SATA Gala Retreat kicks off in Maldives south

South Maldives is hosting a grand celebration of the best of tourism in the region, as the South Asian Travel Awards (SATA) kicked off its annual gala retreat Friday evening.

The SATA 2017 Gala Retreat is being held at the Equator Village in Addu. The retreat has been stretched to three days starting Friday, with SATA Opportunity networking event, SATA Gala and Awards ceremony, and a tour of Addu for the participants.

At the SATA Opportunity event Friday evening, local telecom giant Ooredoo Maldives announced an exclusive partnership with renowned online booking platform Agoda to provide special allowances for Ooredoo’s Club Premier members.

The SATA Gala Retreat will continue Saturday evening at Equator Village with its most awaited event, the SATA Gala and Awards ceremony, where winners will be announced.

Top hospitality brands operating in all the participating countries are competing for the awards, with India being represented by The Leela, Thaj Whitefield, Forest Canopy, Intersight, Mulberry Holidays, Holiday Kerala, Courtyard Marriot, Fragrant Nature, Sheraton Grande and Spice Jet.

Sri Lankan brands vying to be recognised at a regional level include Cinnamon Hotels, Movenpick and SriLankan Airlines.

Shangri-La, Barahi, Mulberry, Himalaya Airline, Annafurna and Tashi Namgay Resort are competing from Bhutan and Nepal.

Brands nominated from the host Maldives include Soneva, Amilla Fushi, Jumeira, Villa Hotels, LUX*, Adaaran Resorts, Voyages Maldives, Inner Maldives Maldives, Cocoon Maldives, John Keells Maldives Resorts, Summer Island Maldives, Embudu Village and Maldivian Airlines.

More than 414 nominations from the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal were received for the 39 categories included in this year’s edition of SATA. Online voting and judging by a panel of experts concluded in September.

Launched last year by Maldives-based event management company Highrise, SATA has been endorsed by regional tourism authorities and organisations, including the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka (FCCISL), Colombo Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), Confederation of Associated Tour Operators (India), Association of Travel Agents (ATA) Maldives, Association of Travel and Tour Operators India (ATTOI), Association of Professionals in Tourism (APT, India), Kerala Hotel General Managers Club (KHGMC), Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM).

SATA is the first ever regional travel awards endorsed by multi national associations, providing the tourism sector of the South Asian region with recognition towards their facilities and service excellence. It aims to encourage and raise service standards in the region’s tourism industry.

The awards’ first edition, which wrapped up with a gala ceremony at the iconic Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka, saw an overwhelming support with more than 260 nominations. Major travel media organisations, including Maldives Insider, Asian Traveller, Asian Geographic, Asian Diver and Floating Asia were appointed as media partners of SATA 2016.

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