Soneva, the world-leading luxury resort operator with properties in the Maldives and Thailand, is celebrating the success of world-leading environmental projects spanning 25 years.
These have included subsidising low-carbon cook stoves, mangrove conservation, sea grass restoration and hosting international sustainability dialogues on fisheries and marine plastics.
The combined investment of close to $10 million has positively impacted over a million people, and saved over half a million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking over 100,000 cars off the road for a whole year.
Last year’s achievements
Soneva generated $553,000 in value across its resorts from the upcycling of waste through the Waste to Wealth initiative.
A total of 65,250 paper straws were used last year, which could have easily been plastic straws had Soneva not banned them in 2008.
Soneva sold 71,400 litres of water in reusable glass bottles, preventing the manufacture of 47,600 single-use plastic bottles.
A total of 900 kg of aluminium cans were compacted and sent for recycling, while 2,400 square metres of Styrofoam was repurposed and used in building Soneva’s villas.
At Soneva Fushi’s Eco Centro, 9,000 kg of charcoal (worth $14,400) was made. The Eco Centro also produced 20,000 kg of compost each month from daily waste food and organic matter.
Through Soneva’s Learn to Swim programme, 70 Maldivian school children learnt how to swim. Four lifeguards were also trained from Maldivian communities by Soneva host.
Around 30 litres of coconut oil were made (from approximately 675 coconuts) each month from the coconut trees at Soneva Fushi.
Each Soneva resort has its own Waste-to-Wealth facility, recycling 90 per cent of its waste through an innovative waste management strategy.
Food left over from the resorts’ restaurants is composted to make nutritious soil for the islands’ vegetable and herb gardens, all of which are organic and provide much of the produce used in the kitchens at each resort. Styrofoam packing is used to make lightweight construction blocks or as insulation within villa walls.
Soneva is aiming for 100 per cent of its waste to avoid ending up in landfills by 2030.
Currently, 12 per cent of Soneva’s total energy usage at the three resorts is from renewable sources. Soneva aims to increase this to 50 per cent, and by 2025 it aims to be using 100 per cent renewable energy.
Another aspect of the Waste to Wealth initiative is Soneva Fushi’s Art and Glass Studio, the only hot glass studio in the Maldives.
Here, approximately 1,200 used glass bottles from Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani, and neighbouring resorts in the Baa atoll are crushed and melted down each year to be upcycled. Then using techniques such as glass blowing, casting, and slumping, the Soneva glass team creates functional pieces as well as one of a kind glass sculptures, which can be bought from the Art and Glass Studio.
For an island nation like the Maldives, which relies on its natural scenery for tourism and with fish as the main food staple, waste is a massive problem. This is why Soneva started the Soneva Maker Programme at Soneva Fushi.
This programme sees Soneva join the grass-roots Precious Plastic global initiative to become the first company in the Maldives to recycle plastic into new products, using open-source machines made from locally available, low cost materials.
Soneva banned imported bottled water in 2008. Instead, Soneva filters, mineralises, alkalises and bottles its water on-site.
Soneva has averted the production of 1,500,000 plastic bottles in the last 10 years by using reusable glass bottles.
A percentage of revenues from Soneva Water funds over 500 clean water projects in more than 50 countries. It provides clean water to over 750,000 via charities such as Water Charity and Thirst Aid.
In 2019, Soneva launched Soneva Namoona, a partnership between three Maldivian islands (Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo), Soneva, marine plastic foundation Common Seas, and the Maldivian government to change the way the island nation manages waste.
In February, the island of Maalhos inaugurated its Eco Centro and water bottling plant; and marked the end of open burning on the island.
Under Soneva Namoona, Soneva Water provides drinking water to households and guesthouses on the local island of Maalhos in reusable glass bottles, reducing the need for single-use plastic water bottles on the island.
A new Soneva-sponsored Eco Centro ‘waste-to-wealth’ centre enables composting and recycling of waste on Maalhos.
This year, Soneva Namoona is being extended to the local islands of Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo.
Following meetings and workshops hosted by Soneva Fushi in 2019, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih made a pledge at the United Nations General Assembly for the country to become single-use plastic free by 2023.
Soneva Namoona will continue working with the national government to broaden this pioneering approach out to the whole of the Maldives.
Soneva Namoona centres around the three pillars of Reduce, Recycle, Inspire.
Reduce is a radical reduction in the volume of plastic arriving on the islands. Soneva assisted in the establishment of a water bottling plant on the island of Maalhos to desalinate and mineralise sea water, which is distributed in reusable glass bottles, eliminating the need for water bottled in plastic.
Recycling and responsible disposal of waste forms the second strand of the programme. Maalhos is the first island to open a Soneva-sponsored Eco Centro with machinery that will include a wood chipper and a glass crusher.
The third component is to Inspire a love of the ocean and the environment. The belief is that through water sports, education and festivities that children will lose their fear of the ocean and learn to love it, and thus protect it.
“If we work together, we are sure we can create the right environment for the Maldives to be the world’s most progressive country on single use plastic. If we project forwards just a few years, we can see that all islands will have thriving waste-to-wealth centres; there will be no plastic bags; no plastic straws; islands will have their own water bottling plants; no guesthouses or resorts will serve water in single use bottles,” Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and Founder of Soneva, says.
At the start of the last decade, Soneva partnered with PATT Foundation in Thailand to plant over 500,000 trees covering 300 acres in the Chiang Mai region of northern Thailand.
The plantations, covering three main sites, use a Framework Species Methodology, with guidance from Forest Restoration Research Unit of Chiang Mai University.
Ninety species of trees were planted in 2011-12 and since then, seed-disbursing birds have increased the number of species further to create a rich biodiverse forest.
Over 40 years, the project will mitigate an estimated 255,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
Neighbouring Myanmar has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world with most of the wood used for domestic cooking. Pollution from indoor cooking on open fires leads to the premature deaths of over four million people a year, mostly women and children, which is more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
Soneva has subsidised the distribution of fuel-efficient cook stoves to around 150,000 people through the Myanmar Stoves Campaign. Each stove saves 2.5 tonnes of wood per year and reduces air pollution by 80 per cent, improving the health and safety of the whole community.
“At Soneva, we believe that luxury and sustainability don’t compete; they complement each other. I have always believed that businesses must be a positive force for change, so if you support businesses that create jobs in their communities and protect the environments in which they operate, this can be very beneficial,” Shivdasani says.
In 2016 Soneva hosted The Soneva Dialogue: Transformative Risks and Opportunities for the Global Seafood Industry.
The dialogue was the first in a series of Keystone Dialogues, in partnership with The Stockholm Resilience Centre and Forum for the Future.
The dialogue resulted in the establishment of Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS). The ambition is for scientists and the world’s largest seafood companies to join forces to lead a global transformation towards sustainable seafood production and a healthy ocean.
The initiative will actively contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
Soneva’s top 25 community projects:
- Soneva Namoona
- Myanmar Stoves Campaign
- Darfur Stoves Project
- Soneva Forest Restoration
- Soneva Wind Turbine
- Soneva Clean Water Projects
- SLOW LIFE Symposium
- WHOLE WORLD Water
- Soneva Dialogue
- Soneva Ocean Stewards
- Soneva Eco Camps
- Care for Children
- Restaurants Against Hunger
- Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
- Coral Reef Restoration
- Soneva Junior Master Chef
- SHE Thalassaemia
- Soneva Medical Camp
- Care Development Center
- FINished with Fins
- Kudarikilu Waste Water Plant
- Dharavandhoo School Science Laboratory
- Bahiyya Pre School Reconstruction
- Green School Scholarship
- IUCN Mangrove Conservation project
For more details on Soneva’s sustainability initiatives and the Host Changemakers series, please visit sonevachangemakers.com.
Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry
In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.
Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.
After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.
Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.
In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.
As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.
Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.
Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.
As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.
A remarkable tale of wanderlust: Naito Takashi’s 103rd journey to the Maldives
The azure waters of the Maldives have long been a magnet for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. Among these wanderers, one name stands out – Naito Takashi, a Japanese tourist whose boundless enthusiasm for the Maldives has led him to visit this tropical haven a staggering 103 times. His unwavering love for this island nation, coupled with its mesmerizing beauty, has turned his visits into a remarkable testament to the allure of the Maldives.
For the past 24 years, Naito Takashi has visited Maldives between three to five times annually, embarking on a journey that has spanned more than two decades. His tale is one of dedication, passion, and a deep-rooted connection with the captivating landscapes that the Maldives offers. Each visit is not just a vacation; it’s a renewal of his profound relationship with the natural wonders that have captured his heart.
Naito Takashi’s 103rd arrival to the Maldives was met with a warm and heartfelt welcome from none other than the Tourism Minister himself, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. This gesture symbolizes the deep appreciation the Maldivian people have for their loyal and devoted visitors. The ceremony held aboard the M/V Blue of the Fun Azul Fleet was a fitting tribute to a traveler who has become an honorary ambassador of the Maldives.
The M/V Blue, Fun Azul Fleet, holds special significance for Naito Takashi. As an avid diver, he has found his perfect companion in this cruise boat specialized in diving charters. The vessel offers schedules tailored to explore the best dive spots around the Maldives’ islands, making it an ideal partner for a diving enthusiast like Naito Takashi. The crystal-clear waters of the Maldives have witnessed countless underwater escapades orchestrated by this intrepid traveler.
The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism has lauded Naito Takashi’s enduring passion for the nation’s beauty. Their tweet acknowledging his multiple visits serves as a testament to his unique and cherished relationship with the country. He has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of the Maldives, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant marine life, and has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry.
Naito Takashi’s story also reflects the profound impact that travel can have on an individual’s life. His unwavering commitment to exploring the Maldives has not only enriched his own experiences but has also brought attention to the natural wonders of Maldives. It stands as a reminder that the act of traveling is not just about ticking off destinations from a bucket list; it’s about forming connections, fostering appreciation, and creating lasting memories.
As Naito Takashi continues his journey through the Maldives, his story resonates as an inspiration to fellow travelers and a tribute to the unyielding allure of this island paradise. His 103rd visit is not just a numerical milestone; it’s a celebration of an extraordinary bond between a traveler and a destination, a bond that has grown stronger with each passing year and promises to endure for years to come.
Amari Raaya Maldives opens its gates to paradise
In a grand celebration of luxury and nature’s wonders, Amari Raaya Maldives resort has officially opened its doors, welcoming its first guests to experience a slice of paradise in the Maldives. The exclusive event was attended by the resort’s management team, as well as Atul Chordia, Chairman of Panchshil Realty, the developer behind this magnificent project.
Nestled on a pristine natural island in the heart of the Maldives’ Raa Atoll, Amari Raaya promises to be a sanctuary for travelers seeking an unforgettable escape amidst the archipelago’s breathtaking beauty. From the moment guests arrived via Manta Air seaplane, they were greeted with warm hospitality and a taste of Maldivian culture, as they were presented with traditional cultural items and treated to mesmerizing Maldivian dances.
Atul Chordia, the visionary behind Panchshil Realty, and Yuthachai Charanachitta ONYX Hospitality Group’s CEO marked the official opening of the resort by cutting the ribbon, signifying the culmination of a labor of love and dedication to creating a unique haven for luxury travelers.
With 187 villas offering a variety of luxurious experiences, Amari Raaya ensures that every guest’s stay is truly exceptional. Visitors can choose from an array of accommodation options, including the Beach Villas, Beach Pool Villas, and interconnecting Family Beach Villas, perfect for creating cherished memories with loved ones.
For those seeking unparalleled luxury and seclusion, the Ocean Villas and Ocean Pool Villas provide panoramic views of the azure waters teeming with marine life. Sunset enthusiasts can revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Maldivian dusk from the privacy of their villas, opting for the Sunset Ocean Villas or Sunset Ocean Pool Villas, promising an unforgettable experience.
Amari Raaya Maldives goes beyond offering captivating villas; it has curated an extraordinary culinary journey for its guests. With eight distinct dining options, visitors can embark on a gastronomic adventure that caters to every palate. From the signature Amaya Food Gallery, serving famous street food and hawker delights, to the rooftop bar Ampers&nd, where guests can savor sunset snacks and cocktails, the resort promises to delight all epicureans. Poolside Italian favorites, freshly caught seafood infused with Maldivian and Asian flavors, and the fun and playful experience of enjoying mobile snacks and drinks served from a bus all add to the culinary magic of the resort.
In the evenings, guests can find a sense of community and immerse themselves in the local culture through live music, traditional Boduberu nights, and regular cultural events and festivities, making every moment at Amari Raaya Maldives an enriching and memorable one.
Amari Raaya Maldives is developed by Panchshil Realty, a name synonymous with excellence in luxury real estate in India. The resort is managed by Onyx Hospitality, renowned for its exceptional and personalized hospitality experiences.
With its official opening, Amari Raaya Maldives invites travelers from around the world to discover the allure of the Maldives in unparalleled comfort and style. As guests arrive at this oasis of luxury and natural splendor, they are sure to find themselves enchanted by the timeless beauty of the islands and immersed in an experience that will linger in their hearts forever.
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