Best of the Maldives: Staff Boduberu – JA Manafaru

JA Manafaru - staff bodu beru

For some down island funk, JA Manafaru staff will inspire you with their home-grown boduberu. Most boduberu troupes are professional groups that tour various resorts. But Manafaru’s drummers are all staff at the resort. They perform weekly for the guests as well as enter a number of festivals and competitions. Seeing familiar faces (folks you have interacted with around the resort) performing lent a more intimate and welcome feel to the whole evening and seemed to be more effective in getting guests up and participating.

7 Uptown Funks

Uptown Funk” has taken over the world and the web with over 1 billion views. A catchy tune complimented by a just as compelling music video has inspired a numbers of digital riffs. Including the Maldives’ very own “Island Funk” on the Kurumba YouTube channel.

Here is my list of the 6 top “Uptown Funk” renditions online…

Straight masterpieces
Stylin’, while in
Livin’ it up

1. ISLAND FUNK – [above]

2. ORIGINAL FUNK

3. SIGNING FUNK

4. DRAMATIC FUNK

5. FIT FUNK

6. CINEMATIC FUNK

Best of the Maldives Online: Multilingual Vlog – Viki Maldives

Vik Voynikova portrait

One of the digital darlings that I have discovered in my “lifestyle blogger” research is Vik Maldives (nee Viki Voynikova). Her videos had a very personal touch and straddled the local Maldivian life as well as some fine coverage of several resorts. I was also intrigued by her multilingual offering in both Russian and Spanish. We got in touch and she agree to this Maldives Complete exclusive interview…

  • What brought you to the Maldives?
  • I had been travelling around Sri Lanka when one friend suggested to visit the Maldives in March 2013. And after just a few days I got absolutely lost with this country. I came back here several times until I settled myself in the Maldives finally
  • What is your day job?
  • My everyday work involves checking emails, answer numerous questions about Maldives from other travelers , touch up some photos , update all the social media, edit my new video for Youtube and go for a walk with my camera to get some new shots. Also meet new tourists in the guest house where I work, give information about the island all the activities available here. I am often asked to help translate since some tourists don’t speak any English.
  • What prompted you to start the vlog series?
  • I’ve been travelling for quite a long time around South-East Asia and shooting video diaries only for myself and friends. But when I started to live with my Maldivian friends’ family, I realized that if I show this side of the Maldives and daily life of Maldivian family , traditions and of course my adventures in the Maldives , it might be well received by a wide spectrum of viewers. Indeed, many people are waiting impatiently for my new episodes. And sometimes they even bring me some presents when they visit the Maldives.
  • How many resorts have you been to?
  • I’ve visited 13 resorts
  • Are you going to go any vlogs in English?
  • Probably yes. Right now I am working on my development of the Russian and Spanish Youtube channels and instagram.
  • You speak Russian, Spanish, English…any other languages?
  • Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish , Catalan, English (and learning Dhivehi – Maldivian language)
  • What’s your favourite reef you have snorkeled?
  • My favorite reef is Dharavandhoo reef and the ones close to it.

You can catch Vik’s distinctively local look at Maldives life (including resorts) at…Vik can be

WTM 2015

Bruce Lynn - WTM 2015 Maldives stand

The World Travel Market is my annual Maldives “meet-up” to take me out of the digital domain and spend some face time with resort folks. Surrounded by the towering graphics of the Maldives Marketing Public Relations and Marketing Corporation’s stand, it is a tangible and live escape from the onslaught of dreary British winter.

Resort Changes – The show is always useful for me to find out more about the newer properties both recently launched and upcoming. I got to meet with such fledglings as Atmosphere Kanifushi, Amari Havodda, Cinnamon, Canareef, Outrigger Konotta, Amilla Fushi and Hurawalhi.  I also chatted with old friends. Some have moved to new properties (like Thanos Lionsatos from Dusit to Banyan Tree or Zafer Agacan from Ayada to Amari). Some shared with me their expansion plans for upcoming new developments (eg. Centara has 5! properties in the works).

Marketing Changes – The other trend I noticed among the marketeers converging on ExCel, was the surge in interest in “blogging” (ie.  YouTuber vlogs, Instagram, lifestyle blogs).  As I noted in my “beauty of the Maldives” research, the photogenic young women writing and snapping colourfully about food, fashion and flying around the world is surging in both numbers and readership.  I even met one who had stopped by the Maldives stand (Alina Lisina of Trip Temptations).

Of course, the buzz around the booth was the recently declared “30 day state of emergency” which has spooked lots of prospective guests. All world travellers, especially to remote and exotic destinations, always need to be vigilant about all sorts of security and safety issues. But I feel quite strongly that this declaration does not indicate any substantive danger to any guests. It seems more akin to the “Patriot Act” the USA enacted as a way to exercise more security controls and checks (eg. like airport security).

bruce Lynn - WTM 2015 Maldives stand 2

Maldives Complete Blog 2.0

Maldives Complete WordPress

 

Hello world…again.

The time has come to retreat from my Microsoft roots and get onto some proper Internet technology to take the Maldives Complete website forward. Much as I appreciated Microsoft’s enthusiasm for all things web in the latter part of my career there, they never quite “got” the Internet. IBM dominated the era of big computing…but never got the PC world despite some brief successes. Microsoft dominated the era of personal computing…but never got the connected world of web and devices despite some brief successes. As a result, most of their technology is in this area is lagging woefully and just becoming a burden to developers like me.

One of their cul-de-sacs was their “Community Server” product. I kind of had to base my blog on this tool since at the time I set the blog up, it was one of the products in my portfolio at Microsoft. But I should have read the writing on the wall when I had to fight the UK board to keep them from shutting down an internal community “social media” forum that they though was a “time waster” (I made the case that it was actually useful from a productivity point of view to get questions answered quickly, that it helped to bring an increasingly disparate and fractured staff closer together, and that it allowed employees to get used this thing called “social” media which was going to be big some day). Soon after, Microsoft ditched the CS product to Telligent who has now sold it off to Zimbra. It’s really focused more on niche enterprise intranets now.

It’s a big step to migrate an entire platform. I have over 6 years and 1000+ posts that had to move. I’ve chosen the now de facto standard for blogging – WordPress. A big shout out to Dimitris P. who did the work extremely professionally, promptly and at a reasonable price (he is your go-to guy for any other blogs that want to move from Community Server to WordPress). I will be tweaking the look-and-feel, a few glitches (eg. the Chinese characters of my Belinda Young interview didn’t come across properly the first time) over the next few weeks. But hopefully, the new platform will be more robust and allow me to present more great posts with richer functionality and more current styling.

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Doors – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah Eco-doors

 

Some resort gizmos don’t just help you control your villa, but they actually control it for your automatically. One of our favourite eco-innovations is featured by One & Only Reethi Rah’s climate control. When either front door or deck door is open, the AC automatically cuts off. That way you can invite the outdoors into your villa where you are relaxing or getting ready without having to remember to turn the air conditioning off.

Best of the Maldives: Remote Control – Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc Randheli - remote control

 

On this day back in 1936, BBC One was launched as the UK’s first “high resolution” (200 lines!) television service. Nearly 80 years later, how far we have come. High-definition digital 3D with 7:1 surround sound. And just as fancy gadgets to control it all. Cheval Blanc Ranheli’s in-room iPad controller, not only provides a digital guide to the resort, but also serves as a master controller for everything electronic

The IPad in the room doubles as the master remote control and operates just about everything including the 2 sets of blinds, lights, TV, all 4 zones of the sound system, 3 air conditioners, and it can even open the front door.”

  

Best of the Maldives: Expert Marketeer – Hideaway Beach

Hideaway Beach - Kat 1

All Saints Day and it was today 13 years ago (on a 9:30 am Qatar airways flight to be precise) that a saint among the communion of Maldives experts arrived on its azure shores. Kat has all received the digital equivalent of beatification being anointed as a TripAdvisor Forum Destination Expert (which she has since stepped down from).

I had a chance to not only spend time with Katherine Anthony (“Kat” to just about everyone in the Maldives circles), but also to sit down with her and talk her about many years in this paradise during my stop at her resort, Hideaway Beach, this July…

  • Q: When did you get into the hospitality industry and what was your first job?
  • A: I actually came into hotels completely by accident. I was working as a graphic designer in my hometown of Bristol. The company went bust and my godmother said ‘You’re never going to get a decent job in Bristol. You need to go to London. London is where the work is. So I moved up to London and realized there wasn’t a huge number of graphic design jobs there either. And I just ended up temping and the first job I got was working as a secretary in the sales department of the Churchill Intercontinental. And I have never left hotels since. I’ve never even left the sales team since. I’ve been in Sales and Marketing the whole time.
  • Q: Did you go from London to the Maldives?
  • A: Oh no. I did 3 years in London. It was fabulous. I didn’t save a penny. Had a really great time. Then I got offered this job in Qatar in 1999. At that time, nobody had heard of the place. I had to look at the map. And everybody was like ‘Why would you go to Qatar?’ I found a picture of the hotel when they were building it. It was literally desert, turquoise water and nothing else. I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s try it.’ So I flew there. Never seen the country before. Never seen the Middle East before. I had travelled around Europe, but I never been that far. I remember landing in Doha and it was flat, flat, flat. There is nothing there. Nothing, nothing, Nothing. And I thought to myself, ‘oh my god.’ And I ended up staying [in the region] almost 12 years.”
  • Q: How did you get introduced to the Maldives?
  • A: I got targeted by a headhunter basically. I had sent my CV out to a whole bunch of places and this guy from Australia came back to me and said, ‘I have this fabulous opportunity in the Maldives. Would you consider it.’ And I gave it half a second thought and I said, ‘Yeah, okay!’ I mean who the heck says no to a job in the Maldives?!
  • Q: Did you know what the Maldives was at that point?
  • A: I did. Because having lived in Doha, it is close to the Maldives and Qatar Airways had started doing flights. So I had seen some Tourism Board advertising so I had a vague idea – the whole image of the Bounty bar island.
  • Q: What year was this?
  • A: This was in 2003.
  • Q: Which resort?
  • A: What was then Hilton Rangali.
  • Q: First impressions?
  • A: Wow. You get there by seaplane. I think everyone experience this feeling when you come to the Maldives. First of all, you’ve never flown in a seaplane before. It’s a really amazing thing. It was a beautiful sunny day when I flew in. It was just magic, absolutely magic. When I landed, my boss Carten was there on the platform to meet me. And I was all ecstatic and I think we was wondering, ‘oh, what have we hired?’ But I calmed down after a few days. How can you not love this place? How can you not like it?
  • Q: What most exceeded your expectations?
  • A: The thing that really blew me away was the underwater world. Because you read all of the journalists’ stories about how amazing the coral reef is and how colourful the fish are, etc. But nothing really prepares you for what it’s like to come face to face with a manta ray or really any kind of fish, any colourful fish. And there you are in the water in their environment. It’s just magic. It really is amazing. That I did love.
  • Q: And what fell short of your expectations?
  • A: Well, I’m a redhead so I don’t tan particularly well and living in a tropical environment so living in a tropical environment with daily sunshine is probably not the smartest move. You have visions of lying on a hammock under a palm tree. I don’t do an awful lot of that because I burn really quickly. It’s hot and I don’t like sand that much either, so it’s not ideal.
  • Q: Have you been in the Maldives non-stop since you arrival.
  • A: No, I’ve tried to leave the Maldives three times…and I keep coming back.
  • Q: What was it like the first time you left the Maldives?
  • A: I was still working for Rangali and I got a great job offer in Dubai. I’m a city girl at heart so I thought, ‘Okay, fine, time to leave the Maldives.” I’d been there nearly 5 years at that point so I’d done my time in the Maldives. And I cried, and I cried and I cried on the plane…it was awful. I have a great time in Dubai. I made great friends and I loved Dubai. When you move to a new country and you don’t know many people, you always get homesick for the place you’d left before. I’d spend my Friday evenings in Dubai (which is the weekend in Dubai) thinking, ‘Oh, if I were in the Maldives right now, I’d be sitting in the staff bar.’ I actually got quite homesick for the Maldives.
  • Q: The Maldives has evolved enormously over the years. What has struck you about how both the guest experience and the staff experience has changed over the years?
  • A: The guest experience when I came in 2003 was all ‘no news, no shoes’, barefoot. That was the standard that everyone would expect when they’d come to the Maldives. There were no newspapers, no TVs in the guest rooms. We didn’t have Internet. If you wanted to check what was going on the world, I think there was one computer in the business centre somewhere. And there was only dial-up on the Internet. Whereas nowadays if you were to tell guests that you don’t have Internet and 500 satellite channels, I think they would go into complete melt-down. And I’m not convinced whether or not that is a good thing. For me on of the great things is that you are not part of the rest of the world here. It is just something separate and different. I see people complaining about the bandwidth, that they can’t download, they can’t Skype people. We are in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the middle of nowhere, do you really need that technology? We did a test once when I was working at Conrad. They had 20 mbs Internet speed and they had 1,200 devices connected to it. So you have almost 300 guests in the full hotel, almost 400 staff, everyone has 1 or 2 devices on them. It’s a lot of things sucking up bandwidth not to mention that the hotel itself it trying to run on the same connection.
  • Q: You were at one point a Destination Expert for the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum. That’s quite a kudo. There are only a few DEs designated per destination. What advice do you have for resorts and resort staff who want to engage with TripAdvisor?
  • A: Whoever is doing the engagement with TripAdvisor needs to be someone who likes to talk and chat to guests and give information. It’s no good saying, ‘Well, it’s your job to do TripAdvisor’ so someone who is not naturally communicative. You have to want to talk because otherwise it becomes just another task that you have to tick off every day. People can feel whether you are genuine or not. It comes across in your words and what you are writing. And the other thing is that you can’t take it personally. People are going to not like you resort or not like what you say and that’s their opinion and they are entitled to it. There’s no point in arguing with them. Your resort is never going to be perfect for everyone. All you can do it try to correct facts. So if someone says that you have a Chinese restaurant and you don’t have a Chinese restaurant, you can go and say, ‘no, that’s not correct.’ But you can’t argue whether the food was good or the staff were friendly because that was their experience. It’s very, very hard to keep your own emotions out of it. I mean I love this country and I see someone writing things about Maldivians or things about a resort or guests house are particularly coming under attack at the moment, it’s hard not to want to defend it.
  • Q: How has Trip Advisor itself changed over the year as the Digital Revolution evolves?
  • A: It’s grown. I would say now that about 60% of English-speaking guests have been on TripAdvisor. They’ve either checked out hotel reviews or they’ve gone to the Forum and gotten information from there. In that way, it has worked really, really well because people can get the information that they want.
  • Q: Final questions…what are you doing today?
  • A: I’m going to be sitting in an air conditioned office all day. My parents have no idea what I do. They are under the impression that I spend my day wandering around beaches, picking up seashells and working on a great suntan. I’m in the office from around 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 or 8:00 at night. But at least I have a view out my window.

 

Hideaway Beach - Kat 2