Raffaele Solferino on offering ‘Loving Hospitality’ at brand new Grand Park Kodhipparu
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.