Jeremy Nordkamp on smashing stereotypes, creating ‘New Maldives’ at Kandima
The hospitality landscape of the Maldives is evolving rapidly, with a raft of new openings over the past few years. New resort owners, developers and operators now have to come up with new concepts to stay ahead of the curve. Existing resorts are required to go back to the drawing board in order to enhance and enrich the guest experience, so that they can continue to earn a loyal following and maintain a global reputation for excellence.
Amidst this transformation and rapid growth, there has perhaps never been a property built on such a radical concept than Kandima Maldives.
Located on a lush tropical island in Dhaalu atoll, Kandima opened in March, offering a choice of 272 stylishly designed studios and villas, with nine different categories to choose from. The four-star plus resort has first class infrastructure, boasting the largest swimming pool and one of the biggest selection of F&B outlets in the country, along with an endless array of activities and events to keep everyone occupied.
But Kandima is much more than just a holiday. Maldives Insider speaks to Jeremy Nordkamp, the acting General Manager at Kandima, about this new game-changing destination and how it is shaking things up!
Maldives Insider: You have been involved from the pre-opening. How has it been?
Jeremy Nordkamp: It was in September last year that I was lucky enough to land this very awesome gig here at Kandima Maldives.
To be part of such a huge pre-opening is obviously a lot of hard work, but it’s been an epic adventure. My first introduction to Kandima Maldives was a 3D video rendering showing the concept of what Kandima was going to be. From that moment on, I knew I had to work here.
When I first got here, most of the buildings were still not finished yet, it was still a construction site. You then watch it build and grow and it was after our awesome launch party in April that I realised just how much the team had achieved together to create this extremely special resort.
MI: What is the idea behind Kandima?
JN: The Maldives has been screaming out for something different; an innovative product. Kandima is anything but ordinary. We are the New Maldives — that’s what we had in mind when we were developing this game-changing resort.
We’re not a highly priced, exclusive resort. We really encourage our guests to be sociable and inclusive. What’s exciting about Kandima is that we don’t charge thousands of dollars per night to stay here. This allows us to open up the Maldives to a whole new style of guest and make it more accessible for the everyday families, groups of friends and couples that come and visit us. We get to show off this beautiful country to a whole load of new tourists and visitors now!
MI: How does Kandima differ from other lifestyle resorts in the Maldives?
JN: Kandima Maldives is about keeping it real! We want our guests to feel comfortable, relaxed and have fun, just like they do when they have an awesome day at home – but it will be even better! Guests can be as inclusive as they want with other guests, we host plenty of kool activities which means they make friends and are sociable with others. Traditionally, the Maldives is a place for honeymooners. But we want the world to know that we welcome everyone — we even have special packages for groups on a girls holiday and couples on their babymoon!
Guests are spoilt for choice with our variety of ten different bars and restaurants. Whether you want to dine as a group or slope off somewhere more intimate for a dinner for two, there are plenty of options, all inspired by global trends. Our all-day-dining buffet restaurants are based on a contemporary European food court concept with multiple cooking stations where guests can help themselves to everything. Sea Dragon is our signature restaurant, which combines authentic Chinese cuisine with a live seafood tank and a modern touch. It also houses the ultra-cool Forbidden bar where house DJs play into the night.
Our island is also so big that guests can slip away; just disappear and be romantic by themselves. We are also great for families, our Kandiland kids club is one of the largest in the Maldives and has a big outdoor pirate ship with water fountains. Kids just don’t want to leave once they get there. We love to say, ‘happy kids means happy parents’. Kids need a break from mom and dad, and mom and dad need a break from the kids. So here at Kandima, parents can just drop their kids at Kandiland and go about doing whatever they want; be it diving for the very first time, sitting at the bar and enjoying a few cocktails, or having some adult time.
Here at Kandima, it’s all about genuine hospitality with a human touch and smart solutions that make use of the latest innovations. An example is the RFID bracelet given to our guests — it’s a waterproof keyband so nobody at Kandima will ever lose their villa key again!
We also don’t have intrusive service. Our team members are there when you need us to be, but they are not shadowing you around the island. We train our Kandima Krew to treat our guests as if they are a valued friend. We want our Kandima buddies to treat our guests like they are in their own home; make sure everything is fresh and clean, the food is hot, the beer is cold, and that they have what they need.
All of this makes us exciting. We are bright, colourful, cheeky, sexy and a bit naughty. And based on the values of the umbrella brand Pulse Hotels and Resorts — smart, playful, rooted, responsible and human — Kandima is a place with soul, deeply rooted and respectful of our guests, colleagues, community, culture and surroundings.
MI: Can you highlight some of the community programmes carried out by Kandima?
JN: We have this amazing programme called Kandima Smiles. The Medical Centre we have here also boosts a fully equipped dental surgery – the only one in Dhaalu atoll. When the European dentists come over, we make sure we take them over to the local island to give the children dental check-ups. If there are any serious issues, we will bring them back to Kandima free of charge to carry out the dental treatment they need.
We are also focusing very much on young creative Maldivian talent. We want Kandima to be the largest Art Gallery in the country – showing off talent from around the Maldives. We have given artists a platform – giving them a new opportunity to showcase their work – whether that’s fine art, live music, fashion design, photography or arts and crafts. The initiative is called Kula, an art programme where local artists conduct classes for guests. Young, up and coming local artists have the opportunity to sell their artworks at our art studio and gallery, so that they can perhaps buy new equipment to continue doing what they love. USD 1 from every night stay here at Kandima goes into the Kula programme, and the funds are put towards nurturing these local talents and giving them a platform to exhibited their works.
MI: What is the feedback and reaction of the market so far?
JN: The feedback we have received by our guests, tour operators, travel agents and everyone who has come to #GetKandimatised has been beyond anything we could imagine! Our product has been well received by all our guests who love the laid-back, sociable, fun, colourful and vibrant energy you feel at Kandima.
That Kandima feeling obviously comes from the beauty and contemporary style of Kandima, but I’m proud to say that it’s predominantly from our very kool Kandima Krew. We have a great team of people here who deliver that Kandima brand DNA and promise, but also a homely, friendly style of service.
MI: What is the next step for Kandima?
JN: It’s been an incredible adventure, being part of such a wonderful concept and working with an amazing group of people. We had our first guests in March and they left feeling over the moon. We had our launch party, for which we invited over 100 VIPs, including our key partners. And the feedback that we get from talking to the guests on the island, and on TripAdvisor and Facebook is phenomenal.
To see the team members happy and the guests happier, you can’t help but feel incredibly proud of the people that have already made Kandima what it is today.
Kandima is still the new kid on the block and we have many more kool, fun and awesome ideas, events and parties that are just waiting to get out there to wow our guests. We’ve just had the Maldives first ever Insta Weekend, which couldn’t have gone better and we are now geared up for the festive season! Watch this space and be prepared to #GetKandimatised!