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Axel Jarosch: maintaining Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Angsana Ihuru’s appeal amidst growing competition



Axel Jarosch is by all means a hospitality veteran. Turning a childhood dream into a successful career that is marked by high-level postings all over the world with some of the most reputed hotel chains in the world, he still sees hospitality as one of the most gratifying fields.

It is this enthusiasm, coupled with years of experience, that he brings to his current role as General Manager for North Male, responsible for overall operations for Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru.

Before taking up his current posting in the Maldives in January, the German-born hospitality executive, who holds a Bachelors degree in International Hotel Economics and Hospitality from Fritz Gabler Hotelfachschule Heidelberg in Germany, served as the General Manager of Banyan Tree Al Wadi and Banyan Tree Ras Al Kaimah in the United Arab Emirates for almost two and a half year.

Prior to joining Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts in 2014, Axel was the General Manager at Six Senses Zighy Bay. He has previously served as the Operations Director responsible for the hotel openings of Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas in Abu Dhabi, and has also held the position of General Manager with Anantara in Oman, Bali and Indonesia during pre-opening stages. He has also held managerial roles at Per AQUUM, Constance Hotels, InterContinental Hotel Group, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Group. In addition to his time in the Gulf, he has worked in Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Namibia and Mauritius.

In an interview with Maldives Insider, Axel looks onto the challenges as well as the opportunities of running Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, one of the oldest resorts in the Maldives, and its sister property Angsana Ihuru in North Male Atoll, in the face of ever-increasing competition and changing travel trends.

Maldives Insider: How did you develop an interest in tourism and hospitality?

Axel Jarosch: I started my career at the age of 22. I studied economics, and while going to university in Germany I worked part-time in a number of hotels and restaurants. I started at the very bottom, doing an internship at a business hotel in Germany. I progressed in my career, going into food and beverage. I developed myself from a waiter to a restaurant captain to a supervisor to a manager to Assistant Food and Beverage Manager to Executive Assistant Food and Beverage Manager to Resident Manager and finally becoming a General Manager. My first General Manager posting was with Per AQUUM, opening The Fortress hotel in the Sri Lankan town of Galle.

On my first day itself, I fell in love with the industry. Working in this industry is very gratifying because you make it your day’s work to make other people happy. That for me is very unique.

I have always wanted to work internationally, moving and seeing other countries and cultures. This was a profession that gave me that opportunity. I have been blessed to have been able to work in South East Asia, Middle East, Africa and in the Indian Ocean. I cannot imagine doing any other job!

MI: When was your first visit to the Maldives?

AJ: I visited the Maldives for holiday about 10 years ago, and immediately fell in love with the country. What is there not to like? It really is a paradise.

What I find extremely unique about the Maldives is to have a team of predominantly local associates; in the case of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru, people who have been working in this island for 15-30 years! To keep doing what they do with so much passion after so long is amazing. I am used to working in very remote locations, and I love working on these islands. In our profession, we do not have the same day twice. We are always welcoming different guests and dealing with new challenges. So, it is never boring.

Aerial view of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. PHOTO/ BANYAN TREE

MI: What do you focus mostly on in overseeing the operations of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru?

AJ: My main focus is to continue the successful operation of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru in the North Male Atoll, while maintaining the high standards that Banyan Tree is known for. I am also focused on continuously improving the services that we give to our guests. It can only be achieved by overseeing the training programmes and career development opportunities available to the associates, and by succession planning.

It is also my responsibility to increase awareness in the international arena about these two resorts. Banyan Tree was one of the first international brands that came to the Maldives. We were the first to introduce the spa concept to the Maldives. But we cannot live in the past. We can only move forward, evolve and grow the brand as well. We have got three beautiful resorts in the Maldives, but it does not mean that everybody knows about us.

MI: What are the efforts being made to achieve those goals?

AJ: One of my favourite words is consistency; being consistent in providing our guests with brand standards of personalised service. I think this is where we stand out, and Banyan Tree as a hotel group is unique. It is not so much about a guest staying in a villa, but more so about knowing the preferences of the guests and making sure that we personalise everything we do. For example, if you come in the morning for breakfast on your first day here and order a cappuccino, the team takes note of that and offers you a cappuccino the next day at breakfast rather than offering you the full expanse of our coffee menu. Another thing we do is to have the same associate look after you on your every visit and create a bond between the guest and the team here. This is something we are good at, and we see that pay off by the high percentage of repeat guests we have. That is because the guest feels at home here rather than being in a hotel.

A beach front pool villa at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. PHOTO/ BANYAN TREE

MI: What are the programmes conducted to maintain the service standard?

AJ: We look after our team well. As an employer, Banyan Tree is well-known for fair employment; of looking after the interests of the associates and recognising the good work they do. That is reflected in the very low staff turnover that we have. Having that high number of team members that have been loyal to the company speaks for the brand itself.

We make sure that each and everyone of our team is treated fairly and that they can continuously develop themselves. For example, under our cross exposure programme, we send a member of the team to one of our other resorts either in Thailand, Seychelles or elsewhere. We have jop swap; for example, I have right now team members from one of our Thailand properties looking after the main restaurant here. Their counterparts here have gone to Thailand to look after the main dining restaurant in Banyan Tree Phuket.

MI: What are the challenges in running an established property like Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru?

AJ: Logistics is always a challenge when it comes to working in the Maldives, where tourism resolves around the ‘one island, one resort’ concept. You have to know what to buy, when to buy and how much to buy. Everything else is easy because our resorts and our teams are very well-established.

But knowing that you have a 20-year-old product and still maintaining a certain standard that makes guests pay a certain amount of money to stay in is a challenge. In the recent past, we have made minor renovations such as changing the concept of our main restaurant to show some innovation. We have also added pools to the villas.

Since then, it has been about maintaining those standards through what we call a villa maintenance programme. Under this programme, every guest villa is completely redone every single year.

A deluxe beach front villa at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. PHOTO/ BANYAN TREE

MI: A number of new resorts are opening up across the Maldives, and especially in the Male region. Would this affect the performance of established properties like Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru?

AJ: I welcome competition. I think it is important, especially in hospitality. The moment you have competition, you start to develop your own property because you obviously do not want guests to go to another property.

Our resorts in North Male Atoll are very small; Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru has 48 villas and Angsana Ihuru has 45 villas. We have not seen a downturn in occupancy. We have been very lucky, especially in the first half of this year, as we were able to reach our forecast in terms of occupancy. I do not think a lot of our guests will go to other resorts because guests that come to a Banyan Tree have certain expectations. For example, we do not have any water villas here in the north. We are one of the few resorts still maintaining that original concept. Guests that come here want direct access to the beach and we have kept it that way. There are resorts opening up with over 100 water villas here in this atoll as well, but those are for a different clientele.

We are very lucky, as we have been very successful over the last 20 years. The awareness about Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru amongst our base clients, which is still predominantly Europeans, will continue to give us the exposure. But we need to concentrate on emerging markets that are now discovering the Maldives. Countries with three to four-hour flight distance like India, whose people have more disposable income than before, are now coming to the Maldives as well. So, we need to tap into those markets, and make sure that we are not relying on just one market.

Destination dining at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru. PHOTO/ BANYAN TREE

MI: What should be done to tap into those markets?

AJ: We need to find the demands and expectations of guests coming from those markets. For example, Indian guests will have different expectations from Brits. We need to find ways to cater to those demands on a personalised level, be it adapting the restaurant menu, an entertainment concept or different recreational activities.

MI: How would you describe your experience in the Maldives?

AJ: It has been extremely satisfying. I consider myself very fortunate and lucky to be here. I love the brand. I started working for Banyan Tree because of the core values of sustainability that the brand has. We have been adopting several sustainable practices, be it coral planting, turtle programmes and preserving the underwater beauty of the Maldives, which is two thirds of the overall beauty of the country. The fact that Banyan Tree as a group puts such an emphasis on this makes me so proud to be part of this team.

We have guiding values of sustainability, including building green communities. All these values are followed by every Banyan Tree property in the world. We do some things a little bit differently here in the Maldives. For example, every Banyan Tree resort is tasked to plan 2,000 trees per year. Obviously being in the Maldives, there is so much that you can plant. So, instead of trees, we plant corals. Our marine lab, which is one of the first marine labs in the Maldives and has been operating for the past 15 years, puts a lot of emphasis on creating coral gardens, especially following the recent El Nino effect.

We also work together with local ministries and organisations to do studies on fish populations. Our work also extends to educational programmes with local schools.


Bollywood actress Sunny Leone enjoys holiday in Maldives at Brennia Kottefaru



Bollywood sensation Sunny Leone has been making the most of her well-deserved break by soaking up the sun and enjoying the pristine beaches of the Maldives. The actress, known for her love of travel and self-care, recently shared a montage video on her Instagram from her vacation in the island country.

In the video, Sunny Leone can be seen donning a stylish black and white swimsuit, complemented by a beautiful flower crown. The scenic backdrop of the Maldives serves as the perfect setting for the actress to unwind and bask in the natural beauty surrounding her. Captioning the video, she expressed her delight, saying, “It’s SOOO good,” and tagged her team members.

Sunny Leone’s trip to the Maldives comes as a well-deserved respite after her appearance at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The talented actress attended the festival alongside the cast and crew of her film “Kennedy,” directed by renowned filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. The movie, which features Rahul Bhat alongside Sunny Leone, was selected to be screened at the Midnight Screening Section of the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, gaining recognition for its unique storytelling and captivating performances.

Known for her glamorous and versatile roles in Bollywood, Sunny Leone has been a prominent figure in the Indian film industry for years. Her journey from being a former adult film star to a successful actress has inspired many, and her talent and dedication have garnered her a loyal fan base.

Sunny Leone’s choice to spend her vacation in the Maldives is no surprise, as the tropical paradise has become a favored destination among celebrities and travel enthusiasts alike. With its crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and luxurious resorts, the Maldives offers the perfect backdrop for relaxation and rejuvenation.

As Sunny Leone continues to explore the stunning landscapes of the Maldives, her fans eagerly await her next venture on the big screen. With her impeccable style, charisma, and acting prowess, the actress has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the world of Bollywood and continues to captivate audiences with her talent and beauty.

Whether it’s gracing the red carpet at Cannes or enjoying a blissful holiday in the Maldives, Sunny Leone proves time and again that she knows how to live life to the fullest. Her dedication to her craft and her ability to find balance between work and leisure serve as an inspiration to many aspiring artists and fans around the world.

Sunny Leone’s love affair with the Maldives is no secret. The actress has been drawn to the idyllic archipelago time and again, finding solace in its turquoise waters and serene atmosphere. With each visit, Sunny Leone discovers new corners of this paradise, indulging in the luxurious resorts, engaging in thrilling water sports, and immersing herself in the rich marine life through scuba diving and snorkeling. Her admiration for the Maldives is evident in the way she captures its beauty in her photographs and videos, sharing glimpses of her unforgettable experiences with her fans. It’s clear that the Maldives holds a special place in Sunny Leone’s heart, and she continues to be captivated by its unparalleled charm, making it her go-to destination for moments of tranquility and sheer bliss.

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ELE | NA launches OceanFlow Therapy to honour World Ocean Day



ELE | NA has unveiled OceanFlow therapy, a remarkable and awe-inspiring inward expedition that submerges individuals in the comforting embrace of ocean water. On the occasion of World Ocean Day, an invitation was extended to guests, urging them to embark on a life-altering encounter designed to nurture their mind, body, and soul. Exclusively available at OZEN RESERVE BOLIFUSHI and OZEN LIFE MAADHOO, this pioneering therapy presents a captivating and unmatched chance to rediscover oneself, all the while enveloped in the serene cadence of the ocean’s gentle waves.

OceanFlow therapy is a captivating fusion of various therapeutic modalities, including Watsu, Water Dance, Ayurveda, Shiatsu, Craniosacral, Manual Therapy, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, and Trigger Point Therapy. These carefully curated elements enhance the holistic Aquatic Bodywork, bringing forth refined techniques and unlocking its full therapeutic potential.

One of the remarkable benefits of OceanFlow therapy is the high magnesium content found in saltwater. As our guests immerse themselves in the ocean or simply bask in its proximity, their muscles and nerves are regulated, blood sugar levels are moderated, and sleep quality is improved. The result is a profound sense of rejuvenation, complemented by the soothing rhythm of the waves, which harmonize their circadian rhythm.

“Vitamin Sea” is not just a playful ocean pun; it highlights the essential role of saltwater as a nutrient for our body’s largest organ – our skin! Abundant in minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium, saltwater boasts remarkable healing properties. It aids in reducing inflammation, safeguarding the skin, and promoting the healing of scrapes, cuts, and sores. Furthermore, saltwater enhances the flow of lymph fluid, potentially reducing the appearance of cellulite.

OceanFlow therapy is particularly effective in addressing a wide range of conditions, including stress symptoms, limited mobility, arthritis, rheumatism, back pain, chronic ailments, headaches, migraines, insomnia, post-operative rehabilitation, accidents, trauma, fear of water, and even during pregnancy. Each session, lasting for one hour, provides a dedicated space for healing and rejuvenation, followed by a further 45 minutes for quiet integration.

The therapeutic benefits of OceanFlow extend to pain management, sleep management, and stress management. By immersing themselves in this holistic approach, our guests can alleviate physical discomfort, improve their sleep patterns, and effectively manage stress levels. OceanFlow therapy facilitates a profound connection with our guests’ inner self while harnessing the therapeutic potential of saltwater and gentle manipulation.

ELE | NA is an acronym for Elements of Nature, which refers to the five elemental forces of nature – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, helps in healing as these energies flow all around and within every individual.

Offering bespoke wellness journeys under the “Wellness Your Way” program, itineraries are designed specifically for the guests’ individual needs, highlighting holistic treatments, alternative health therapies, and gourmet plant-based cuisine throughout the all-inclusive

At ELE | NA, guests embark on a holistic journey of wellness, healing, and relaxation,
feeling rejuvenated and refreshed as a result of life-changing experiences, where local
healing traditions are combined with international beauty and spa treatments to provide a
one-of-a-kind experience.

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Kandooma’s sustainability efforts recognised at annual ‘Journey to Tomorrow’ Impact Awards



Mark Eletr, General Manager of Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, has been recognised for efforts in sustainability at the annual InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Impact Awards, Southeast Asia & Korea.

One of just 14 accolades presented on the night, Mark and his team were recognised in front of their colleagues and peers at a glittering awards ceremony held at the InterContinental Landmark, Hanoi, in Vietnam.

On collecting the award on stage, a thrilled Mark Eletr said,

“To receive an award amongst all of you in this forum, with talented people doing great things it’s an honour. It’s a reward for the whole team, for their creativity and all these great ideas they come up with. And also for our owners who support what we want to do in this very important regard. We operate, particularly in the Maldives, in a very unique and fragile environment, and I’d like to say that as a nation, we are getting it right, but there is a long road ahead, and with what we are doing, hopefully, that sets the standard and encourages others to follow.”

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives works across many different areas in the sustainability space, from providing filtered water in reusable glass bottles to the sandbar and island clean-ups and investing in solar energy. The resort is also an eager participant in studies to measure the effectiveness of alternative renewable energy sources such as waves. Reef regeneration projects, creating an island farm and working with the natural island environment to create regenerative spaces all contribute positively to the resort’s overall goals.

“Coinciding with World Environment Day, this accolade encourages us to continue to grow in this space and to search out collaborations with organisations such as our recently announced and formalised partnership with Parley Maldives.”

“We measure most of our activities; I think this act helps drive us harder towards our goals. We share the information in an easy-to-understand format with our guests to amplify the message wider, touching and shaping opinions of guests experiencing the Maldives,” says Mark.

Two years ago (February 2021), IHG Hotels & Resorts launched ‘Journey to Tomorrow’, a series of ambitious new commitments to make a positive difference for people, communities and the planet over the next decade. Guided by IHG’s purpose to provide True Hospitality for Good, hotels and resorts work with those who stay, work and partner with them to help shape the future of responsible travel.

Journey to Tomorrow sets out five clear ambitions, building on the progress and achievements made against IHG’s 2018-2020 targets:

  1. Champion a diverse culture where everyone can thrive  – with 400,000 colleagues worldwide, we can create a future where all experience equality, inclusion and fairness.
  2. Improve the lives of 30 million people in our communities around the planet – with hotels spanning 100 countries; we’re proud to be at the heart of our communities and recognise how our global reach presents opportunities to shape a positive future.
  3. Reduce our energy use and carbon emissions in line with climate science  – we know the hotel sector accounts for 1% of global carbon emissions, and we’ve set science-based targets to maximise the use of renewable energy, reduce emissions of existing hotels and to target new builds to operate at very low or zero emissions by 2030.
  4. Pioneer, the transformation to a minimal waste hospitality industry  – with only 9% of plastic currently being recycled and around one-third of food produced being wasted across the globe, we’re passionate about providing our guests with a more sustainable stay. We’ll also form partnerships to create circular solutions for major hotel items that work for the greater good.
  5. Conserve water and help secure water access in those areas at greatest risk  – demand for water often exceeds supply in many parts of the world, with the UN predicting an increase of 20-30% by 2050. So, it’s never been more critical for us to find ways to reduce our usage and work with others towards sustainable solutions that create water access for all.

Each of the ambitions and commitments in IHG’s Journey to Tomorrow plan is rooted in understanding what is most important to colleagues, guests, hotel owners and investors when it comes to operating thoughtfully and growing sustainably. Our plan also contributes to the universal framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to provide a blueprint for a better, more sustainable future for us all by 2030.

Located in the South Male atoll just 40 mins from the airport by boat, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is a beautiful island paradise. White sandy beaches, swaying coconut palms and turquoise waters form the backdrop for various leisure pursuits and some of the best diving in the Maldives. Guests can choose from Garden and Beach Villas, two-storey Beach Houses and the popular Overwater Villas for their stay. Families are well catered for with a choice of 2- and 3-bed villas and the Kandoo Kids’ Club and its full activities programme. Six food and beverage outlets ensure healthy appetites are satisfied and the flavours of the Maldives are explored. For guests who desire the ultimate in relaxation, sun loungers and hammocks are located around the island. The Kandooma Spa by COMO Shambhala offers the ultimate tranquillity and escape for body and mind. Visit

“Each and every one of us has a part to play. Working collaboratively to find new sustainable solutions, sharing ideas with colleagues, friends and guests, and supporting our local communities, I believe together we can shape the future of responsible travel.” said Mark Eletr, General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives.

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