Like the Maldives Only Taller

Huma Island - Philippines

As I discussed in my post “Maldives Methadone”, one of the most frequently discussed topic amongst Maldives addicts (known as victims of “Maldivitis”) is the question “Is there anywhere else on Earth like the Maldives?” (hopefully a little cheaper).

If you truly take the unique blend of characteristics that make the Maldives the very definition of Bounty-bar iconic paradise, then the selection is rather limited. So to extend the boundaries a little more generously, I’ve assembled a second tier collection of tropical islands that are like the Maldives in every way except elevation.

Unfortunately, adding a bit of topological height doesn’t really seem to lower the price that much. Most of the rates are comparable to top high-end 4-stars or value priced 5-star properties in the Maldives. But if you are okay with a largish pile of rocks instead a smallish plot of sand for your tropical island, then here are some Maldives cousins…

  1. Huma Island, Philippines (£484 per night) [ABOVE]
  2. Club Paradise Palawan, Philippines (£308 per night)
    Club Paradise Palawan - Philippines
      
  3. Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar (£427 per night)
    Constance Tsarabanjina - Madagascar
      
  4. Petit St. Vincent, Grenadines (£665 per night)
    Petit St. Vincent - Grenadines
       
  5. Komodo Resort, Sebayur Indonesia (£380 per night)
    Komodo Resort - Sebayur (Indonesia)
       
  6. Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji (£560 per night)
    Royal Davui Island Resort - Fiji
       

How Much Does a Sunset Cost?

Maldives resort sunset premium table

 

$200…Your own privately enjoyed sunset will cost you $200 (that’s per sunset).

If there is one thing that rivals snorkelling as the “main event” in the Maldives, it is the sunsets. Time for bats to start stirring overhead, servers to bring out the pin coladas, and gadget guys to grab their SLRs and get as many additions to their Flickr account as they can manage (while their female companions “enjoy” the sunset alone with their cosmopolitans…and the bats).

Sunset facing rooms are so much more in demand than any other side that most resorts have now instigated entirely different room categories for westward facing villas. In fact, sometimes the designation is as simple as “Sunrise Beach Villa” and “Sunset Beach Villa”.

So with Maldives Complete’s uniquely comprehensive database of resort room types, we can filter out such room types at resorts that have explicitly differentiated between “Sunrise” and “Sunset” variants. Comparing just how much of a price differential there is, we can estimate ‘how much does a sunset cost?

In some cases a direct comparison is possible, but in others it is more complex. With the sunset side being more desirable, sometimes resorts have put more appealing larger rooms on that side. So at the very least, for an apples-to-apples comparison, I would need to do price-per square metre. Some resorts go so far as to significantly upgrade the sunset category so when I spotted that I removed them from the sample.

On average, a sunset costs about $200 per night. Now this total includes a range of resort from value 4-stars to some super-premium 5-star+ properties. I came up with 18 room comparisons in my sample. The specifics varies a fair amount…

  • Most Expensive Sunset ($) – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru,
  • Most Expensive Sunset ($/sqm) – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, $4.76.
  • Most Expense Sunset (%) – Vilu Reef, +47%
  • Least Expensive Sunset ($) – Ayada, -$71 (but smaller room). Vadoo is the cheapest “same size” room at a $28 premium.
  • Least Expensive Sunset ($/sqm) – Jumeirah Vittaveli , -$0.38 (actually has a cheaper cost per square meter for their sunset room…the room costs more than the sunrise equivalent, but it is even bigger in size).
  • Least Expensive Sunset (%) – Jumeirah Vittaveli , -4%.

[NOTE – Prices indicated are based on research within the past year and represent the approximate cost for a Bed & Breakfast rate in US Dollars in mid-February. Prices do vary considerably with special offers, availability, etc]

The Maldives isn’t the only place in the world where sunlight is valued. In fact, much of the Western world has contrived the system of “Day Light Savings” time (which takes place today in the UK and next week in the USA). Its name implies like it is some sort of very short-term solar layaway plan. Unfortunately, you just borrow one hour from the beginning of the day and have to pay it back later that same day.

The notion was devised to help the farmers maximise daylight that they worked the fields in the summer. Maldives resorts do the same thing. Basically trying to optimise the “main event” sunsets around mealtimes. “Resort time” is usually different to “Male time” (despite being on the same longitude) and some further random variations added on. So in the Maldives every day is “Day Light Savings” time. And maybe Maldives sunshine is a bit more precious so every second saved is a good thing. Still, it can be a bit confusing and even frustrating especially if you are island hoppers like us (and others it seems from the brilliant movie parody trailer below)…

 

Daylight Savings movie trailer

Reasons to Visit the Maldives

Monica Byrne Wickey Maldives

“Who would have thought to find a place so perfectly placed between the ocean and the sky.” – Billabong model/surfer & singer/songwriter Catherine Clark

World Tourism Day today. And there is no better place for a tourist to go in the world than the Maldives. That is why the Maldives features so prominent on so many bucket lists. In fact, a recent UK survey showed it to the the number 1 bucket list destination – “Great British bucket list! Buying a holiday home, driving Route 66 and a trip to the Maldives top list of things to do before we die

The reasons for this aspirational popularity were enumerated in a Yahoo piece “10 Reasons To Visit The Maldives At Least Once In Your Life”.

My own list of reasons is a bit more succinct…

  1. Other-worldly seascape of blue tapestry
  2. Iconic plot-of-sand-with-palm-tree islands
  3. Life aquatic intimacy (best snorkeling in the world and world class diving)
  4. World-class surfing
  5. Stylish beauty

The picture above of surfer Monyca Byrne Wickey seemed to encapsulate just about all of those points.

At its heart, it is a tropical beach holiday. If you are from the Atlantic, then it will share many qualities with a Caribbean holiday, and if you are from the Pacific, it will share many qualities with South Pacific island holiday.

But its landscape/seascape are truly unique. Located at that magic sweet spot just above sea-level as Catherine Clark so poetically describes. Not mostly beneath the water line (like the Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea), nor towering above it (like the South Pacific and most of the Caribbean). As we’ve heard from friends and experts who travel the world, “[name your tropical paradise] is great…but it’s not the Maldives.”

“Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?”

Hotelier Maldives

I try to help.

Most of the material on Maldives Complete is aimed at helping prospective visitors to the Maldives decide on the best resort for them (my response to the question I get asked most frequently…”there is no *best* resort overall, just the ‘best’ one *for you*“). As I’ve discussed many times, I’ve leaned towards more of the underserved groups like families going to there, but over time I’ve covered just about all niches including the mainstays of honeymooners and now, especially after the Dive Site database addition, divers.

One group that I also help where I can are the resorts themselves. A number of resorts follow the “Things I Haven’t Seen Yet” series. I always have delightful, extended chats with the resort management and the Ministry of Tourism when I visit. After nearly 20 years of visiting and over 50 resorts visited, not to mention my countless hours of on-going research and input from the website fans, I have many thoughts and perspectives about the Maldivian experience.

A number of resorts will often pitch me that their resort is a “Best of the Maldives” candidate for some special feature only for me to deflate them by citing several resorts who offer the same thing. On the other hand, I always uncover unsung treats on their island that they didn’t even know was unique in the Maldives. My island tours are like mini treasure hunts for me seeking out these overlooked gems as well as missing (incomplete!) data and photos of the property.

Recently, I was invited to do a guest piece by one the leading publication for the industry, Maldives Hotelier – “Marketing and Differentiation: How do you choose?” It discusses a principle at the heart of good marketing, the destination of the the Maldives itself and any self-respecting resort – “distinction”. A big nod to Seth Godin “Purple Cow” thinking about being “remarkable” as well as other tips I have noted during my travels here and elsewhere. And all about finding both the gems on your property as well as *being* the best resort for maybe not everyone, but certainly for many.

World Travel Market 2014

WTM 2014 Katherine Anthony Ayada awards

While Maldives Complete is my virtual world outlet for experiencing a bit of paradise when sequestered in the damp and dank boroughs of Britain, but once a year I get to inject a bit of real-world Maldives into my life. That is the annual World Travel Market where the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation comes to town with its marquee stand.

I always visit to saw hello to a few MMPRC and resort friends. But this year brought the added bonus of a “meetup” with some of the TripAdvisor Maldives Forum digital comrades. Pictured above is the TA and Maldives veteran Katherine Anthony holding the two awards won by her resort Ayada – “Leading Resort in the Maldives” and “Leading Water Villa Resort in the Maldives” (big congrats “KatfromAyada” and Ayada).

Joining us were Christine Aldridge of No Shoes No News Travel and Amit Patel of Simply Maldives. We all went out for a post-show nosh-and-natter catching up on all things Maldivian. Going around the table for the resorts sharing our perspectives – between us we had visited over 130 resorts (with obviously a lot of overlap). We whipped round sharing our superlatives like which resorts surprised us the most (in a good way) – Gili Lankanfushi, Soneva Fushi, Bathala, KATH, Komandoo.

The big news of WTM was the Thumburi guest house island project. It looks like an inspired initiative to have your cake and eat it too for both guests and Maldives entrepreneurs. It provides an island and infrastructure to reduce the costs of development and required investment so smaller businesses can investi in Maldives tourism. It also provides scale, diversity and competition to provide high-quality, but value-priced properties for the middle market aspiring to enjoy Maldives paradise.

I got to connect with some new resorts – Embudhoo, Equator Village, Summer island, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Diamonds Athuruga and Thudufushi, Barefoot, Centara, and Ayada (obviously).

A little virtual sunshine in my week. Maybe not the palm trees and pina coladas, but I still got to bask in wonderful smiles and gregarious warmth endemic to the Maldives at least for a day.

This post has a new category tags to the blog for “WTM” as this is now the 4th instalment of Maldives presence here.

7 Underwater Wonderful Activities in the Maldives

Underwater bubbles

The 7th of the 7th for 7 Wonders. Everyone knows the “7 Wonders of the World” (well, like the Seven Dwarfs, they always forget the last one like “Doc” or “Mausoleum at Halicarnassus”). In the age of listicles, there seems to be a “7 Wonders…” of jut about every description. Of course, a while back there was the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” scam.

For Maldives fans, the latest of interest has to be the “Seven Wonders of the Underwater World”…

  1. Belize’s Barrier Reef
  2. Deep Sea Vents, Ecuador
  3. Northern Red Sea, Africa
  4. The Great Barrier Reef
  5. Lake Baikal, Russia
  6. Galapagos Islands
  7. Palau Reefs

One might argue that Maldives is glaring by its omission. But I have always thought that the Maldives’ ultimate charm is not below the water nor above it. But right at the water’s edge. It occupies that magical balance not being mostly beneath (like the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea), nor being quite high above (like the Galapagos or much of the South Pacific). If you are looking for that wonder that is right on the edge of aquatic and atmospheric, the Maldives commands a list of only 1.

 

1. Get Engaged – Conrad Rangali Maldives.  Mastering neutral buoyancy to get down on one knee.

Conrad Rangali wedding proposal

 

2. Get Married – Centara Grand. Buddy breathing for life.

Centara Grand underwater wedding 2

3. Run the Country – In 2009, the President held an underwater Cabinet meeting to highlight the risks of global warming.

Underwater cabinet meeting

4. Build a Reef – A number of resorts (eg. Kandooma, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Four Seasons Kuda Hura, Kurumba) now offer Reefscaping which involves attaching small pieces of coral onto support frame which allows them to grow

Kandooma reefscaping 2

5.  View an Art Exhibit – Soneva Fushi. New meaning to “Watercolours”.

Soneva Fushi olly and suzy art 1

6. Shoot a Movie. LUX Maldives. Life Aquatic sequels galore.

LUX Maldives Underwater Festival

7. Celebrate the Holidays. Anantara Kihavah. Eau Christmas Tree, eau Christmas tree…

Anantara Kihavah underwater Christmas tree

Maldives Island for Sale

Islands of the World - Maldives

 

 

If you want to implement some of these novel ideas yourself, you can do so on your very own “Maldives” island. Not an island in the “Maldives”, but a tropical resort paradise. Just a bit more northwest off the coast of Dubai at the famous “The World” reclamation development project. The “Maldives” is officially for sale according to an Emirates 247 reports

“The island of Maldives on The World, Dubai, is up for sale. A listing on dubizzle.com, a classified website, reveals the size of the island to be 294,617 square feet, while the selling price being Dh48 million. Twenty villas can be built on the island, the listing states. An oyster-shaped islet, part of the Asia Island, has once again been listed on the classified portal. The island is now priced at Dh110 million [~£18 million]. The approved design for the island boasts of a built-up area of 47,048 square metres and a total land area of 36,661 square metres, comprising villas and apartments and 42-room boutique hotel.”

Actually, with the azure Indian Ocean surrounding the tiny dollop of sunny sand, the properties here probably all resemble a Maldives resort more than just about anywhere (I wonder if the person buying “Great Britain” is going to put a faux-Tudor place up on it?). I personally would go for the in-water massage and underwater bedroom.

 

Dubai Maldives

Maldives, The Best Of…

What Each Country Leads the World In

All of these “Best OF the Maldives”, what about the country itself. What about “The Maldives, Best of”? Can such a tiny country stand out as #1 in the world in any category?

Republic Day in the Maldives today with many patriotic points of pride to celebrate. The second round of elections has proceeded peacefully according to reports. And the country can point to many areas which despite it’s small stature on the map, where it commands a big standing on a few statistics.

Recently, Dog House Diaries created a fun infographic highlighting two things that every country on the planet led the world in. Unfortunately, the Maldives were woefully omitted. So being the master of what “best” about the Maldives, I thought I best do some research a lay down some markers.

  • LOWEST LYING – Renowned as a climate change campaigner for years with the threat of rising ocean levels hitting the lowest lying parts of the world first. And according to Wikipedia, the Maldives is #1 on that list: “Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in), with the average being only 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, although in areas where construction exists, this has been increased to several metres. However, more than 80 per cent of the country’s land is composed of coral islands that rise less than one metre above sea level.”
  • SKINNIEST – The islands form a narrow chain 820 kilometers (510 miles) in length and 130 kilometers (81 miles).  Length to width ratio of 6.3.  But Chile, the ostensible skinny champion, averages 110 miles wide across 2,653 miles of length for a ratio of 24.1.  But, if you include Easter Island (and why not since Maldives includes islands!), then the width of Chile extends to 2,292 miles which changes the ratio to a mere 1.2.
  • RESORT DENSITY – And of course, the ubiquitous resorts. There is a resort for every 2400 population in the Maldives (137 resorts active or inactive) not counting hotels and guest houses for 317,000 population). By contrast, the USA has 46,295 hotels/accommodation (NAICS code 721110) for 313.9m population. Only a fraction of these would be “resorts” and still this only comes out to 1 per 6823 of population. Another resort intensive country, Bali, has 830 resorts, but their population is 4.3m making 1 resort for about every 5000 population.

I thought that there might be a case for the “Least Landed” with only 300 square kilometres spread over 900,000 square kilometres of country boundary in the ocean. But it turns out that Tuvalu (in Polynesia) has only 26 square kilometres across an nearly identical expanse of ocean. Similarly, Tuvalu’s 11,000 inhabitants, compared to about 317,000 in the Maldives, make them also the least densely populated (when ocean area is considered).

So my nomination for Dog House Diaries Maldives entry would be “Sea-level Resorts

World Travel Market 2013

WTM 2013

The Maldives coming to London is better than nothing (though never as good as London coming to the Maldives). The movers and shakers in the Maldives resort community have taken up residence at the Excel centre this week as a part of the World Travel Market.

Today, I had the chance to catch up with friends and supporters from across the industry including the tourism ministry, many resorts, tour operators, agencies, and other afficionadoes (like Adrian Neville). I caught up with Mohammed Elaf of the MTPB (see above) who focuses on their social marketing. I got to put another face to a TripAdvisor Maldives Forum stalwart, “Kanthony” of Conrad Rangali. I got to get some research on some of the new resorts coming on line like Velaa, Atmosphere Kanifushi and “Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili”. I uncovered some great new “Best of the Maldives” pieces (eg. ‘island fit for an ancient king’, snow room, bamboo bicycle, turtle sanctuary, fly fishing).

The only thing missing was blinding sunshine, flour-soft sand, and an aquatic tapestry surrounding it all.

World Tourism Day

Maldives tourism arrivals by country population

 

 

 

 

World Tourism Day today.

As the Maldives (and Kurumba in particular where the sessions are being convened) welcomes tourism officials from around the world to host the United Nations World Travel Organisations official celebration, it is an apropos time to take a look at the shifting concentrations of tourists from around the world. Much has been written about the rise of the Chinese visit numbers, but with over a billion in population, one would expect a fair number to be drawn to the Maldivian charms. But which country has the highest proportionate draw to the Maldives?

If you look at the most recent Maldives visitor numbers by country population, Switzerland is the big fan of the Maldives with 4.03 visitors per year per 1,000 of population. The closest rival in enthusiasm density is Austria coming in at less than half that number with 1.97 per 1,000 population. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of these countries are famous for their mountainous landscape. Maybe the population craves the low altitudes of the sea-level hugging islands.

As described in the earlier look at guest numbers, the shift in enthusiasm density tracks with the overall guest trends. Namely, the rise of the East (Singapore, Kuwait and Australia the biggest risers) and the decline of the West (UK, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Denmark and Czech are the biggest droppers).