For Resort Managers Only

Papaya and Lime

 

 

Many of my post are full of tips for prospective guests, but here are some tips for all of you resort staff and especially management based on my extensive sampling of the resorts…

  • Always serve papaya with lime (and while you’re at it, teach them the difference between a ‘lime’ and a ‘lemon’. Several times I asked for a ‘lime’ and they brought me a ‘lemon’. As the old adage says, ‘If life gives you lemons, then if you had asked for limes, you must be in the Maldives.’)
  • A mattress cover/pad is an easy/cheap way to make a standard bed feel more luxurious.
  • Acoustic music (Maldivian traditional is good, soft jazz also, spa ambient even) in bar and lounges (unless you are going for the lively, upbeat, party vibe…but most Maldives resorts aren’t). For that matter, acoustic performers would often better suit the romantic mood of sipping a refreshing drink with your toes in the sand rather than putting on a mini cover concert.
  • Job #1 for the staff is smiling (amazing how many resorts miss this fact. A resort that screws up everything, but does this tends to fare better than a resort that does everything right, but misses this).

5 Star Nibbles

Madlives drinks and nibbles

 

 

On our latest Tour, a further give-away to the true ‘rating’ of an island occurred to me as we went through our nightly sundowner ritual of pina coladas (for me) and the most bizarre cocktail concoctions that captured my wife’s fancy. The drink nibbles. There is quite a diversity of offerings and here is how they roughly break down (similar parallel in escalating quality to the ‘Welcome Treat’ distinction I already enumerated)…

  • Basic (3 star) = None
  • Smart (4 star) = peanuts, crisps, Bombay mix maybe
  • Elegant (5 star) = olives, spiced nuts
  • Luxury (5+ star) = prepared mini hors-d’oeuvres

I’m still on the hunt for the Best Drinks Nibbles in the Maldives.

What Else I Didn’t See

Zaika gourmet Indian food

Despite stirring up a bit of a teapot tempest last year with my ‘What Else I Haven’t Seen’ piece, I have concocted yet another version with another year of researching and investigating the Maldives tourism industry. The Maldives Complete 2012 Gap List includes…

Segment Specialty Resorts – One of the original objectives for the ‘Best of the Maldives’ section and write ups was to highlight where resorts developed and offered certain unique or distinctive specialties. In marketing, trying to be all things to all people is generally not a great idea. In fact, for this first category, maybe not trying to be all things to all ‘peoples’ might be a good idea…

  • Chinese Resort – Choose some island on a plateau with a big expansive, shallow, current-less lagoon. Such islands are not popular with Westerners who like to snorkel, but are ideal for the Chinese who have less of a cultural tradition of swimming. Offer free swimming lessons for everyone. Invest in some reefscaping so they have some coral and fish to look at whilst snorkelling. Have mostly Chinese speaking staff and Chinese language materials. Menu and activities catered to Chinese tastes. Maybe could do it near Gan and have direct flight from Shanghai to Gan airport (that would help develop that outlying region of the Maldives especially since around Male is getting over developed) and would eliminate the need for Male transfer which kills so much time especially for the Chinese who prefer a shorter stay. To accommodate these shorter stays more easily, have a very flexible booking system. Despite all of these features tailored just for the Chinese market, I got some great insights from Dolores Semeraro (PR manager at LUX* Maldives who is a bit of a sino-expert having worked in China for half a decade) that such a resort just wouldn’t appeal to the Chinese. She noted that Chinese don’t want to go to a resort tailored for them, but prefer to go somewhere with an international feel. She also highlighted the risk of putting all your eggs in one geographical basket. If there is a downturn there or the Chinese market fancies another destination, the resort has problems (as some Italian oriented resorts are having now).
  • Islamic Resort – With all of the various cultural variations and ambiences among a variety of resorts, how about one catering to the Islamic holidayer? Resorts must be a real frustration for many of devout Islamic faith especially with their plentiful alcohol and rampant exposed flesh. With Maldives itself a strongly Islamic nation and geographically located in the epicentre of the largest Muslim population centres (from the Mid-East through the Indian Sub-Continent to the South Pacific), it is superbly well positioned to innovate in this regard. No alcohol, conservative dress standard, praying facilities and calls to prayer, all halal meat, spa limitations, large private areas behind the villas would all make for a more enjoyable experience for these guests.
  • Singles Resort – Maybe not an entire concept ‘devoted’ to singles, but a resort that has a few rooms set up for singles (without a single supplement) and maybe a few activities to help singles find each other and make some friendships during their stay.

Room Ideas

  • Individual Design – ‘Design’ is all the rage in the new and revamped resorts these days. How about each room individually designed. Crazy Bear and Ice Hotel are first class examples of this approach to hotelier distinction.
  • Home Cinema – One of the things my wife and I love to do to chill out is to watch a nice film. Admittedly, in the Maldives we are fine with a book or lingering in the starlight with post-prandial pina coladas. But, I could see the appeal of a really nice home cinema in some of the bigger suites. Especially for those who don’t like going out in the sun much. Another purpose it could be put to would be to run high definition videos of underwater scenes which would provide a stunning and artistic bit of decoration for the room during the day.
  • Heated Gel Beds – The absolute best things we have ever experienced at Pennyhill Park Spa. For a destination that prides itself on being the pinnacle of soporific relaxation, these technological marvels are just waiting for some enterprising resort to add to their portfolio.
  • Water bed – There is water everywhere. And lots of beds for relaxation. But there are no water beds. I guess these are a bit out-of-fashion since the 70s and not everyone’s cup of tea so kitting one out would risk have an unoccupied room on many nights.
  • Poconos Honeymoon Glitz – Speaking kitschy honeymoon trappings, a bit surprised that some Maldives resort has not gone a bit more OTT on the romance theme. Heart-shaped beds, heart-shaped baths, mirrored ceilings, etc.

Ocean

  • In-Ocean Pool – This notion seems ridiculous until you start to think about it. This idea emerged from a dinner chat with my wife Lori and Vilamendhoo GM Patrick de Staercke. Why would you have a ‘pool’ in the ocean? Not a fresh water pool made out of cement stuck in the middle of a lagoon. But a pool simply made out of some demarcation of the seawater. A platform all around for people to sun and relax ‘by the pool’ and underwater fencing sunk into the sea floor. It seems like Australia has done a number of salt water pools sort of in the ocean, but nothing like our vision of a ‘pool’ that is really just a ‘pen’ or enclosure in a lagoon with decking around it (the Aussie versions are regular pools with seawater pumped in). Something close is the infamous Blue Lagoon in Iceland. With decking all around and a ‘sand’ bottom, the spa has the ‘feel’ of a pool, but it is actually a natural body of water. There are more reasons than you might realise…
    • Some people are afraid of sharks – We admired a cute little baby shark in the lagoon when a guest came up to us and said ‘And they let people swim in that water!’ (no joke). A ‘pool area’ with a mesh segregation would keep little sharks out for these people.
    • Some people are afraid of fish full stop – Seriously no joke. Every resort manager we have met has had a story of a customer complaining that ‘there were too many fish in the ocean’.
    • Eco-Friendly – Without chlorine and other chemicals or energy for pumping and filtering, the facility would be big on the ecosustainability.
    • Sensitive feet – One of the little aggros of swimming in the lagoons is occasionally stepping on a sharp rock or coral fragment. This ‘ocean pool’ could be kept groomed with nothing but soft sand on its ‘floor’.
  • Sea Horses – Sea Horses are native to the Indian Ocean but just about never seen. They are delightful creatures. For a resort looking for a marine biology project like Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru’s manta and anemone fish work, or Four Seasons Kuda Huraa’s turtle program (and may other resorts that do turtle nurseries), perhaps a resort near some sea grass could do a research project for sea horses and build up a population.
  • Ocotopus Programme – They are not rare creatures, but they are super difficult to see. Even the marine biologists admit that they don’t see them that often. An excursion with specialty in finding them would be a big hit.  Fayaz and Adam at Mirihi’s Muraka restaurant did provide some tips though.  They said that when Maldivians go to desert islands themselves for family picnics, they will often fish for their meal and even go snorkeling for some octopus.  They said that you need to look for piles of sand by dead coral because they dig themselves into holes to sleep.
  • Life Guards – Especially for resorts with lots of Chinese visitors (who have statistically less swimming experience and training), I think it would be a good measure (and good employment for young Maldivians). Though Maafushivaru and Shangri-La have lifeguards on demand, I think most people will be too reserved (or over-confident) to ask for them.
  • Free Snorkeling Safety Whistles – TripAdvisor’s Maldives Forum came up with this idea and I thought it was brilliant. Some resort could have a bunch made up with their logo printed on them.
  • Snorkel Lilo – Entrepreneurial idea for someone – create a snorkel lilo designed like those spa massage beds with a place to put your face/mask to look at the sea life. Lilos can be a great way to snorkel especially is you are a lazy or weaker swimmer. The ‘problem’ with conventional lilos is that there is nothing supporting your head (you have to hang it off the end).

Service

  • Gourmet Maldivian Restaurant – In London, a number of Indian restaurants have gone high end, adapting traditional Indian recipes to a Cordon Bleu nouvelle cuisine style in both delicate preparation and striking presentation (eg. Zaika – see photo above, Bombay Brasserie). Not bowls of stewed curries with various rices. Why doesn’t one of the super premiums do gourmet Maldivian-inspired dishes?
  • Snorkel Butlers – ‘Butlers’ which seemed OTT a few years ago are now simply table stakes for the super premium class resorts. To provide further distinction, resorts are providing specialised butler services like Kanu Hura’s ‘Pool Butlers’, and Reethi Rah’s ‘Skin Butlers’. Makes me wonder what sort of other butler services there could be? Fitness Butlers (combines personal trainer with a nutritionist for those you want to use their holiday for a body tune up). Snorkel Butlers (takes care of all of your equipment, like rinsing after a use, as well as providing guided tours not just on the house reefs but to special private excursions.

New7Blunders of Nature

New 7 Wonders of Nature

 

From proud show of world travel highpoints to an embarrassing show of world travel wannabees. ‘New7Wonders of Nature announcement this week of its 7 ‘winners’ vindicated the Maldives Marketing and Public Relation Corporation’s bold move to withdraw from the suspiciously dodgy campaign. I’m as much up for a good publicity stunt to draw attention in a fun and creative way, but when the New7Wonders group started trying to extort big bucks from participants, its true colours showed and the Maldives wisely withdrew. Now this hokum has run out of time (it had been going on for years) for bilking keen tourism agencies and had to finally come to some conclusion. It was kind of like the TV series Lost that captured the imagination at first, then got tired, and in the end was exposed as an aimless exercise. The end result announced this week was no more satisfying than Lost’s final perplexing and insulting episode.

Amazon in South America; Halong Bay, Vietnam; Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil; Jeju Island, South Korea; Komodo, Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River, the Philippines; and Table Mountain, South Africa.”

Really, that’s the ‘7 Natural Wonders of the World’? If that’s them, then the Maldives is right to withdraw itself from such weak company. The results reinforce the increasingly evident assessment that the whole campaign was simply a vehicle for the most desperate destinations to try to get some exposure and faux bragging rights.

For starters, the Grand Canyon doesn’t even make the list. The Grand Canyon is one of those jaw-dropping, jelly-kneed natural wonders that top everyone’s list who actually know something about the world of travel. Not having the Grand Canyon on the list is like not have the Great Pyramids on the list of Ancient Wonders of the World. I feel sorry for the people who end of going to Iguazu Falls instead of Victoria Falls or Table Mountain instead of Everest.

For a more respectable list of 7 Natural Wonders check out – http://sevennaturalwonders.org/the-original.

World Travel Market 2011

World Travel Market

WTM 2011 Maldives

Maldives came to London last week.

The World Travel Market is Europe’s largest travel and tourism trade fair filling the entire Excel exhibition centre in London. It is an opportunity for tourism agencies and major players to convene with existing customers very efficiently (in fact, sort of a treadmill fashion of one meeting after another from morning until night) as well with prospective new customers who are exploring new destinations to add to their portfolio.

The Maldives contingent was proudly represented front and centre of the ‘Indian Ocean’ hall right as you walk in the door (photo below) with a harried group of Ministry of Tourism, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation and staff from various resorts. It was a great chance to meet the movers and shakers of the Maldives resort industry just a tube ride away. I caught up with Senior Marketing Officer Aminath Hudha (see photo above) of the MMPRC who was the very first person in the Maldives to help me get Maldives Complete off the ground. I also met up with resort managers both veteran (Champa, Villa, Universal) and newcomer (Dusit Thani, Viceroy). But the highlight of the day was finally meeting one of my Maldives heroes, Adrian Neville. We chatted into the evening about all things resort and Maldives comparing notes, stories and perspective.

I was a delight to welcome Maldivians to the British shores for once after so many years of them welcoming me to theirs.

 

WTM 2011 hall

Maldives, Always Natural

Maldives Always Natural

Island Investments Always Natural

 

Maldives…Always Natural.

 

The big news out of the Maldives this week is their new promotional campaign ‘Maldives Always Natural’. The announcement of the new logo has gotten most of the press, but that is just one piece of a larger, more ambitious marketing positioning. The logo got lots of coverage especially as such branding changes always inspire a lot of cynicism for any organisation. Lots of self-proclaimed artistic pundits take issue with one detail or another and proclaim that they could have done better.

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation was at the forefront of the changes, but it merely served as an orchestrator for many Maldivian stakeholders whose interests were being represented. MMPRC started with a call for submissions for ideas and proposals from schools and the public. They enlisted worldwide professional expertise with a specialist company called QUO. Now the MMPRC have published the initial treatments which bring to life the slogan in a variety of contexts.

Its predecessor slogan – ‘Sunny side of life’ was cheesy, tired and pedestrian. It looked like it was promoting some down-market Spanish holiday camp. It was fit for purpose in the early years of catering to the European sun holiday market. But now, the ‘Maldives’ is a world-wide brand drawing visitors from all corners of the globe. And its aspirations extend beyond just tourism as it promotes other industries like fishing and takes a prominent place on the world stage for ecological issues.

Considering the huge scale of pressures and diversity of scrutiny that a government body is under, and the very broad brief, the Maldives are limited in how ‘out there’ and edgy they can get. I think the effort is very commendable and is a big step forward. What I like about the logo is the colours. One truly distinctive feature of the Maldives is the various shades of blue in the aquatic tapestry that blankets the islands. I’ve tried to incorporate that shades-of-blue colour palette in the design of Maldives Complete. The logo colouring really nails this superbly and subtly (contrary to the garish and dated style of the predecessor).

The pictures here show the various treatments and the full sized images can be found here.

 

Colours Always Natural

All Yours Always Natural

Opportunities Always Natural

Energy Always Natural

Rhythms Always Natural

Basic, Smart, Elegant, Luxurious

Rating table

So what are the differences between the ratings? What makes a 5 Starand beyond?

The following is my attempt to characterise some of the basic and more subtle distinctions between different tiers of quality from my years of experience in the Maldives. It is not just intended for visitors who are often befuddled by the ratings, but also for the resorts themselves. I meet with typically aspirational resorts who really want to call themselves that next higher star and are equally curious about ‘what it is that I have to do?’

In many cases, I am over simplifying the distinctions, but in doing so I am hoping to highlight the core of the distinction acknowledging that circumstances and details can vary considerably and need to be taken into account. At least, the descriptions that have assembled here provide a starting point for breaking down what these differences of expectations and offers.

In the Maldives, there are essentially 4 classes of accommodation…

  • Casual – 3 star: This category is the budget domain. This is literally ‘basically’ a room. A bed (no guarantees on lumps and typically either too hard or too soft). Often lots of signs of wear all around including something that doesn’t work properly or fixed haphazardly (like a fitting replacement that doesn’t match the others).
  • Smart – 4 star: This category of rooms the heartland of value resorts. The rooms are clean, fresh, well equipped and well maintained. The resorts have invested in fresh paint, and good maintenance. But beyond that, nothing really stands out. The materials and fittings used are on the conventional side. Nothing really stands out in terms of style or design. Often the layout is just a bit awkward with big empty spaces in some areas with tight squeeze in others.
  • Elegant – 5-star: This category is the domain prevalent high-end resorts. The rooms have a real aesthetic design sense with style. They use higher quality materials and fittings. Extra services will be laid on. Wide selection of finely prepared food is on offer.
  • Luxurious – >5 star: This category is the domain of the increasingly prevalent super-premiums. It is a full 5 star…with extra helping of extravagance ladled on top.

So what does that mean more specifically? I’ve drafted the table above based on my experiences to help provide some illustrative (not comprehensive nor definitive) examples of the differences.  When I say ‘Dress Code Metaphor’ above, I don’t mean that is the ‘dress code’ for people on the resort. I mean that if you were describing the ‘dress code’ of how the resort was ‘dressed up’ as a property, this is how it would boil down.

The considerations above are intended to be the minimums. For example, many ‘Luxury’ or ‘5 Star’ resorts offer butler service, or glass floors, or eggs Benedict. Those offerings alone do not make them ‘Super Luxe’. But if a resort aspiring for ‘Super Luxe’ does not have them, then one has to call into question their claim to that standard. To quote 30 Rock, the absence of these things are sort of ‘Deal Breakers’.

I tried to keep to areas where I could show a variation across all four groupings, but there are other demarcations. For example, a 5 star and 5+ star should never have plastic furniture (unless it is very distinctively styled). That’s a deal breaker on the 5 star rating. Another example is resort features. 3 and 4 star don’t require these, but 5 star and better do. 5-star is typically a special bar, restaurant or spa almost always over the water. Super 5+ needs to be something even more imposing. A few super premiums have even gone underwater (eg. Conrad Rangali, Huvafenfushi) to attain that special distinction.

Another consideration to note is that this smorgasbord of options is a moveable feast. Especially in the ever escalating wow-factor arms races, what used to be exceptional is often now conventional. What used to be a big bet, is now table stakes. For example, when I started coming to the Maldives, there were no spas nor Internet. Now, it’s inconceivable not to offer these things.

The 5-Star Problem

5 Star Fish

 

So what the heck does ‘5 Star’ mean?

With limited supply and the desire to earn as much as possible from the sustainable natural resource of the idyllic islands of the Maldives, the country and industry is rapidly moving to premium at nearly every property. Now there are at over 100 active properties out of which more than half call themselves ‘5 star’. 39 of resorts on Trip Advisor, for example, are listed as 5-star. Of those, 8 have Review Ratings at a full 5-stars as well which is a start.

When everyone is 5-stars, is there any difference? Actually, there are massive differences. So how does one regulate the star awards? Adrian Neville called attention to the issue in a recent Tweet – “Vilamendhoo & Meeru say they are 4 star. This just pushes the Sonevas and O&O etc out to six or seven stars. The 5 star barrier is broken.” Adrian is referring to the trend started in Dubai by the super-premium marques calling themselves 6-star and 7-star out of objection to the fact that to put them in the same league as scores of ‘mere’ 5-stars would under represent the unique distinctions they have implemented.

One of the most prominent ‘Ratings’ these digital days are from TripAdvisor. But, these scores are not objective ratings against absolute and fixed criteria. They are subjective customer satisfaction marks against relative expectations. Someone who got a great deal on a basic property might give ‘5 stars’ to one quite humble resort, while someone who paid top dollar on an extravagant property might give a ‘4 star’ mark if their parsley came facing the wrong direction.

MaldivesComplete’s weighted rating field was an early attempt to reconcile some of this variation in ratings. When MaldivesComplete was launched several years back, several resort portals and tour operators had slightly varying ratings for the islands. I figured that collecting all of these and averaging them would provide both (a) more balanced true rating, and (b) more granular differentiation. But even this approach is growing dated and weaker. A lot of the portals have fallen by the wayside and the tour operator ratings are growing more uniform.

Part of the fuel to the uniformity is the crowding at the top. The 5 star problem. All the resorts are sprucing up and putting in investment to tick the 5 star boxes. The operators are happy to going along with this rating inflation because it helps them to justify higher prices.

Which brings us back to the ‘dirty truth’ that the hotel industry’s own rating systems are quite dated. They try to quantify quality through system of tick boxes. This is not a problem limited to the Maldives. MSNBC highlighted the subject in its piece “The dirty truth about hotel ratings.” Things like the number of bathroom fixtures determine 5-star threshold leading to inane investments in things like quizzical bidets. People going to 5 star resorts would rather have a nicer shower (rain or waterfall shower), than an unused bidet. Some of the hotel star ratings determined by the number of electrical outlets available, and yet don’t make any assessment of Internet speed, strength and accessibility.

I also think that there is somewhat inadvertent muddying between ‘the destination’ and the ‘the resorts’. The Maldives is one of the finest places on earth. It is a 5-star destination. You could put a shack on a Maldivian island and it would be close to a 5-star lifetime experience. As a result, I think that, in the global resort competition, the proliferation of 5-star categorisations is partly due to a global calibration. Resorts that would be 3 or 4 stars on any other ‘ordinary’ beach in the world, become ‘5’ stars in the Maldives. Furthermore, in terms of differentiating Maldives resorts, how do you compare an island with a spectacular house reef but modest infrastructure, with a resort which has no house reef but gold-plated elegance? How do you compare the charm of a more natural aesthetic with the pizzazz of trendy design?

I think the Maldives desperately needs a more structured, methodical and managed star system like that run by Michelin. A Michelin star is a major achievement – ‘worth the trip’. Two stars is a rare distinction. Three stars is hall of fame material. More on that later.

What I Didn’t See

Blog Pix - Shortcut.lnk

My 2011 summer
tour was a huge success in ferreting out all sorts of impressive and quirky distinctions of the resorts I visited and elsewhere. After last week’s follow up round of new posts, I am now up to 180 ‘Best Ofs’ with that number again in the wings. I’ve even had to revamp the Best Of page which has given me the opportunity to integrate another great Sakis piece (everywhere I went, people knew about Sakis and his work).

I have now visited 28 resorts and yet there are a number of things I have yet to see. Given the frenetic arms race of the resorts to outdo one another with creative offerings and twists, these seem to me to be some candidates that range from obvious to obscure. I’ve broken them down into a few categories…

Enjoying the water…

  • Water slide – The ‘water slide’ keeps popping up in Six Senses concept CAD pictures (see above) as a villa attachment. Six Sense Laamu ended up abandoning that design, but why not a simple water slide in a kids pool or even off a jetty into the ocean?
  • Beach Wheelchair – Another obvious innovation overdue for the Maldives.
  • Sculling – First thing in the morning and into twilight, the Maldive waters, especially in the lagoons, is as calm as any lake or Thames River. A larger sized single scull or skiff would be a unique offering and provide a distinctive exercise opportunity. They have introduced rowing with the trans-equatorial crossing project. Would be ideal for a resort with a big lagoon. [NOTE: Any resort that wants to introduce this, I have a world class rower interested in marine biology who would be happy to come down to teach some Maldivian staff how to scull.]
  • In Ocean Dining – A couple of resorts are offering ‘in pool dining’, but how about ‘in ocean dining’. Some shallow lagoon with relative shallow water. Not feet in water or sand, but both!
  • Star Shaped Over Water Restaurant – I was impressed with the W Retreat’s ‘Fish’ restaurant which has an ‘H’ shaped deck for the diners. This shape meant that lots of tables could be arranged ‘right over the water’. It made me wonder why more resorts didn’t adopt such a ‘pronged’ decking design to optimise the ‘best tables’ even more. My Dad mocked up some drawings of what I’m talking about below.

Enjoying the vistas of the unique seascape…

  • Observation tower – For years now the trend in the Maldives has been to ‘go down’ (ie. underwater) for the super-luxury jaw-dropping attractions. A few top resorts are starting to ‘go up’ with some two story and roof top structures. These elevated places are actually quite appealing because they provide a broader vista over the turquoise and sapphire seas surrounding. For a long time, ‘going up’ has been a big approach to attractions (eg. Eiffel Tower, London Eye, Seattle Space Needle, Toronto Tower). For a super-luxe looking for that next ‘wow’ thing, I suspect this sort of feature might spark some possibilities.
  • Hot Air Balloon – Champagne ballooning…ah, duh. Modify the basket so it floats when it lands on water. No shortage of landing places. Nor shortage of aerial scenery. A senior official in the Ministry of Tourism thought that a resort had tried this years ago, but I couldn’t find any reference to it.
  • Skydiving – A group did a one-off skydiving trip in the Maldives out of Hanimaadhoo airport a few years back, but never followed it up with more. Parasailing is already quite popular and tandem jumps seems like the next step up to enjoy the distinctive views.

Neglected delicacies….

  • Banoffee Pie with Coconut Cream – Easy to make. A crowd pleaser. Local ingredients and tastes. Why is this not on the dessert menus?
  • Gourmet sausages – A big visitor population is British and a staple of the English breakfast is the sausage. Lots of people like a good sausage for breakfast and they are easy to prepare and serve. But sausages in the Maldives are always these anaemic little tasteless things. A number of specialty sausages are made from venison and other meats so an enterprising Maldivian could create a small business of gourmet sausages made from something other than pork. The closest I have come upon is Kurumba’s beef sausages.

Special sports…

  • Golf hole from one island to the next – The dearth of golf is one of the great holes (pun totally intended) in the Maldives offerings in the minds of many affluent travellers. And yet the Maldives has such great potential to fashion a ‘Holes to Play Before You Die’. Essentially, a tee on one island with the green on another. The greatest water hazard ever. Club Med Kani or Kandooma could set this up tomorrow.
  • Clay Tennis Court – Bit of a old-school, traditional cachet. Less baking hot, easier on your feet and typically more fun for recreational players than asphalt without the difficult maintenance requirement of grass courts.
  • Motorised Hammock – For those who are training for Olympic calibre indolence, I can’t imagine better training kit than a motorised hammock. In fact, I can’t imagine any place on earth that wouldn’t be made better by but the Maldives seems a natural with its soporific qualities.

Water restaurant layout design

Seven Plunders of the World

Seven Natural Wonders of the World

 

Beware Paid for Endorsements.

The big news out of the Maldives tourism circles this week is the Tourism Board’s decision to withdraw from the ‘Seven Wonders’ competition. It turns out that tourism boards have to pay a significant price to be considered. So much for objectivity. The Maldives Resort Workers and Minivan feature good pieces on the headline announcement.

This sort of ‘marketing’ gimmick doesn’t surprise me. I’ll always remember my first marketing job for a small software company. We had a great product confirmed by customers who regularly rated us highest in ‘bake offs’ against the established players. But the industry leading ‘independent analyst’ (a real big name) never included us in their sector reports. We finally got an audience with their top analyst and asked why they neglected us and his response was, “Well, it doesn’t help that you don’t subscribe to our service.” So we scraped up the extortionate price for a ‘subscription’ (tens of thousands of dollars) and low and behold the next report featured a lovely little mention of us.

In twenty years, the world hasn’t changed at all. Now I am working in the media/broadcast sector, and one finds a similar cozy collection sector analysts/publications. One article was written about us winning the highest award in the UK (the Queen’s Award for Innovation), but it was removed allegedly when they found out we were not subscribers to their service.

I don’t fault the Maldivian Tourism Promotion Board for their earnest efforts at the outset of the Seven Natural Wonders campaign when it seemed somewhat creative and the investment was small (“$195”). But now that the Seven Wonders has exposed its true colours, MTPB is smart and courageous to say ‘enough’ and disengage.

This mutual graft is rife in the world. Auditors biased in their reports on clients. Rating agencies biased in their assessments of company well being. Investment banks biased in their stock recommendations. Magasines biased in their coverage. All based on how much one pays. My disenchantment with this dishonesty is one of my motivations behind Maldives Complete.

As I say up front, Maldives Complete has no ads, no sponsors, no selling. Just pure, transparent fascination and adoration with these idyllic islands. I make no bones about the fact that my writing and coverage (in the blog) is almost completely positive in tone. But that is a reflection of my heartfelt attitude about the Maldives, not the result of anyone bribing me to feel or write that way. With this site getting bigger and taking more work and resources (out of my free time and pocketbook), I am grateful that a number of resorts are helping me with discounts and comps. They reduce, but don’t eliminate the significant personal investment I have to make to keep the site up to date. And in no way do they affect my coverage. I still research and include every resort I can find juicy pieces on. Similarly, the best online resources – TripAdvisor is a fine example – have strict rules on any bias or promotion making its way into the content of their reviews and forums.

When looking for a Wonder-ful trip of a lifetime, turn to the enthusiasts over the self-appointed, commercial pseudo-official lists for your guidance.