What is the most prominent thing people search for about the Maldives?
Google celebrates its sesquidecennial anniversary today (there’s a sesquipedalian for you…If you don’t know what it means, Google it). I’ve been doing some work to make Maldives Complete a bit easier for people to find using search engines like Google. Part of that work has had been use Google’s ‘Keyword Tool’ to get a better understanding of what are people looking for when they are searching about ‘Maldives resorts’. The results were quite intriguing…
1. Resorts – Obviously, the “resorts” themselves.
2. Spas – A bit curious in that when we first started coming to the Maldives in the nineties, most resorts didn’t even have spas. Maybe a few staff therapists on contracts. Now they are one of the top allures. Also and indication of the gentrification of the Maldives as a luxury destination.
3. Where they are – This was the one that surprised me. It seems that the Maldives’ reputation proceeds itself. People have heard of the legendary Maldives so far and wide that many don’t even know where they are. Part of this bias is due to the high portion of USA traffic on the web. Not only are Americans notoriously bad at geography, but the Maldives are literally on the opposite side of the world quite removed from their traditional tropical destinations like the Caribbean and South Pacific.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
A less than rhetorical question for a few very lucky souls this week. The Madison Avenue sponsored script is “Disneyland,” but the more unprompted survey says – “Maldives”. The article“If I won the lottery the first place I would go is…” that the first thing people do is go on a dream holiday, and the top dream holiday destination was the Maldives…
“If you won the lottery where would you go to on holiday? A leading travel agency asked Britons where they would most want to travel to if they won the jackpot and it revealed that the Maldives is top of the pile…The amount of winnings was any amount over half a million pounds and if money was no object Britons would go to the Maldives as their first holiday pit stop. The website Sunshine wanted to look into the holiday habits of Brits and in the survey of 1,672 adults they were all asked about how they would spend their winnings. 78% of people said that a holiday would be first on their list of expenditures and all were asked if they won over 500,000 where they would go on holiday first. According to the poll, the top 10 most desirable holiday destinations, if money were no object for Britons, were as follows:
- The Maldives – 19.0%
- Seychelles – 13.2%
- St Lucia – 10.6%
You’ve just won the lottery, what are you going to do? I’m going to the Maldives!
The international recipe of guests is reformulating from a European continental dish to a distinctly Asian fusion flair of late Switzerland has now dropped out of the Maldives “Arrivals by Country” top 10 leading a trend of Alpine Western countries (Switzerland, Italy, France) being supplanted by low lying Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Australia).
That’s according to the latest stats from the Ministry of Tourism that they presented in a nifty Pinterest (“P-interest” or “Pin-terest”?) post last week.
The Western sun seekers are being supplanted by the Eastern luxury seekers.
It is even more surprising it is that no resort has really nailed a sustained, quality blog considering how straightforward the opportunity really is. In addition to the blog fundamentals cited in my yesterdays “Maldives Resort Blog Roll” post, here are a few angles that almost write themselves for most resorts…
- Staff Profiles – A common feature on corporate blogs is to do profiles of various members of staff. Sometimes they are people doing particularly intriguing or esoteric jobs. Sometimes they are people with particularly unique backgrounds. Sometimes they are staff with special interests. We do them on our Red Bee Piero blog. The benefit to the resort and the guest is that such pieces really personalise the resort. Such individual stories make a bit of a human connection to this plot of sand with some villas and palm trees on it. Another benefit to the resort is that very often the staff are quite proud of the work they do and their story they tell.
- Snorkel Central – Snorkelling is the main event for the most guests to the Maldives. It is one of the first topics of conversation at the bar in the evening…”What did you see today?” Invite guests to share their house reef adventures and discoveries. Also, the majority of resorts now staff marine biologists. I find too many of these MBs focus on education. They write and speak about the ABCs of marine life. I think they should invest more effort and time in writing about “stuff they saw”.
What about Facebook? Many of the approaches I’ve listed above (eg. sharing snorkel pics) are what resort marketeers do on Facebook. They sometimes respond, “Blogs are passé, Facebook is where it is at.” Yes, blogs have been around for a while. The hype behind them hit a crescendo and has since tapered off (typical of many innovations). And Facebook is very of the moment. Though indications are that Facebook is hitting its own hype apex. Despite Facebook’s popularity and ease of use, it still has a number of major shortcomings especially vis-à-vis blogs…
- Offline Accessibility – Getting Facebook updates delivered to your offline Inbox (eg. Outlook) is a complicated set of menus and settings, while blogs provide simple (“Really Simple”) RSS Feed that deliver straight to your Inbox for offline reading (eg. on an airplane, in remote areas).
- Archivability – After certain dates, finding and accessing old posts and updates is a real chore (and I find they often disappear). On a blog, you can readily access them with direct links, Search boxes and dated Archive listings.
- Searchability – One struggles to find material on Facebook with Google, but Google readily finds most all blog material.
- Formatability – Facebook has very limited, almost primitive, formatting capability. Your own blog frees up your ability to format your posts in your preferred branding style or in a rich way that makes the post more engaging and/or appealing
- Linkability – Investing in a blog doesn’t necessarily forgo Facebook. You can have your cake and eat it too. Simple draft a rich format blog post…and then link to it with a brief comment on your Facebook page.
The Maldives keeps evolving and adding every year and invariably the things I hadn’t seen as of twelve months ago have popped up in a few cases. Here are a few of the past gaps that you can now find in the Maldives…
- Zip line – This wasn’t on any of my earlier lists, but I had jotted it down for mentioning this year…until until I visited Reethi Rah and saw theirs.
- Banoffee Pie – Not quite Banoffe Pie, but Banoffee inspired.
- “Gourmet Maldivian Restaurant” – Kurumba and Jumeirah Vittaveli (see above) are getting close with their extensive range of Maldivian influenced haute cuisine (more to follow).
- “Snorkel Lilo” – 2 models in fact (stay tuned for posts)
- Sea Horses
- Beach Wheelchair
- In Ocean Dining
What goes on tour does anything but stay on tour when it comes to my Maldives running around. I come back from Tour 4 with a wealth of new data for the database, pictures for the profiles (especially the Room Type profiles), Snorkel Spottings, candidates for “Best of the Maldives” posts, and new friends and supporters, as well as a few overall observations about tourism in the country.
RESEARCH – The near final tally is…
- New Resorts Visited – 9
- Snorkel Spottings – 28
- Profile Data – 17
- Room Pictures – 58
- Best of Maldives candidates – 128
Not only have I added to the database this year, but the trip has prompted me to expand it as well with two new fields…
- Walkways – It was Gangehi’s distinctive walkways (post to come) that made me think about (a) how the walkways of the resort islands vary, and (b) the impact this detail has on the experience and (foot) feel of each. In particular, they do tend to fall into one of three distinct categories…
- Soft Sand
- Hard Sand
- Marine Biologist – I now have a pretty full collection of the marine biologists on staff at the resorts which can be a useful filter for people looking for a ore educational or ecological visit.
TRENDS – Each year also provides a chronological benchmark in the tourism trends of the country. In the past, I’ve commented on the escalating flight to quality as resorts renovate with more and more elaborate luxuries. This year I noticed…
- Privacy – In the past, most Maldives resorts featured stand-alone villas littered about a plot of sand. A few islands offered special privacy features or villas (often “Suites” or “Residences”) with special private areas. Now it seems as if lots of resorts are investing in more in enhancing the privacy of stay. Walls, enclosed areas, shrub lines. On this tour alone, the resorts of Vittaveli, Nika, Halaveli, Baros and Kurumba has all made substantial investments in privacy features.
- Diversity – The era of the country-specific resort seems to be waning. Some resorts through heritage, marketing and infrastructure do continue to maintain certain ambiences which evoke certain national cultures. But the number of resorts devoted to a particular market is reducing steadily. Bathala, Gangehi and Nika are three resorts that have traditionally catered primarily to the Italian market, for example. But the rise of Internet direct booking and economic pressures on certain markets have led to these and other resorts becoming increasingly diverse in the provenance profile of their guests. Also, the somewhat feared Chinese invasion seems abated as growth from that market has levelled out. Increasingly you are finding a more diverse and mixed set of nationalities at every island.
SEASONS – When we first started coming to the Maldives, we invariably chose the month of peak sunshine – February – which also coincided with the depths of the English winter as well as the peak prices of the high season. In more recent years, we have been coming in the ‘low season’ of July which suits our schedule better and also offers better prices due to the ‘variable’ climate at that time of year. The weather is one of the biggest draws to the Maldives (“The Sunny Side of Life”) and probably the most frequent asked of the FAQs on the TripAdvisor Forum.
So what is the difference between February and July. Essential February is stunningly bright and still, while July is more muted and breezy. For most, the former is much preferred (though my wife, Lori, being ‘of a certain age’, in her words, confessed that she preferred the gentle and cooling breeze of the wet monsoon season). I remember waking up each morning on our February trips and pulling back the curtain thinking that surely some clouds must have rolled in over night only to find that the sunshine was as bright as the previous day and the day before that. When I pull back the curtain in July, I’m less certain of what I will get. There are more variations in the atmosphere. By and large, it too is ‘bright’, but there will be clouds peppering the sky and breezes stirring up the ocean. I’ve actually assembled a handy reference table below to try to characterise as simply as possible what general weather one can tend to expect from a February visit versus July…
Happy Blonde Day!
Or you could pick your resort based on the prevailing hair colour of the staff…
When the press release came out a year ago about the ‘Blondes Only’ Olialia Island, everyone was looking for the ’01 April’ publication date. But the announcement was all delivered with a straight face even if they weren’t received with any.
Recently I stumbled upon the LinkedIn profile of Indre Kavaliauskaite who has the title of ‘Project manager at Olialia Blonde Island Maldives’. So it seems that someone is on the case. And judging by her profile picture (see below), her appointment is ‘on brand’ shall we say.
So Maldives Complete was faced with the question of whether to feature it on the site in the list of the resorts. Part of the ‘Complete’ in Maldives Complete is to feature every single resort. Including ones that are shut down for a period or are not yet opened. The thinking is that as people do research, they might have heard about a resort. Maybe it was from a friend who was there before it closed. Maybe it is not opened now, but often people plan trips to the Maldives a year in advance. By that time, the resort in question might just be opened. So info on it should be featured so people can include it on their radar.
It has its own Facebook page. If it is a hoax, then it is an extremely elaborate (and expensive one).
In the growing world of travel options, the holiday industry is getting more and more specialised in its offerings and positioning. This trend was one of my motivations to starting Maldives Complete in order to help people navigate the growing range of resort options and styles. Maldives has long been a destination for (a) honeymooners, and (b) divers, but in recent years, it has been also established a worldwide reputation for (c) snorkelling, and (d) surfing. It is also an outstanding destination for families which was one of my earliest inspirations for building the website.
The Maldives has been renowned for indolent seclusion and lazing about in the sunshine with the counter downside perception of there being “nothing to do”. But now many resorts offer extensive water sports centers, underwater features and a range of creative activities and events tailored for the most esoteric interests.
As a result, many of the emerging “travel buzzwords” enumerated in the Telegraph’s recent article “The most irritating travel buzzwords” are on offer in the Maldives…
- Spacation – spa trip
- Floatel – a hotel on water
- Voluntourism – combining a holiday with charity work
- Spafari – safaris combined with "wellness"
- Flightseeing – viewing an attraction, the Grand Canyon, for example, from an aircraft
- Digital detox – a holiday without your mobile, tablet or laptop
- Twixmas – a short break between Christmas and New Year
The Maldives is also a center for another term – the “Surfari” – as described in the recent Newswire piece “The Rise of the 'Surfari' Highlights the Maldives' Potential to Appeal to Active Holidaymakers”. I think that the Maldives’ biggest world-leading activity of Snorkeling also needs its own buzzword. “Reefcation”? “Snorkelooza”?
Bumf, swag and paraphernalia. That is the burden of conventional marketing. The most popular give-away (often sponsored) at trade-shows is a carrier bag to haul all of the brochures, pamphlets, flyers, fact sheets and other assorted promo material. After a tour, I have to watch my baggage weight with piles of paper I bring back. LUX* Maldives has remedied all that with their credit card USB press kit. After my island tour, PR Manager Dolores Semeraro handed me all the material I needed on the handy little device shown here.
As it happens, when I met with Raffaela Colleoni of Gangehi at WTM and they had the same gizmo. But they had a picture of the island on it. In fact, several of the business cards I collected featured aerial resort shots. I think this is a smart idea. The romantically diminutive dot nestled in swathes of turquoise IS the ‘product’.
Like the Maldives islands themselves, good things do come in small packages.
The World Travel Market 2012 concludes today with another packed stand at London’s Exel for the Maldives Tourism Ministry. Earlier in the week, I took some time to stop over and catch up with friends old (like Liz Panchang now with Quo Keen, see above left) and new (like Haydee Cruz of The Beach House and Iruveli, see above right…also photo credit to The Residence GM Thomas Barguil).
It’s always a great opportunity to meet some of the newer resorts who typically have a disproportionately high presence to get word out about their new properties. I was able to meet with Gangehi, The Residence, Jumeirah, The Beach House at Iruveli, Medhufushi, Bathala, Zithali, Constance Moofushi, Reethi Rah and Bandos.
I also had a chance to meet with the new Deputy Minister for Tourism, Mohammed Maleeh Jamal whowas very bullish about the tourism trends in general and, in particular, the strength of the UK market.
Good show, chaps.