World Travel Market London 2022

WTM 2022

Yesterday, I enjoyed my annual pseudo-escape to the Maldives at London’s 2023 World Travel Market. Their booth is replete with images of the destination’s linen white beaches and tapestry of ocean blues and manned by a platoon of the Maldives’ resort leaders touting its alluring charms to agents, operators and media. I was able to reconnect with long time friends and connections as well as make new ones. In particular, I sat down and learned much more about Brennia Kottafaru, The Standard Huruvalhi, Outrigger Konotta, Movenpick Kuredhivaru, Rahaa and Baglioni (none of which I had ever visited).

The highlight of the event was meeting a contender for “newcomer of the year”, a resort I hadn’t even heard of – Oaga. Or “Oaga – Art Resort” to be precise. And actually, planned to be a 5-property complex built from terraformed reclamation in a North Male lagoon. Oaga is one of the most inspired concept properties I have come across for a while – “Maldivian Artistry”. Not just engaging a Maldivian artist to add some colourful touches to the property, but imbuing the entire DNA of the property with a visual aesthetic. Even their show swag was a piece of art from one of their resident artists (I got the one below done by Rahvehinn). I normally have to visit a resort to identify its truly distinctive touches, but just a short chat with the Oaga folks (including two of their founding directors – see photo above and special 360 photo provided by the Visit Maldives hosts of the booth) came up with a dozen “Best of the Maldives” pieces I could write about. They soft open later this month so keep an eye open.

WTM - Oaga handout

   

How to Help Maldives Complete

Helping Maldives Complete

Happy Birthday to…me! Not Maldives Complete, but myself personally. And if you happen to be looking for a birthday gift, here are a few suggestions.

In all seriousness, the THIRD most frequently asked question I get about Maldives Complete is “How can I ever thank you for your website and help?” (the #1 question is “With all your visits and expertise, which is the best resort?”, and the #2 is “Since you don’t make any money on the website and it take so much work, why do you do it?”). So I thought I would post a list of all the ways so many of you do and can help keep the site vibrant, fresh and useful:

  • SOCIAL SHOUT OUT – A Facebook post, Instagram post, Tweet, etc. with shout outs tagging MaldivesComplete is a pretty easy hat tip.
  • COMMENT TO RESORT – When at the resort, especially if you are really happy with a choice that Maldives Complete helped you to make, let the resort front desk staff know “Maldives Complete helped me make this choice”.
  • SCOUT PHOTOS/BEST-OFs – If you see that a Resort Profile or a Room Profile is missing a photo that you can snap, please do and forward it to
  • PATREON – And at the end of the day, if you feel like putting your hand in your pocket to chip in for the extensive costs of running the site, I have recently added a Patreon page.

Thanks for all the help everyone provides and I hope Maldives Complete continues to be a helpful tool to find just the right trip to paradise.

The Paradise of Writing

Soneva Jani working

Why do I do it” remains the second most frequently asked question about Maldives Complete. When people, especially in industry, discover the site you can see their minds whirring looking for the hitch and trying to figure out where I get my return. As I have discussed numerous times, the site is one big expensive hobby whose many dividends are non-monetary. One I wanted to write about today was the dividend of ‘writing’ itself. And not surprisingly, some of the best articulation come from one of my favourite writers, Seth Godin:

  • “And a huge advantage of having a daily blog is that the software is always open, waiting for you to write something. Your story doesn’t have to be a book, it is simply your chance to make a difference.” – A Place to Write
  • “Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.” – The most important blog post

Finally, I came across this inspired passage from Huit Denim’s company newsletter (thanks Steve) which reflected similar dividends from the process of writing (I especially like the “gym for your mind”).

Writing is thinking.
Writing is a gymnasium for ideas.
Write to learn how to make a good talk great.
Write to learn how to make the complex simple.
Write to learn how to convey a big idea in the fewest words.
Write to learn how to separate the important details of your argument from the noise.
Clear thinking is a genuine superpower.
And here is the best thing, with practice, you get better at it.
The keyboard is a gym for your mind.
Go often.

Maldives Complete-ly by the Numbers #13

2021 Complete-ly by the numbers table Maldives

Happy 13th Anniversary to Maldives Complete! The past year was a good-news and bad-news year. The good news was that travel has crawled back from the depth of the pandemic. Since my last year’s annual review, we have been to the Maldives twice. The bad news is that such progress has been fitful and often frustrating. Our 2020 trip had to be postponed from its original plan of November to a narrow pre-Christmas window at the last minute when the UK government imposed a late autumn lock-down. Our 2021 trip was optimistically scheduled for our tradition period of July, but had to be shifted to November when the surge of the Delta variant put the Maldives onto the “Red list”. Even then, when we finally got to the Maldives last month, our original itinerary was thrown up in the air when one of our resorts was hit with “monitoring” (when a resort identifies a case of COVID on the island which then imposes major constraints on inter-island movement from that island).

The fits-and-starts nature of the year meant that the Complete-ness of Maldives Complete dipped due to surge of new properties. Also, my research was constrained by COVID (no WTM, limited tours) resulting in the lowest post rate for over a decade. The good news is that our recent trip included Amilla Maldives and Soneva Jani which we both packed with distinctions to add to the 2022 slate for “Best of the Maldives”. Still, the site continued to move forward with new highs in the material and we look forward to resuming more regular service in 2022.

Maldives Admiralty Zoom v2.0

Maldives admiralty map zoom v2

The latest component of Maldives Complete to get an upgrade is the British Admiralty Maps Zoom. Another couple of legacy Microsoft technologies – Silverlight and DeepZoom – finally bit the dust. I’ve superseded it with a Zoomify control and used the opportunity to tidy up the (massive) image (props to my nephew Max Stropkay who introduced me to the Figma tool to handle the heavy graphics load).

Maldives Complete Reviews

Maldives Complete reviews

If you wondering whether to lend some support to Maldives Complete through its recently launched Patreon site, have a look at what some of its fans have said to date.

Many websites of creative works feature “Review” sections to provide testimonials and endorsements. I figured this post could serve that purpose.

INDUSTRY REVIEWS:

  • There is a blog around Maldives.. and for me it is THE blog that I MUST follow and regularly check…No doubt about!!…When I look for something that I need to know about a specific resort but don’t find it around.. and even not in its own webpage.. the answer or at least a clue to get the answer is always here.” – Paola Mattana Lamperti
  • “Maldives Complete is arguably the best reference site for the Maldives. Bruce is a Maldives enthusiast and completes this with no commercial interests. He prides himself on integrity and recognises the positives and differences in all Maldives resorts and that not one resort is right for all guests. I highly recommend Maldives Complete.” – Jason Kruse General Manager Amilla
  • The Maldives Complete site is one of the best ‘go to’ places for information about the Maldives.” – Katherine Anthony, Marketing Manager, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, former TripAdvisor Maldives Destination Expert
  • You have picked up on some amazing parts or USP’s there and this will help me immensely in the sales process as we also talk lots about hidden ‘rabbit holes’ and the small amazing nuances that we offer against the competition.” – Scott Le Roi, Director of Sales & Marketing, Reethi Rah.
  • One of the best bloggers of the Maldives.” – Dolores Semeraro, Marketing Director, LUX Maldives
  • “I highly recommend that anyone who is planning a trip to the Maldives use the Maldives Complete search before booking a hotel.” – Chic Family Travels
  • “If you are wondering how I researched the 3 criteria for choosing the best luxury hotel in the Maldives, it was rather simple. I found a Maldives blog that has a search feature that allows you to plug in your criteria to find the your best match! I highly recommend that anyone who is planning a trip to the Maldives use the Maldives Complete search before booking a hotel”.—Chic Family Traveller
  • “It is wonderful that you put together a truly complete basis for comparison between Maldivian resorts. THANK YOU!” – Francisco Negrin, Barcelona
  • Lovely to read all the ‘Best of the Maldives’ posts on you page…quite interesting….keep posting…” – Aminath Huda, former Europe rep for MTPB
  • “Maldives specialist, out of the box thinker and prolific writer on the non-mundane and oft missed subjects about Maldivian resorts.” – Amit Majumbder, Manager, Jumeirah Vittaveli
  • “Your articles are fantastic. Really helpful , nicely done.” – Ahmed “Jay” Jihad, Head of Operations, Huvafenfushi
  • “Dolores and Dominik mentioned you and what you have done. Extraordinary.” – Shaun Dünhofen, General Manager, LUX* Maldives
  • “Your blog is fascinating. You are truly an expert on the Maldives…Your site is a great resource.” – Steve Dobson, Unusual Hotels of the World
  • “If you want to know what’s the “best” in Maldives – the ‘Best of…’ every imaginable topic, read this blog by Maldives Complete, you won’t feel bored!” – Oceanholic Maldives

TOP BLOG COMMENTS

  • “Absolutely amazing work you have here! Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and time. You’re definitely a top Maldives expert and I hope the country appreciates all you’re doing for that bit of Paradise. I’ve spent a few hours going thru your site, including blog posts, comments sections and the filter page. It’s great and miles ahead of anything we can find elsewhere. We’ve used your filter and I appreciate your database has most of the information needed to short list a few…Your help and dedication is second to none. Maldives is really complex for newbies, considering all the variables! I’m valuing your work more and more each minute I spend researching.”
  • “I was struggling through the choices of resorts once we decided to go to Maldives, then I stumble across your website. I wouldn’t even attempt to guess the amount of time and energy gone into develop the database and make it available for the benefit of all. This is absolutely amazing! Thank you for your time and passion.” – Deb Pandit
  • “Thanks for this great site” – Eby
  • “First, thank you for the comprehensive Maldives analysis on your site, it has been very helpful!” – Daniel
  • “Thanks for this great blog.” – Shubhod
  • “First, thank you for putting together such a website. The information available is second to none.” – Warren
  • “Bruce, thank you very much for this very useful & informative blog.” – Brenda
  • “I love your website!!” – Dee
  • “Thanks so much for all of your helpful information.” – Lu
  • “Your blog is so informative & helpful.” – Jimmy Adam
  • “Thanks for an excellent site! Really informative.” – Sonja
  • “Thank you so much for all the information!” – Corina Garcia
  • “Bruce: We love and deeply appreciate the helpfulness website u put together.” – Wayne Lin
  • “We just happened upon your blog and have learned so much already!” – Betty
  • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I found your blog on Tripadvisor and I am reading everything, it’s amazing!” – Valeria
  • “First of all thanks a lot for the blog and sharing your knowledge and insight here,this is indeed helpful.” – Saumit Deshmukh
  • “First I would like to thank you for providing such informative website on Maldives.” – Anita
  • “Hi Bruce, I wish I had come across your site sooner.” – Faheem Khan
  • “Your info is amazing. I have been researching the Maldives for weeks now and this helps so much.” – Kyle
  • “Your info is absolutely amazing and vast.” – Mohit
  • “Really loving this blog and all the help you give everyone on the Tripadvisor forums.” – Suhani
  • “Came across your website and its super helpful, thanks so much for sharing your experiences.” – Imran
  • “Many thanks for running this site, such a brilliant resource.” – David
  • “Thanks for this great website!” – Naz
  • “Absolutely love your blog! – Anu Godara
  • “Loved your website and thank you for something so comprehensive!” – Janvi
  • “Hi, thanks for the guide! What a great website with so much of info!” – Rohit
  • “Hey Bruce, just wanted to start with saying really appreciate the website, it’s definitely the most helpful Maldives resource I’ve found!” – Helen Woodhouse
  • “Love the website and the obvious effort you have put into it.” – Andrew Carter
  • “Came across your fantastic web site as we are looking for a resort with great house reef.” – Mattias“We are now on our 17th trip to Maldives.We have been waiting for 10 years for this website…Spot on.” Jeb Payce, UK
  • “Your website has truly been my bible, gold standard reference … since I started my research on looking for my perfect resort.” – Archie Mok, USA
  • “LOVE your blog. It’s definitely the best.” – Susie
  • “I’ve been making extensive use of your website which has been an amazing help, thanks for your efforts there. It really is one of a kind.” – JCHBScouser.

  

Maldives Complete Patreon

image

I don’t know how to thank you for all your amazing help in planning our Maldives trip!” Well, from here on you can support the Maldives Complete initiative by becoming a Patreon supporter.

From the launch of the website, I have resisted having any commercial part to Maldives Complete – no ads, no sales, no sponsorship. Not only did I not want the pressures of keeping sponsors happy, but I didn’t even want the appearance of any bias. I wanted to cover ALL the resorts (not just a collection of pet ones that had juiced me with payments). And I wanted to provide an objective resource and not just a platform to plug the highest bidders. It was the predominance of such selective shill sites that contributed to me starting the site in the first place.

With the decade-plus history, the site has grown in popularity, scope, content and complexity. This expansion has increased my out-of-pocket costs for hosting and other site support. It has also increased the time required to personally maintain the site and keep the information updated. On top of this, I personally respond to dozens of emails and blog comments every week. Sometimes I have hired local schoolchildren friends to do some of the time-consuming grunt work (or help with household work to free up time for me) which just adds to my out-of-pocket expenses.

What seems to be the conventional approach for such freeware these days is to offer Patreon support. This is simply a digital donation box for people who want to register their appreciation for the material and help ensure its longevity with a more substantive contribution.

People pay premiums on their trips to agents and operators for them to help ensure that their trip is the best. They tip resort staff who work to make sure that their experience is first rate. If I have helped you in a substantial way to make your trip easier and more satisfying (as so many kind comments imply), please consider becoming a supporter. Even a small amount will not only help, but will be an encouraging endorsement for me and my work here.

Thank you for all your past and hopefully continued support.

Write Every Day of Your Life

writing every day

  • Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.”— Ray Bradbury

A dozen years of researching and writing about the Maldives here and still the second most common question I get is “Why do you do it?” I make no money (no ads, no sponsorship, no selling). In fact, the whole venture costs me more than several trips to the Maldives for fun with the hosting and other expenses of keeping the site maintained. It is an expensive hobby. But one that comes with more dividends than just digital escapism (from the often dank climes of the British Isles) and fan boy entertainment. I especially appreciate the comment by Bradbury of “see what happens” as the whole Maldives Complete odyssey has been packed with serendipity and the adventure of otherwise unlikely opportunities and interactions arising. And finally, The whole experience of exploring, delving and processing is one which exercises my curiosity, creativity and critical thinking:

  • We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” – E. O. Wilson

     

12th Maldives Complete-ly by the Numbers

Completely by the Numbers 12

What a year! (not sure which emoji to put with that)

Count our blessings if we are healthy. Unfortunately, the Maldives have taken an especially hard blow on top of the medical blow with their country so economically concentrated on tourism. Maldives Complete has reflected this downturn in many ways. For starters, we couldn’t do our annual research trip. That’s meant pretty flat numbers (relative to other years) in new material (eg. blog posts, photos, visits). Added resorts, room types, etc. were on hold as openings stalled. And, obviously, traffic has dropped significantly as fewer people are research holidays.

There does seem to be the light of dawn peering over the horizon. The world including the Maldives have gotten sophisticated in preventative protocols which can allow more of life to carry on while minimizing the spread of infection. Testing, sanitising, social distancing, face masking and a range of other techniques are getting the R0 factor down. The arrival so various approved vaccines should provide a major improvement in the pandemic around the world.

Already, I am seeing a noticeable uptick in the past few days (not least of which from the UK who has exited its Lockdown II). In fact, we have arranged a bit of an impromptu to trip to take advantage of some of the great deals out there and burn some of our outstanding holiday time (stay tuned this week…fingers crossed. And the site did hit a few social media milestones in 2020 crossing 2000 Facebook Followers and 1000 Twitter Followers.

Let’s hope 2021 brings a smooth (and safe!) return to enjoying paradise (and helping people to do so).

1000+ Room Types

100o Maldives room type

Another milestone for Maldives Complete as the Room Type database crossed the 1000 mark. When I started the website, there were typically just a few room types – standard, deluxe and maybe a water villa. A decade ago, I did a piece on Kurumba having the most room type variety (exactly a decade ago) with 8. These days, 8 is the lower end of the average number of room types for a resort. In fact, the fact that over 1000 types across the nearly 160 active resorts means that the average is nearly 7 categories for every resort. Soneva Fushi has 27 room types! Nearly every villa is unique and hence categorized as its own room type. With more and more resorts coming online, it was just a matter of time before this grand milestone was hit.