller feels and wants in their travel experience so that we can cater to them.”
Anastasia Gardner is a Maldives resident and founder of Valentina fine jewellery. She values eye-catching designs, impeccable service, and a beautiful house reef. Gardner says that she and her husband have spent over six months in Maldives during the last 10 years. “Choosing the next resort has always been a challenge. “We love to spend time in the water and snorkeling. Nothing beats seeing colourful fish, rays, and reef sharks before breakfast. But service is also important.” “A resort that can anticipate your every move is guaranteed to provide a magical experience.”
Patina, which will open in May 2021 as part of the Fari Islands complex – a manmade archipelago located within speedboat range of Velana International Airport – is made up of three ultra luxurious resorts, and a marina that can dock 18 superyachts. This is a variation of the Maldives “one island, single resort” policy. It offers guests more room and a wider range of activities.
Patina has a collection of world-class artworks scattered around the island. This includes an installation called Skyspace by Light and Space Movement pioneer James Turrell. It features a walk-in room where guests can do yoga in the morning’s chiaroscuro light. The resort also features a plant-based restaurant called Roots. 3D-printed supplements are placed on pillows at night, mood-enhancing playlists are created, and guests can order designer kaftans or diamond-encrusted Chopard watch to be delivered to their villas even before they arrive.
Faarish Nizam, a local YouTube fitness expert, is in charge of the fitness programme at Kuda Villingili on the other side. The resort, which opened its coconut-covered doors last July, has a wide range of activities to keep you fit, including steel combat training, Aqua-Physiotherapy, Strong by Zumba and surf school. This is one of only a few Maldivian luxury resorts that offers both rooms and private villas for guests who spend the majority of their time outside.
Old traditions re-imagined
Luxury is space. Luxury is time. Being in nature is luxury. Seyhan Ozdemir is one of the founders at the Istanbul-based Autoban design studio, who worked with Atolye4n Architectural Design Studio to design and build Joali Being in Raa Atoll, a wellness resort that’s out of the box. Visitors to the Maldives want more creative ideas. Many resorts are the same. We wanted to draw inspiration from the traditional Maldivian architectural style – after all, we were in the Maldives and people wanted to feel connected with the local environment.
The result is an eco-friendly resort that uses biophilic principles to integrate buildings into the landscape, enhancing the vibrant blues and greens. Instead of steamrolling through the forest, pale wooden structures flow around coconut, casuarina, and ficus trees. Manta ray-shaped pods made of natural materials float above the canopy.
The Areka centre for wellbeing is constructed from bamboo, and it’s elevated to the sky in order to give a feeling of weightlessness. The centre has 39 treatment rooms, transformational spaces and Russian banyas. It also features a hydrotherapy room, sensory deprivation, and sound pathways. The 68 villas, some of which are on the beach and some elevated above the Indian Ocean, look like traditional Maldivian houses that have been smoothed with undulating walls and alang alang roofs. The interior features meditative music instruments that guests can use and bathrooms with coral-friendly, vegan products. Ozdemir says, “We hope Joali Being will change perceptions and introduce a new vision for luxury in the Maldives with its unique location, emphasis on design, and focus on wellbeing.”
Enhancing the guest experience
Conrad Rangali in Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, originally opened in 1997, has realised the importance of keeping up with the times. A multi-million dollar renovation is underway to retain loyal guests and attract new luxury travellers. The overwater villas, redesigned by New York-based Tokyo-born architect Yuji Yamazaki and featuring integrated indoor/outdoor living areas that allow guests to gaze directly at the Indian Ocean while in bed, are part of this ambitious multi-million dollar refurbishment. The revamping of three of the twelve bars and restaurants includes live cooking stations, beach tables and top mixology. A new kids’ club with all the singing and dancing is also available, as are a range of new immersive experiences, such as private boat tours, fitness and holistic spa treatments.
Carla Puverel, the general manager of the hotel, says that Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, nestled in South Ari Atoll is renowned for the abundance of flora, fauna, and marine life. It is an explorers’ playground. Surrounded by one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the country, it has whale sharks mantas rays dolphins turtles and a vast coral reef. Conrad Rangali Island will elevate guest experiences with its next chapter, which includes swimming with whalesharks and mantasharks, turtle safaris, sunset dolphin cruises, and coral planting on the house reef. “All these activities will elevate the resort’s game and ensure it continues to provide authentic barefoot luxurious experiences across its twin island resorts that guests have enjoyed for years since the resort arrived on the shores in the Maldives.”
Of course, the days of a typical Maldives luxury holiday that focused on turquoise water, pearl-white beaches, and upmarket resorts are not gone. Luxury travellers are looking for more seamless experiences and more time outdoors. They also want to be closer to nature, and have a better understanding of local culture.