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
Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) holds its 34th Annual General Meeting
The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) held its 34th Annual General Meeting at Kurumba Maldives today, with a total of 100 members in attendance.
The day’s events began with a welcome address from the Chairman of MATI, Mr. Mohamed Umar, who also presided over the session. The agenda included an address from the Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Nazeer, the review and approval of the minutes of the 33rd AGM, the review and adoption of the Annual Report and Financial Reports for 2023, the approval of the 2024 budget, the appointment of auditors for 2024, the welcoming of new members and election of executive board members to the two vacant positions (by-election).
In the member discussion session, the following topics were covered: the Government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2023 and renewable energy generation in the Tourism Industry, new terminal of Velana International Airport and developments, employment challenges, the Industrial Relations Act and trade unions, environmental conservation and the significance of creating and executing efficient management plans for protected areas like the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).
Following the official proceedings, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Ibrahim Faisal and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Hon. Mohamed Saeed joined the forum. The Ministers provided remarks and engaged in a Member Q&A session. This session provided members with the chance to directly engage with the Ministers and delve into crucial industry topics. The queries focused on the Economic Outlook, forthcoming development plans and immediate challenges and issues affecting the Tourism Industry.
A video presentation was also showcased that delved into the extensive work undertaken by MATI in 2023. The video also touched upon the Tourism Industry’s performance over the past 5 years, as well as the current and projected human resource capacity of the sector.
In his closing remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing industry challenges and called for greater unison amongst industry stakeholders, ending with an acknowledgement of the promising start to the year in terms of arrivals.
Executive Board Members elected to the 2 vacant positions (by-election):
- Ibrahim Shareef, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited
- Renato De Olivera, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and representative of Marriott International
Unlocking power of travel storytelling at Travel Creators Exchange 2024
Join us for the Travel Creators Exchange 2024, taking place on February 1, 2024, at the Hotel Jen in Male’, Maldives.
This dynamic event provides a platform for networking and collaboration among Maldives-based travel creators, fostering connections, idea-sharing, and the establishment of lasting partnerships to expand opportunities and monetise content.
Our lineup of distinguished speakers includes:
- Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of MMPRC, will present on “Power of Digital Storytelling: Collaborative Strategies for Destination Promotion.” MMPRC actively markets the Maldives globally, utilising a comprehensive approach that includes travel trade shows, roadshows, digital marketing, and more.
- Amjad Thaufeeg, Commercial Director of Kuda Villingili Maldives Resort, brings over 23 years of hospitality industry experience. He will discuss “The Role of Content in Tourism Marketing,” drawing on expertise in revenue, customer service, sales & marketing, and human capital development.
- Suresh Dissanayake, Assistant Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Heritance Aarah & Adaaran Resorts, with nearly two decades of experience, will shed light on “What does a Sales and Marketing Director Do?” He brings extensive luxury hospitality experience and a proven track record in sales, distribution, and marketing.
- Vishal Amir Ahmed, a versatile cinematographer and content creator, will explore “Who is a Content Creator.” Currently associated with Various Arts Studio, he specialises in providing multimedia solutions to various clients.
Organised by Maldives Insider, Maldives Virtual Tour, Travel Trade Maldives, and Hotelier Maldives, this collaborative effort aims to empower Maldives-based travel content creators and elevate the Maldives as a premier destination for captivating travel storytelling.
Acclaimed contemporary artist Ana Pušica explores perpetuality and community at Patina Maldives
Ana Pušica Kramer, an internationally acclaimed contemporary artist, joins Patina Maldives for an exclusive art residency in the now infamous Fari Art Atelier. From January 22 to February 22, 2024, Ana Pušica will grace the shores of the Fari Islands, weaving a vibrant narrative of colour and emotion across her larger than-life canvases.
Her artistry transcends boundaries, melding abstraction and figuration into awe-inspiring masterpieces. Having exhibited globally, from New York to Beijing, Ana’s paintings are a physical, intuitive act rooted in movement. Described as a “beautiful fluorescent thunderstorm,” Ana’s art explores light and colour, capturing the energy of life itself.
The Fari Art Atelier which has previously hosted the likes of Daniel Arsham, Chris Stamp and David Nott, will be transformed into Ana’s studio and gallery showcasing her enthralling artworks—a mesmerising journey through poetry, memory, and the vibrant interplay of colour. Guests at Patina are invited to delve into Ana’s world, where each stroke reveals layers of meaning, evoking sensations of intense lightness and boundless interpretation.
At Patina Maldives, Ana will immerse herself in a month-long residency, inviting the Patina Malidves community or guests and team to witness her artistic fervour firsthand. Guests will have the rare opportunity not only to observe her creative process but also to engage with and create art alongside this luminary.
Experience artistry at its most exclusive
Experience Ana’s captivating exploration of colour and emotion in her spellbinding artworks displayed at the Fari Atelier.
Art Workshops: Message in a Bottle
As part of a collaborative artwork, Ana invites Patina guests to participate in short workshops, actively contributing to the creation of a permanent installation at Patina Maldives.
Open Studio Session
Join Ana for an exclusive open studio session, offering guests a behind the-scenes look at her creative process.
Ana Pušica residency package
Discover a world where creativity knows no bounds as Ana Pušica, the maestro of contemporary art, transforms Patina Maldives into an immersive canvas of inspiration.
Book now to secure your experience.
For more information and reservations, please visit Patina Maldives or contact
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