RIU unveils new brand image as construction begins on first Maldives resorts

RIU Hotels and Resorts has unveiled a new brand image, as it announced the scheduled opening of two hotels in the Maldives in 2019.

The Spanish hotel group, which ended 2017 with 92 hotels across 19 countries, expects the “modern, fresher and warmer” branding to be introduced over the next two years; in 50 percent of its properties in 2018 and the remaining 50 percent in 2019.

“The change in image was a natural step in this modernisation process. And it is taking place in a year of record investment in hotel construction, renovation and acquisition that in 2017 reached €600mn [USD 735 million],” a statement issued by the company read.

The new brand image comes in light of an announcement by the hotel chain to open four new hotels and undertake major renovation of five others at a cost of more than USD 797 million this year. Openings planned for this year include a 530-room hotel in Golden Sands, Bulgaria in June and Boavista Island in Cape Verde in November.

“Over the year, RIU will continue studying opportunities in the leading cities of North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, in keeping with its goal of expanding its Riu Plaza line of urban hotels. The brand already has two new projects in progress: the first hotel on the Spanish peninsula, located in the centre of Madrid in the emblematic Edificio España; and its second hotel in New York, a project that is underway in close proximity to iconic Times Square,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, RIU said construction is already underway of two hotels in the Maldives that RIU will present in 2019, a pair of hotels located on two uninhabited islands linked by a bridge. The Riu Atoll will have all the services RIU All-Inclusive customers are accustomed to, while the Riu Palace Maldivas will offer a more luxurious and sophisticated option, it added.

RIU leased the uninhabited islands of Kedhigandu and Maafushi in Dhaalu atoll in 2015.

The scheduled opening date for the first RIU hotel in the Maldives comes amidst a new wave of foreign investments in tourism in the island nation.

Singapore’s Park Hotel Group has opened its first resort in the Maldives, while major international hotel chains such as AccorHotels have entered the Maldives with two openings and two in the pipeline. Brands like Hard Rock InternationalCapella Hotel GroupCarlson Rezidor Hotel GroupEmaar Hospitality GroupMövenpick Hotels and ResortsBaglioni HotelsEmerald Collection and Meliá Hotels International have announced their entry to the Maldives as well.

Existing international players are also upping their presence, with Marriott International set to launch Westin brand, Hilton Worldwide to re-introduce its top-end luxury brand Waldorf Astoria, Aitken Spence Hotels and Resorts to introduce its Heritance brand, Minor Hotel Group to introduce its AVANI brand, and LUX* Hotels and Resorts to open its second resort in the Maldives. Centara Hotels and Resorts has also signed a management agreement for its fourth resort in the tropical destination.

Leading local hotel groups, including Atmosphere Hotels and ResortsSun Siyam Resorts, and Crown and Champa Resorts, have also announced expansion plans.

Meanwhile, the first integrated tourism developments in the Maldives — Emboodhoo Lagoon project and Rah Falhu Huraa lagoon project — are underway.

However, this rapid expansion of supply has resulted in a slowdown in growth in tourism, after years of double-digit growth. The government has set an ambitious target of attracting 1.5 million tourists by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 450 guesthouses in operation today.

The government has recently announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.

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