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Markus Iseli on taking ‘Lighter, Brighter’ luxury to new level with LUX* North Male Atoll



When private island resort LUX* North Male Atoll, located on the six hectare picnic island of Olhahali, opens early next year, its oversized penthouse architecture and easygoing South Beach ambience are set to bring a new level of luxury to the Maldives hotel scene. The resort features 67 double-storey residences, five restaurants and bars, an expansive LUX* Me spa complex, and comprehensive diving and water sports facilities — all coupled with contemporary architectural design elements such as private terraces, rooftop lounges, outdoor decks, private gardens and 13m private pools.

With such ambitious scope and high expectations for the property, LUX* Resorts and Hotels, which already runs the LUX* South Ari Atoll resort in the Maldives, spent many months looking for an exceptional individual to welcome the resort’s first guests. The Mauritius-based hotel group’s search led to the appointment in June of Swiss-born hospitality expert Markus Iseli as the general manager of LUX* North Male Atoll.

A 3D rendering of the arrival pavilion at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

A civil engineer by profession, Markus brings over three decades of high-level hospitality experience, which has seen him graduate from service and guest relations positions to the most senior levels of hotel management.

He began his career in Switzerland as an apprentice cook, working his way up through various F&B positions before moving to Germany in 1987 to assume the role of Chief Steward at Hilton International Munich Park, where he managed banquets and conferences for up to 800 people. From here, his professional trajectory took him into executive roles in international luxury hospitality, seeing Markus recruited by the likes of Hilton Worldwide, Intercontinental, Four Seasons and Shangri-La as well as a number of other properties recognised as Leading Hotels of the World.

His life in hospitality has taken him all over the globe; Markus has variously made his home in Germany, Kenya, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Portugal, Syria, the Seychelles, South East Asia, Oman and Saudi Arabia over the years, giving him an unparalleled understanding of the needs and expectations of travellers from countless cultural backgrounds.

Maldives Insider speaks to Markus, who has earlier overseen the positioning and launching of eight hotels across the world, as he takes charge of every aspect of the mould-breaking new resort ahead of its launch in early January.

A 3D rendering of Superior Land Villa at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Maldives Insider: What are your previous experiences in the Maldives?

Markus Iseli: This is actually my second time in the Maldives. I was at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa for just two weeks as the Task Force GM to fill in for their GM when he was off the island. It was in 2010, just after the opening of the resort.

It was rather short, but I had the opportunity to explore this beautiful country. I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the islands and the fact that every island has its own unique characteristics; be it the shape, size or look.

I also had the change to work with some incredible Maldivians. The Maldivian people are very hospitable and genuine. That in itself is an advantage for the destination as well as for us as hoteliers because we are always looking to hire more local talent to showcase the true culture and traditions of this country. For example, a local meal cooked by a Maldivian is very different to that exact same dish prepared by a Sri Lankan or a French chef. Likewise, Maldivian hospitality is very different from French hospitality, and guests come here to experience the local touch.

Insider: How does that experience help you in your new posting with LUX*?

Markus: Every coin has two sides, and so there are two sides to every story. Likewise, in hospitality, there is the guest experience and then there is the experience of the team member.

The Maldives has changed a bit over the past couple of years, but it still is not a cheap destination like Spain or Turkey. Air fares are reasonable, but a five-star property in the Maldives carries a premium price tag, which naturally means that guest expectations are quite high. Our objective is to not only meet guest expectations, but exceed them constantly and provide little things that will blow their minds away.

Our success as foreigners depends on the support we get from the local team members. The Maldivians I have worked with are very engaging, warm and extremely proud of what their country has to offer. I am honoured to have the opportunity to work with them again. My previous experience in the Maldives has helped me understand the Maldivian hospitality; their service culture and how they deliver it.

Before anything, I have to understand the culture of the Maldives. Part of that cultural understanding is the religious aspect and how to behave accordingly. For instance, when people are fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, I should respect them and make sure that I do not walk around with food or drinks in my hands. I have worked in a number of other Muslim majority countries as well, and observed fasting for a couple of days just to get the experience. So I am quite used to it.

3D renderings of the main restaurant at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Insider: What made you accept the offer from LUX*?

Markus: I have worked with high-end luxury brands such as Four Seasons and Shangri-La. LUX* too is a five-star hotel and resort operator, but what makes us different is our “Lighter, Brighter” approach and the little surprises we have for our guests. We are helping guests celebrate life. One example is the Reasons to Go LUX* concept, which includes our signature Cafe LUX*, the small gifts we keep at different places of the island for guests to find, and so on.

The concept of “Lighter, Brighter” luxury is more appealing to me personally as well, and certainly trendier and sexier for the guests. I recently stayed at one of the newly opened five-star resorts in the Maldives, and everything there was a bit too formal. In contrast, LUX* is for everyone; be it a child, a teenager, a millennial or a retiree. For example, the Beach Rouge is perhaps not suitable for a 60-year-old or a 70-year-old, but is something for the younger generation that loves to hang out, chill and have a good time. The 60-year-old or 70-year-old can go to Senses, which is a place that allows them to have some peace and quiet.

Insider: What is the progress of the project?

Markus: It is going well, with 75-80 percent of the construction already complete. Villas are up, but our villas are being built slightly different from the ones in the Maldives. We are using double glazing on the walls and ceilings to keep the heat out. This method makes it more sustainable and environment-friendly as it reduces energy consumption. The resort is also built in such a way that solar panels can be fitted in the future.

We do not want to push anything and we want to build everything properly. By December, we will be able to invite some opinion leaders, travel agents and tour operators to give them a preview of the resort. We are looking to have the opening in early January 2018.

A 3D rendering of the Resto Bar at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Insider: What is your focus at this stage of development?

Markus: My task is to instil the vision that sets us apart, and to make sure that attention to detail is valued and taken seriously by each and every member of the team. Sky is the limit; so at LUX* North Male Atoll, we are never going to say no to a guest request. We will always try and find a way to meet guest expectations and exceed them. LUX* North Male atoll will be a bit more expensive than LUX* South Ari Atoll, but we will make sure that every penny spent by the guest is totally worth it. The guest will leave us after having experienced the best of the Maldives, and feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated.

Insider: What is being done to achieve that level of service excellence at LUX* North Male Atoll?

Markus: We have our standard operating procedure, which is common for all LUX* properties. But we are going to add our unique touches to it to bring out the next level of the LUX* experience here in the Maldives.

It is important that the team members we recruit have the same mentality. So our recruitment pool will be from amongst the high-end luxury resorts in the Maldives as well as in the Indian Ocean because they will be able to easily grasp the concept of luxury that we are talking about. If we are to hire high school graduates, they would not be able to understand it unless they have been travelling a lot. That being said, we will recruit fresh talent as well because we are committed to developing the next generation of industry professionals.

After we have hired our team, we will do role-playing where we give practical training to our team members in all operational aspects, including check-in and check-out, packing and unpacking, cooking, waiting tables, and so on.

A 3D rendering of the living room of a Superior Land Villa at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Insider: What sets LUX* North Male Atoll apart from other resorts, especially LUX* South Ari Atoll?

Markus: LUX* South Ari Atoll is a fantastic resort, but it is more appealing to those who seek out a laid back and casual atmosphere. With LUX* North Male Atoll, we are taking our offering in the Maldives to the next level. It is all about attention to detail.

When you book a standard villa, which is 110 square metres big, at LUX* North Male Atoll, you will find that the physical product is already different from that in LUX* South Ari Atoll. But what really sets us apart is the experience. From the time you make the booking and to the time you leave, everything will be done for you. For instance, you would not have to queue up at the airport. We take you to the lounge right away and let you relax there while we take care of the immigration formalities and the luggage for you. At LUX* North Male Atoll, we will also have butler service, and your butler will be there at your disposal throughout your stay.

Most of our villas are one bedroom suites that have its own private living room, and our smallest villa is 110 square metres in size. So we will make sure that our team members are familiar with the hardware, especially with every touch point. They will be delivering the unexpected by learning the behaviour of the guest. For example, if the man sleeps on the right side of the bed, our team member will take note of that and place his pyjama on the right side of the bed and the lady’s one on the left. And no matter how you arrive on the island — seaplane or by speedboat — the people at the arrival jetty will recognise you and welcome you by your name like, “Welcome Mr Miller. We are delighted to have you here in LUX* North Male Atoll.” People will begin to wonder how we knew their names. It is these small little things that will set us apart.

We are not reinventing the physical product. We are not going to compare our product with any other five-star deluxe property, and say that we have this and that. Instead, we will be executing existing concepts, but in a “Lighter, Brighter” approach, making it less formal and more fun.

A 3D rendering of a bathroom at a suite at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Insider: A lot of new resorts in the high-end luxury segment are opening up and LUX* North Male Atoll will be amongst them. How do you see the future for LUX* as well as for the Maldives tourism industry in general?

Markus: There is no doubt that it is going to be challenging. In 2008, the global financial crisis hit the most important source markets, and the industry has since been struggling to fully recover from that loss. To make things worse, supply has increased dramatically in a very short span. With these two factors combined, the days ahead are going to be tough for us as well for our colleagues.

So, as operators, we need to think outside the box and do everything we can to stand out from the rest of the competition. I believe the well-established hotels that have been doing successfully for years will eventually have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to run it more efficiently and to offer something different to the guest. We also need to make sure that we are consistent in our quality, especially in service. The government also has a responsibility to increase destination marketing efforts to ensure that the demand exists to feed the increasing supply.

Meanwhile, the government needs to establish the infrastructure needed to support this rapid expansion. With arrivals crossing 1.4 million last year, it is expected that the number will increase to two million in a couple of years. For that, expansion of the main airport needs to be completed as soon as possible. I look at my opening in Seychelles, and I see that a reliable and capable transport infrastructure is very important to support the expansion. Is air supply guaranteed?

And of course, political and economic stability has to be there. We can all see what is happening in Europe. With terrorist attacks and political turmoil in places like Paris and Turkey, people are not travelling to those destinations. They are suffering big time because the people do not feel safe there.

A 3D rendering of the beach club at LUX* North Male Atoll, opening in early January. PHOTO/ LUX*

Insider: What is your message ahead of the opening of LUX* North Male Atoll?

Markus: In terms of the Maldives as a destination, we all have to be careful, especially those of us operating in the luxury segment. Now there are some 350 guesthouses in operation across the Maldives. More and more people can now come to the Maldives and experience the sun, sand and sea. This makes the destination more affordable, and in turn affects the five-start deluxe and high-end segment. It is a good sign that more and more airlines are flying into the Maldives, but where they are going matters the most. If all of them go to guesthouses, it will have a huge impact on the luxury segment that the Maldives is known for. As they say in Germany, shipping in busloads of people is going to lower the level of service, ultimately hurting the reputation of the destination.

I hope that the Maldivian government will do the very best to support this industry, so that it can flourish for years to come. I hope that the unique natural beauty that the Maldives is blessed with is well-maintained and taken care of. My father-in-law came to the Maldives in the early 70s for diving. He showed me pictures, and it was Robinson Crusoe; just magical! No air-conditioning in the hotels and very simple food, but great corals and great diving. So protect what you have!

At LUX*, we try to surprise our guests. That is how we stay relevant and ahead of the competition. So when LUX* North Male Atoll opens in early January, we will continue our journey of surprising our guests, while taking the concept of “Lighter, Brighter” luxury to a new level. I am definitely very excited for the opening of LUX* North Male Atoll and I am confident that our clients as well as our guests will love it!


Maldives Madridistas: Patina Maldives, Fari Islands Nets Exclusive Football Camp Partnership with the Real Madrid Foundation



Younger guests at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands can embrace new patterns of play this summer at an exclusive, Maldives-first Real Madrid Foundation football camp. From 4 July – 12 August, a youth coach will lead a comprehensive Real Madrid Foundation programme of daily soccer sessions for ages 5-9yrs, 10-14yrs, and 15-17yrs. The coach will be joined by an elite player ambassador from UEFA’s all-time no. 1 ranked football club toward the end of the programme.

This summer’s inaugural Patina Maldives x Real Madrid CF Foundation football camp is the first edition in an ongoing partnership, with additional future football camp dates to be confirmed. Led by a licensed Real Madrid Foundation coach, sessions will focus on developing each participant both individually and as part of the group, in order to ‘Play The Real Way’ – the training methodology that combines play, as well as sports values.

Sessions will take place on a new, purpose-built 6 a side astroturf pitch located near the Fari Marina Village at Patina Maldives.

All participants will receive an official camp football camp shirt, shorts, socks, drawstring bag, sweatbands, and cap; while those completing a minimum of four days’ coaching will also be presented with a Real Madrid Foundation participation certificate.

Real Madrid Foundation football clinics at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands are priced at USD195++ per child per session for guests of the resort. Bookings are also open to guests from neighbouring resorts, from USD250++ per child per session.

Rates at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands start from USD2,054 (approx. GBP1,620) per night based on two adults sharing a One Bedroom Pool Villa including daily breakfast, complimentary Guest Benefits, tax, and service. Terms and conditions apply.

For more information and reservations, please visit or contact For more information on Pathways, please see here.

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A blissful island Easter celebration at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives



Experience unique and enriching getaways at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives, as the luxury resort unveils exciting benefits for family getaway packages launching this season. Guests are invited to immerse themselves in the ethereal charm of the Maldives.

Nestled in the pristine Raa Atoll, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives seamlessly blends eco-friendly architecture with contemporary sophistication, complemented by the untouched, rugged beauty of the Raa Atoll. Situated amidst miles of untouched marine life, Alila Kothaifaru invites guests to reconnect with nature in the most extraordinary ways. With spacious villas and private pools, guests can truly experience the essence of a getaway where luxury and adventure harmoniously coexist.

Surrounded by azure skies and the turquoise waters of the Raa Atoll, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives offers an idyllic setting for a family escape during the Easter break. Here, guests can unwind in luxurious, nature-immersed surroundings, embark on exciting adventures together, and indulge in unforgettable wellness and culinary experiences.

During Easter weekend, Play Alila will delight young guests with a diverse range of festive island-inspired activities, including Easter egg decorating, arts and crafts, face painting, and more. For those seeking relaxation, Spa Alila offers enticing packages for parents and children to enjoy quality bonding time.

For the adventurous souls, do not miss the chance to join our Sparkling Underwater Egg Hunt. Hidden throughout one of our nearby dive sites, these eggs hold a special surprise. The lucky diver who discovers the egg with a unique mark will win an exclusive clutch made of Swarovski crystal valued at EUR 1,800!

Embark on an Easter journey to remember at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives. Explore all of the Easter events and activities at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives here 

Family Getaway Package

  • Booking Period: Until 30 October 2024
  • Stay Period: Until 25 December 2024

Experience a family holiday rich with memorable moments. From nature walks to energetic beach activities, Alila Kothaifaru Maldives’ offerings extend to the whole family. Indulge in a host of fun adventures together, or relax while your children participate in creative indoor and outdoor activities. Enjoy special family welcome amenities upon arrival, return seaplane transfers, daily full-board meals, and a special offer on wellness treatments. Experience the beauty of our island while creating lasting memories to be treasured!

Stay with us during the Easter period from 25-31 March 2024 and be treated to a wide range of festive island inspired activities such as Easter egg decorating, arts and crafts, egg hunting around the island and underwater, wellness offering, and many more!

For more information and reservations, please contact or visit

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Love’s Oasis: Siyam World Invites Couples To Celebrate And Embrace Romance On White Valentines’ Day



Romance never ends, get ready to swoon, Siyam World is pulling out all the stops to make this White Valentine’s Day one for the books.  Nestled in the heart of the Maldives, Siyam World invites couples to indulge in a whirlwind of romance and adventure on March 14th, 2024.

Internationally acclaimed DJ Youna will headline the evening’s entertainment, enchanting guests with her signature blend of melodic techno and progressive house music. Against the backdrop of the Maldivian night sky, guests can dance under the stars and create cherished memories with their loved ones. DJ Youna, the rising star of melodic techno and progressive house, is set to serenade you and your beloved under the starlit skies of Siyam World.

YOUNA, an emerging DJ/Producer specializing in melodic techno and progressive house, hails originally from South Korea. Her musical trajectory took an unforeseen turn upon her relocation to Dubai, where she developed a profound affinity for house music—a genre less prevalent in the Asian music landscape. Dedication to refining her craft led YOUNA to cultivate a distinctive sound, skilfully merging emotive melodies with the infectious energy of her compositions.

Despite embarking on her production and DJing journey in 2022, YOUNA has swiftly ascended to prominence on the global music scene. Her debut single, ‘Self-Doubt,’ ascended to the top 14 in progressive house and secured the 4th position on Beatport’s hype chart. YOUNA’s music, characterized by potent beats and evocative soundscapes, transcends cultural boundaries, dismantling barriers and creating a harmonious fusion on the international stage. Get ready to dance the night away and create memories that will last a lifetime with DJ YOUNA

Siyam World has also curated a line-up of experiences that will make your heart skip a beat. Dive into the culinary wonders of the Maldives with our Maldivian Culinary Workshop at Kaage, where you will learn the secrets of local cuisine from our talented chefs.

Treat your special someone to a Destination Dinner or a Special Romantic Dinner, complete with a romantic movie screening to set the mood. And for the ultimate indulgence, why not enjoy a Wine Cellar Dinner? Gift your loved one with chocolates and flowers made available for this special day. Sip on mimosas and savor delicious bites while soaking in the breath-taking views of Siyam World.

Mark your calendars, lovebirds, because White Valentine’s Day at Siyam World is going to be one for the books! Book your romantic getaway now and get ready to fall in love all over again.

For more information, visit Siyam World or follow on InstagramFacebookTwitterTikTok or YouTube. For booking enquiries email:

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