When it comes to the Maldives tourism and hospitality industry, almost everything is in abundance. With the rapid expansion the industry has had in the recent years, there is an abundance of supply, abundance of world-class facilities and services, abundance of natural beauty, and certainly an abundance of global brands. It is almost impossible to see a major brand without any presence in the idyllic beach destination.
The latest international brand to enter the Maldives market is Park Hotel Group, Singapore’s premier hospitality company. Established in 1961, the company has grown from its first hotel in Hong Kong to its current portfolio of 16 properties across eight countries and 11 cities, with the latest being the Grand Park Kodhipparu in the Maldives.
As Park Hotel Group expands its portfolio with the official opening last week of its first property in the Maldives, Maldives Insider speaks to Raffaele Solferino, the General Manager at Grand Park Kodhipparu, about the new resort and extending the brand’s service philosophy of providing ‘Loving Hospitality’ to all guests, partners and associates.
Maldives Insider: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in the industry?
Raffaele Solferino: I started in one of the most exclusive and luxurious tourist places in Capri, Italy.
In 1996, I moved to Middle East where I spent nine years working in different managerial positions with Starwood Middle East, in locations, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain and Beirut.
I moved back to Europe in 2004, and served as the Vice President and Director of Operations at Domina Hotel Group in Italy. After that I was the in-project management of Palmerston Hotels and Resorts, followed by the next position as General Manager in Sardinia until the end of 2009.
I discovered the Maldives in 2010, and managed the first resort, Coco Palm Dhuni Kohlu for two years before taking over the management of all three resorts under the Coco Collection brand. The next venture took me to Azerbaijan for a year, before I was offered the General Manager post at Grand Aston Bali Beach Resort. Importantly, I’m now back in this wonderful destination.
MI: What are the key features of Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives?
RS: Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives enjoys a superior location, just 20 minutes away from the airport by speedboat.
The resort features a collection of 120 villas, comprising idyllic beachfront villas and breathtaking overwater villas. Out of the 120 villas, 18 are on land and the rest are overwater. Sixty-five of the villas come with their own private pools and the five two-bedroom residences, which are also overwater, feature extensive private terraces. In the Maldives, where one can bask in stunning unblocked views of the ocean or slip into its crystal-clear waters to explore house reef, water villas are very popular, and in many resorts in the Maldives they are a premium category. At Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives, we have the water villa as our lead-in category.
In addition, the resort offers three restaurants and a pool bar, including the overwater Edge restaurant, which offers a wide selection of international culinary creations and fresh live cooking stations. Breeze poolside restaurant and bar serves lunch and light bites throughout the day, followed by inventive cocktails and fine wines in the night. The FireDOOR speciality restaurant is one of the few restaurants in the Maldives that offers contemporary fine-dining cuisine prepared by a culinary team trained in Michelin star restaurants using an impressive Josper grill and sous vide cooking.
The recreational facilities that we offer are diverse: an outdoor infinity swimming pool, which is one of the largest in the Maldives with spectacular ocean views, a gymnasium, sunrise yoga deck, a wellness centre with world-renowned spa and salon treatments, a water sports and dive centre, and a children’s activity centre. The list of activities and experiences is also endless, from cooking classes to introductory spa classes.
MI: What sets Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives apart from others in the Maldives?
RS: For us, it is about location. Within this atoll near Male, we are the latest five-star luxury resort, and just 20 minutes by speedboat away from the international airport, allowing guests to save time getting to paradise.
There was also a lot of thought put behind the design of the resort; we want to provide a sense of place for our guests and had worked closely with Hirsch Bedner Associates to select materials and furnishings that are inspired by the Maldivian island life and its local traditions and crafts. Whether it’s the villas, restaurants, spa or public spaces, each of the location has been designed to make the most of its stunning surroundings, and in overall, we have created a tranquil and inviting sanctuary that exudes chic, comfort and authenticity.
Beyond this, as this is a one-island-one-resort destination with the guests on the island 24/7, there is a lot of interaction between our guests and team members. Hence, the quality of service provided at every service touchpoint is critical. Being part of the award-winning Park Hotel Group, we believe in the service philosophy of providing ‘Loving Hospitality’ by creating unique and memorable experiences that bring joy to our guests. To this end, our lifestyle hosts are fluent in close to 10 different languages so as to cater to the needs of our global guests. Our amenities and collateral have also been thoughtfully sourced and designed.
More than just an unforgettable experience, we hope our guests can also take away from their stay a deeper understanding and appreciation of the destination and local culture.
MI: What are the target source markets?
RS: Maldives has always been a popular destination amongst Asian and European travellers, and this is reflected in our guest demographics since our soft opening in June. While China remains a dominant market, we are seeing growth from other countries such as Malaysia, Japan and Korea, which mirror the overall tourism numbers. As for Europe, UK, Germany, Italy and France have always been the traditional source markets. We have also hosted many guests from Thailand and the Middle East in the last six months, which we believe will continue to increase in the future.
MI: What was the initial feedback from the market as well as the guests?
RS: To date, we had received wonderful feedback from our guests, tour operators and business partners. You may have read some of them on review sites such as TripAdvisor that talk about our impeccable services, stunning resort interiors, the nature around the island and snorkelling around their villa. These reviews have confirmed that we are moving in the right direction, and have provided us with further impetus to work harder and do better to ensure we exceed expectations with every stay.
We are entering the peak season very soon, and are very excited to welcome more guests to Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives.
MI: What are the plans for the future?
RS: With a brand-new resort, our focus is on the guest experience. Our guests are on the island throughout the stay and it is important that we continually refresh and provide a variety of experiences to fill their time.
Upcoming plans include collaborations with our partners and other hotels in the group to introduce guest chef programmes. In addition, Breeze has an intimate wine cellar that houses more than 135 labels from around the world and this is definitely a great opportunity to organise exclusive wine pairing events with international sommeliers. Also in the works are plans to launch an array of health and wellness packages together with spa journey and meditation activities for the body, mind and soul.
MI: How do you see the competition, especially with the new resort developments taking place in and around the greater Male region?
RS: We are the last one to open in the Male region. As far as I know, there aren’t any plans to open up a resort in this region at least in the next two years. All the other developments are in outer atolls, which require guests to get there via a seaplane or domestic flight.
While we may have an advantage over location and enjoys proximity from the airport, a resort’s concept and offerings are also important booking considerations. I am confident that the beautiful villas, wide-ranging facilities and world-class experiences at Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives will stand us in good stead amidst the competition and provide an exceptional experience to all guests.
Experience All the Magic of Easter Candyland at Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi
As the spring sunshine sparkles on the gentle waves of the Indian Ocean, Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi invites couples seeking the ultimate escapism and families looking to spend moments of togetherness this Easter break. Nestled in the picturesque Shaviyani Atoll, the private island retreat will transform into an Easter Candyland filled with sweet delights and confectionary creations. Whimsical and full of vibrancy, the extraordinary lineup of experiences promises guests of every generation an unforgettable escape, from indulgent feasts under the stars and colorful egg hunts to chocolate-infused treatments at Fairmont Spa.
From 24 March to 12 April, the resort presents an immersive calendar of events and activities where guests can celebrate special moments in elevated luxury, savor exquisite culinary journeys, embark on new adventures, and make memories that will last for a lifetime.
“Easter is a time of renewal and joyful reconnection, and our team has curated a program of experiences that celebrates the joy of Easter and the spirit of togetherness,” says Steven Stefaniuk, General Manager at Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi.
Dining is a sensational experience in this idyllic island paradise. Guests can savor local and global flavors at the beachfront Raha Market, indulge in Asian favorites at Kata, enjoy a spectacular by-the-sea dining experience at Azure, and taste a range of creative cocktails at Onu Onu. On 31 March, the island will host an extravagant Easter-themed lunch and pool party featuring a range of global Easter favorites and mouth-watering desserts, complete with fun activities, live music, and entertainment.
Parents can watch in delight as their little ones spark their curiosity and imagination at the Kids’ Club and discover various Candyland-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, cupcake and cookie decorating, and egg and face painting. Furthermore, budding eco-warriors can participate in repurposing plastic waste into bespoke souvenirs at the Sustainability Lab and join ocean life conservation activities with the Marine Biology team.
Guests can restore their inner balance and achieve renewed energy with the offerings of award-winning Fairmont Spa, including nature-inspired wellbeing sessions and the ‘Chocolate Indulgence’ treatment that soothes the body in smooth and revitalizing sensations. Moreover, active travelers can participate in sunrise yoga, beach game challenges, water sports, and interactive coaching with LUX Tennis.
In the mood for adventure? Dive into one of the flourishing dive sites in Shaviyani Atoll with the resort’s dive partner, Sub Oceanic, snorkel the 9-km-long house reef to discover over 250 species of marine life, or join a sunset cruise in search of dozens of playful dolphins that love to leap out from the sea.
Timeless Family Fun Package – Children Under 12 Stay and Dine for Free
The resort presents the ‘Timeless Family Fun’ package with a complimentary meal plan upgrade, Easter treats and amenities, and delightful dining experiences for the whole family. Book a 4-night stay or more in one of the resort’s spacious pool villas, offering the perfect blend of privacy and togetherness, and enjoy:
- Complimentary upgrade from Bed & Breakfast to Half-Board package
- Children below 12 years of age stay and dine for free
- Easter Sunday Lunch and Egg Hunt activity
- Floating breakfast once during the stay
- Family-style beach dinner once during the stay
- Guided tour of the Sustainability Lab and underwater Coralarium
- 25% discount on spa treatments
Celebrate Earth Week with Nature’s Embrace at Oaga Art Resort
Join Oaga Art Resort from March 21st to 27th, 2024, for a week dedicated to connecting with the beauty and wonder of our planet. Immerse yourself in a program filled with creative activities, meaningful experiences, and a deep appreciation for Earth’s magic.
Unwind with Earth-inspired creativity:
March 21st, as the world celebrates Poetry Day, start your day with a poetic breakfast, followed by a lunchtime fusion of traditional Maldivian Boduberu beats and poetry called ‘Farihi’. In the evening, enjoy some poetry reading and a captivating performance by local duo “Something Lovely”.
On March 22nd, tap your feet to the lively rhythms of a Boduberu jam session at lunch. As the stars emerge, witness the artistry of a sand artist create their magic on the Raa Baa deck.
Connect with nature in a mindful way:
March 23rd, as part of Earth Hour, join a peaceful candlelit Earth Meditation and sound healing session. Later, light your own candle and take part in an art installation under the moonlight. Savour a delicious Earth-conscious buffet and enjoy unplugged music around a bonfire.
On the same day, a special coral planting cocktail is to take place during sunset at the beach. Witness firsthand the wonders of coral restoration as you help plant 60+ coral frames in Oaga’s reef nursery. This project, in partnership with Coralive, aims to completely restore the house reef by 2028. Savour refreshing cocktails and learn about the crucial role coral reefs play in our ecosystem while contributing to a sustainable future.
Celebrate Holi traditions with an eco-twist:
March 25th, witness the creation of a stunning sand mandala and participate in the traditional Full Moon ritual. Dance the night away at a vibrant Holi Full moon party with minimal lighting and glow-in-the-dark paint.
Reflect and reminisce under the stars:
March 26th, cuddle up for a captivating movie night featuring nature documentaries under the starlit sky.
A grand finale on World Theatre Day:
On March 27th, engage your children in a fun puppet show and enjoy a live performance by the energetic band Sky Rock. The week culminates with a special Earth-themed solo performance at the Kaa Kada dinner in celebration of World Theatre Day.
Beyond these highlights, Earth Week weaves its theme throughout Oaga’s daily activities. Whether it is to explore nature-inspired percussion in Take Notes sessions or to let your kids unleash their creativity with eco-friendly crafts in the Fiyoh Kid’s Club, there is something engaging for everyone.
Join Oaga and embark on a journey that reconnects you with nature, celebrates our planet, and leaves you feeling empowered to make a positive difference.
Hurawalhi Island Resort’s Exemplary Commitment to Marine Conservation Shines in the Maldives
Hurawalhi Island Resort, nestled amidst the stunning landscapes of the Maldives, proudly reaffirms its steadfast dedication to marine conservation through pioneering initiatives aimed at safeguarding the region’s diverse marine ecosystems.
Saoirse Macklin, the esteemed Resident Marine Biologist at Hurawalhi Island Resort, emphasizes the Maldives’ distinguished status as one of the world’s most biodiverse marine environments. “At Hurawalhi, we prioritize the dissemination of knowledge and wonder about our marine world,” states Macklin. “As a Marine Biologist, it’s been a privilege to inspire and educate guests about the remarkable marine life surrounding our island.”
Hurawalhi’s commitment to marine conservation materializes through a range of educational experiences offered to guests. From immersive Turtle Tours, shedding light on the pivotal role of seagrass in sustaining turtle populations, to awe-inspiring Manta Search excursions, each journey represents an enlightening voyage of discovery.
During these excursions, science and education take precedence, ensuring guests acquire profound insights into the intricate ecosystems enveloping the island. As the resident Marine Biologist, Macklin spearheads efforts to monitor and safeguard turtle and manta populations, employing cutting-edge photo identification techniques to meticulously track and document individual specimens during every expedition.
Hurawalhi extends a warm invitation to guests to partake in Marine Biologist-guided reef snorkeling experiences, providing an unparalleled opportunity to explore coral reef and seagrass ecosystems while championing their preservation. Participants not only revel in the splendor of the house reef but also actively engage in efforts to protect these delicate habitats.
Furthermore, Hurawalhi’s commitment to marine conservation is evident in its ongoing projects. The resort’s diligent monitoring and maintenance of its artificial reef program adjacent to the iconic 5.8 Underwater Restaurant aim to rejuvenate and revitalize reef systems. In 2021, a total of 114 artificial reef frames were transplanted, laying the groundwork for reef regeneration.
Recent initiatives include the creation of “festive frames,” crafted by guests during the holiday season, with regular updates fostering continued guest involvement in conservation endeavors. Annual monitoring of benthic habitats and species abundance by the Marine Biologist team is pivotal, collecting data to track changes in habitats and biodiversity over time. This scientific endeavor provides valuable insights into the health of Hurawalhi’s marine life and serves as a cornerstone for future conservation efforts.
The data collected holds immense potential, serving as a catalyst for initiatives aimed at securing protected status for Hurawalhi and its surrounding waters. Through collaboration with government-led conservation programs and local stakeholders, the resort aspires to designate Hurawalhi as a protected area, ensuring its continued vitality and resilience.
In the face of unprecedented challenges to ocean conservation, Hurawalhi remains resolute in its mission to preserve and protect the marine marvels of the Maldives. Through collective understanding and concerted action, the resort endeavors to safeguard these invaluable ecosystems for generations to come.
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