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In the Maldives hospitality, Authenticity is key to Success

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Our Hotels, Resorts & Best in Class Guest Services all revolve around our core fundamental Brand Values; Fun, Value, Tranquility and Bliss. These are deeply instilled within every aspect of the Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts and are integral to The Atmosphere Journey.

Every experience within the Atmosphere portfolio strives to achieve Five Fundamentals which are common throughout. Offering Genuine Value-for-Money, ‘Best in Class’ Holiday Experiences, Affordable & Quality Brands, with a Complete & Enchanting Local Experience – along with The Joy of Giving

Travel Bulletin ME spoke to Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts

Q1) What in your opinion is important in the Maldivian hospitality market?

Ans:  In the highly competitive and cluttered Maldives hospitality market, I feel authenticity is key. The Maldives has so much to offer beyond a simple island paradise and a beach holiday, infinity pools and exotic cuisines. There is so much culture on this group of islands, so many local flavours yet to be explored and so much heritage for potential guests to be part of.

As a company, we provide an authentic and genuine Maldivian experience across all our four properties, (soon five with VARU by Atmosphere opening later this year). Atmosphere Kanifushi, our first five-star resort, is an elegant fusion of contemporary design and Maldivian architecture amidst the abundant tropical vegetation. It truly encapsulates the true Maldivian holiday experience. OBLU at Helengeli is a four-star superior resort marked by vibrant interiors fused with tropical Maldivian design. It also presents an incomparably exotic house-reef & superb Channel Diving, recognised by divers all over the world.

OBLU SELECT at Sangeli is a four-star deluxe ‘Island Chic’ resort with exclusive Honeymoon Water Suites with Pool. With its romantic Sunset-view located in a separate sand bank within the Sangeli Lagoon, it’s truly a paradise for couples. While OZEN by Atmosphere, our flagship property and the first truly luxury all-inclusive resort in the Maldives, offer an encompassing lifestyle luxury holiday, within the secluded beauty of the island.

Q2) How much potential does a hospitality brand have when opening a resort/hospitality chain in the Maldives? What does a brand need to do to succeed on the island?

Ans: The potential for any new hospitality brand is limitless, it needs to be unlocked and explored with the perspective of the guests that will experience it.  Saying this, we also need to keep in that mind the priority is now shifting from competing with other resorts to competing with oneself. How can we go beyond what’s expected? It has been said for a while now that the Maldives hospitality market is crowded, but still, we see new brands entering the market and existing ones opening new properties. You can open many resorts, but you have to make sure that there is something that hasn’t been offered before, there has to be a unique touch and for a long lasting feeling.

We have ambitious expansion plans for the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the latter in 2021. Our newest addition VARU by Atmosphere is set to open in Q4 of this year. But while there is scope for new brands to join the club, it needs to be made imperative that preservation of this island beauty needs to be in the plans right from the beginning.

Q3) How different is the Maldivian market as compared to the rest of the world? What works there which wouldn’t work anywhere else? What wouldn’t work there which works in the rest of the world? What makes the Maldives unique?

Ans: The Maldives, unlike any other travel destination, is unique from many points of view – one island is one resort, all under one ‘roof’, so it’s like running a mini city, from food supply to electricity, everything is available and it’s a collaborative responsibility of both the staff and guests to sustain and preserve it. This aspect works out great for travellers looking for a secluded, private vacation with their loved ones – like a little island community within itself. That’s something hard to find in other holiday destinations.

As part of our eco-conscious efforts at Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, each of our resorts have their own water bottling plants and significantly growing in the reduction of single use plastics. OZEN at Maadhoo uses solar panel energy in water heating systems for the entire island, becoming self-sufficient in the process.

Q4) Hospitality has evolved immensely catering to the ever-changing needs of the traveller, what in your opinion is the way forward, the future of the industry from all aspects?

Ans: It’s an ever-evolving field. If you do not grow or diversify, you are bound to cease. It is crucial to reinvent yourself continuously. We are witnessing an increasing virtual penetration. Online communities such as TripAdvisor are drastically influencing the hospitality scene in the Maldives. It’s becoming increasingly important for brands to attract the new millennial audiences and generation Z travellers. Digitalisation is key in this transformation. Many resorts are now introducing a tablet device in rooms for guests to manage their service and experience cycle. These generations are more drawn to sustainability and are eco-conscious travellers. Brands that have a green ethos and commit to eco-friendly initiatives and services are more prone to be chosen. Personalisation also resonates well with this audience. This could be anything from a personal welcome, special dessert to mark birthdays or anniversaries, the option to customize services to create bespoke experiences, excursions and activities based on customer preferences.

 

 

Q5) You don’t reinvent the wheel, having said that, how do you do things differently when it comes to the guest experience?

Ans: As I have mentioned earlier, we need to move with the tide. It’s an ever-changing landscape and we need to identify our target audience, study their changing habits and preferences and deliver experiences that go beyond just ticking the boxes. Understanding the visitor can help brands personalise the experience. This helps a great deal in assisting the guest connect with the brand on a more emotional and almost spiritual level.

 

 

 

Q6) When you travel what is most important for you? What do you always look for? What makes you comfortable? What stays with you after the travel experience?

Ans: When I travel, it mainly depends on the nature of my travel, whether it’s business or pleasure. If it’s for the latter, I will look for best in class hospitality, value for money, experiences and most importantly, wherever I decide to go, I need to feel the local heritage, the culture. Even if it’s the Maldives, where we are on an island, I would like to feel the local influence. That’s something we seamlessly ensure across all Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts properties.

 

 

Q7) What does the hospitality industry need right now in order to be prepared for the traveller of tomorrow? Also, what happens to the experience of the old school guest who doesn’t necessarily want the new guest experience?

Ans: To answer the first question, millennials and generation Z travellers are the additional focus in hospitality. Millennials especially are driving the market. A recent report from Adobe surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults regarding preferences and expectations for digital experiences across industries and found that expectations for customer experience are much higher coming from the millennial age group than ever before. More attention needs to be paid on customer service right from the moment they decide to book until they complete their stay. The talents a resort employs play a key role, which for us no doubt is one of the main priorities. We are in the people’s business – if we don’t have the right staff, it’s a lost game.

As for our regular, loyal guests, it’s simple – we ensure that we keep delivering what they like, what they are comfortable with. Sometimes the best approach is the simplest approach. Treating our guest on a person to person level, more so than a business to customer basis – with value, honesty and mutual trust.  There are many guests, who do not need out-of-the-box services, they just need the good old Atmosphere attention – to feel comfort, ease and to feel at home.