Soneva to again shake up Maldives tourism with two new concept resorts
Back in the early 1990s, Sonu Shivdasani and his wife Eva built their ‘home’, Soneva Fushi on the deserted island of Kunfunadhoo in the Maldives. Inspired by the couple’s intensely personal vision of a locally-crafted villa and environmentally responsible lifestyle, Soneva Fushi opened its shores in 1995 as the first ‘castaway’ resort in the Maldives, pioneering a trend for back-to-nature luxury holidays.
With the resort located in the central Baa atoll, Soneva established a blueprint for barefoot luxury holidays in the Maldives and around the world, with several firsts to its name: the Maldives’ first integrated waste management centre, first to introduce a two percent carbon levy to offset carbon emissions, and the first Art and Glass studio in the Maldives.
In December 2016, the world-leading luxury resort group opened its second resort in the Maldives, expanding Sonu and Eva’s own brand of luxury tourism and their environmentally responsible lifestyle, SLOW LIFE.
“Soneva Fushi is the jungle and the beach. At Soneva Jani, it’s the lagoon,” Sonu, who serves as the Chairman and CEO of Soneva, says, in an exclusive interview with Maldives Insider.
In less than a year, Soneva Jani has created a lot of buzz amongst luxury travellers with several exciting features such as retractable roofs and water slides. It has also been named the Best Over-the-Top Luxury hotel of the year by Jetsetter.com.
With the extraordinary success of his latest brainchild, Sonu seems unstoppable. He is already looking to again shake up the Maldives increasingly competitive tourism and hospitality market with two new openings over the next three years.
But these new resorts will be nothing like the offerings the Maldives has seen so far.
Sonu says the brand new resorts will introduce two different concepts that “don’t exist in the Maldives today”. They will, however, complement the group’s offerings at its existing resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, he adds.
“[The two new properties] will be a luxury experience, but different to what you have here at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani,” the Indian-British hotelier says.
Sonu, who was instrumental in transforming the Maldives from a three-star diving destination to the ultra-luxury island paradise that it is today, expects the new resorts to be located in an hour or an hour and a half speedboat ride from Soneva Fushi as well.
“It’s really like a circle that’s an hour or an hour and a half from Soneva Fushi,” he says.
“That’s also one of the requirements we had when we were looking to develop Soneva Jani. We can use the infrastructure here [at Soneva Fushi] and the overheads to support our expansion.”
Soneva Fushi inspires the imagination with 65 spacious beachfront villas, ranging in size from one to nine bedrooms, hidden amongst dense foliage. Highlights of the resort include the open-air Cinema Paradiso, counting Saturn’s rings in a high-tech observatory, home-made chocolate and ice-cream rooms, five hundred wines to choose from and nine dining options.
If the experiences are magical, the philosophy is simple: No news, no shoes. No pretensions either.
The iconic resort has bagged several international awards for eco-friendly tourism and green initiatives, including the 2017 Green Hotelier Award for the Asia Pacific region and the Sustainable Hotel Award by the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP). It has also secured a spot in the Gold List compiled by Condé Nast Traveler China as the Best Hotel in the Maldives and amongst the best resorts in the world in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2017.
Inspired by the Sanskrit word Jani, which means wisdom, Soneva Jani is located in a 5.6-kilometre private lagoon in the northern Noonu atoll. The resort, which encompasses a collection of 24 overwater villas and one island villa, spans five islands surrounded by pure white beaches, covered in rich tropical vegetation, offering the ultimate in privacy and luxury.
Soneva also operates a luxury yacht in the Maldives, Soneva in Aqua, and a resort in Thailand, Soneva Kiri.
Featured photo: Ibrahim Asad