The Ritz Carlton is relatively new, could you tell us more about it especially for new guests who may consider a stay here?
This is the first Ritz Carlton in the Maldives, a very expected property. We were all looking forward to bringing the brand to such a high-end destination. The resort opened on the 1st of June last year, and it is part of the Fari Island homeplace which is the very innovative idea that the developers conceived. They built four islands (the whole complex is made of four islands) and in that you have The Ritz Carlton Hotel, The Patina, and in the future, Capella. The fourth part of the island is where all the ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz Carlton and The Patina, live. In terms of a guests perspective it’s the first integrated complex resort which is a new proposal for a kind of experience in the Maldives where guests that like the brand, comes to stay at The Ritz Carlton but still has the opportunity to go to The Patina (or in the future Capella) and still enjoy the food and beverage outlets.
We have a boat that connects The Patina and The Ritz Carlton, which is just a five minute journey. So guests really have the option to enjoy the brands they choose but still have the opportunity to leave the island for a different experience. At The Patina we have the Fari Marina, which is one of the highlights of the complex. It’s the shared space between the three hotels - as the resorts developed, both The Ritz Carlton and The Patina as well as Capella in the future, will be a very happening place where you’ll have a lot of food and beverage options. You have an art gallery, you have shops, and in the future we’re going to have a marine research centre, so it's really an option that lets guests have something to do outside of the resort with just a five minute boat ride.
In Fari Marina we have two restaurants - Arabesque and Tonton. The Patina has about four restaurants and in the future Capella will also have some activations in there as well.
What would you say is different between the three resorts? What distinguishes them? Is this integrated concept quite new?
It is relatively new so it's in our hands to showcase this to the guests. I think (at least for us) The Ritz Carlton has a very loyal customer base and they look forward to coming to a Ritz Carlton because they know the brand, they know the service. Both The Ritz Carlton and The Patina are beautiful resorts (of course luxury five-star properties) but they own unique selling points. For example The Ritz Carlton’s shape of the island is quite extensive - you can go from one point of the island to the other which is about 1.5 km, this gives us a beautiful long white sand beach. If you go to the Beach Shack or if you have one of the villas on the beach on this side of the island, you’ll see there’s a very large stretch of white sand beach. Normally beaches in the Maldives are smaller or round in shape, but here, this feeling of openness and vastness is quite nice.
How many villas are there in total?
We have 100 villas. Over the water villas with one bedroom or two bedroom, we have the beach villas and then we have what we call, Hybrid, in that they’re on the beach but extended through the water so that you still have the feeling that you’re over the water however you’re 5-10 metres from the beach which is sometimes a good option for families where they don’t want to be so far or at the end of the jetty. Also easier access to the restaurants.
What is the type of guests that come here (i.e. do you have more families, couples, solo travellers?)
It’s quite a balanced good mix and depending on the time of the year, you have a lot of singles, couples without kids and then you have holiday season (such as right now during Easter) where there are a lot of families. The resort is great for families because you have an absolutely amazing Ritz Kids and the size of it too is beautifully designed, very safe because it's within that circle where you have an indoor area packed with visual and motor skill activities. And you still have the outside area which is within the circle - a little swimming pool and a huge playground. So the kids have a lot of fun and as a parent, I would very easily leave my kid there because I know it's a caring area yet it's very open and enjoyable.
Which brings us to the design aspect of the resort - who designed it?
The architect of the hotel is Kerry Hill, a grand master and this was his last project. We have a little memorial in the mystic garden dedicated to him. I think this is one of the strongest aspects after our services, it’s the design and architecture of the hotel. I would say that it’s also a new concept to Maldives, where most of the resorts you usually have bungalows and villas with the Maldivian roofs, a more rustic style. Where there are very fine, elegant, simple lines - the whole concept from Kerry Hill is to embrace the circle of island life, that’s why you have all villas in round shapes including the spa located in the middle. It was really to embrace the flow of the water of the ocean and the design of the villa is to allow the beauty of the place to be the centrepiece of the resort. I love how the rooms (like our one bedroom over water villas), you have these floor to ceiling doors that you can completely open and when you’re inside the room, you have the pool and the deck. The way the indoors and outdoors are integrated is beautifully done.
Are there any particular areas of The Ritz Carlton Fari Islands that you enjoy? It could even be a piece of art or a place you like going to.
Yes, I am absolutely in love with the spa. Sometimes I just get my bike or buggy and I go around just for the sake of going around to feel the wind and to look at the sunset - it's beautiful.
The spa is in a perfect round shape - so when you walk inside the spa, inside that circle, it’s hollow in the middle. But you have the acoustic of the water within that circle, with the light that comes from the ceiling - as soon as you step in it gives you a sense of tranquillity and this is amazing. You don’t even need to do a treatment to get a Zen vibe. It’s also interesting because there’s a map of the energy where all rooms have different names and they’re all related to the energy of what this circle brings.
Are there any experiences that you enjoy doing here? Or that you would recommend to a couple or a family?
One of the very unique exclusive things that we have on the resort is our partnership with Jean Michael Gusteau, our Ambassador of the Environment Program. It’s our first partnership outside the US. We have five resorts that do what we’re doing here, but we’re the first ones outside the US to do this. It’s all about the sustainability approach.
We’re also one of the first resorts in the Maldives to use drones to observe the marine life around the hotel. This is great for the kids because the learning that comes out of it is incredible (and also for adults). Without even getting into the water you can see what is around the resort, not only visually to see the marine life but a deeper understanding. We also observe nets that come from Sri Lanka or India which is a big problem, and our team goes and removes it because we’re able to locate it with the drone. We’re constantly doing excursions with our own team to remove these. Just a month ago we removed metres and metres of nets that were all tangled in the coral and they spent almost a week cutting it and removing it. It was a very tedious job and they were able to do it.
We have a plan to transform this net into a piece of art just as a reminder of the environmental issue that it is and to show our guests as a conscious learning behaviour.
We also have a night snorkel where guests go during sunset time where they enjoy the sunset, they see the site where they’ll snorkel. We go with torchlights and they get to see the amazing life during nighttime.
One activity that I do myself with guests every Tuesday is line fishing on a very traditional Maldivian boat called a Donni, which is a wooden open boat that goes back to Maldivian history. They used to take this type of boat and go on shallow waters and sink the boat a little bit so that they could get all the fishes onto itt, and then they would sail to open waters and use all those small fishes as bait for larger fish. Today we obviously don’t sink the boat, we’ll just journey 20 minutes from the hotel - it's always fun because the guests think they’ll never be able to get any fish but they all do. Very rare that we’ll have a guest who doesn’t get a fish. We actually prepared the fish that the guests caught the next day - we invited them to come to our restaurant and prepared their fish that they caught the night before.
What is the typical length of stay your guests come here for?
I think the length of stay that the guests do is between 7-8 days, this allows enough time for all kinds of experiences. Some days they spend the entire day in their villas because they have their own private abode, maybe they’ll come out for lunch but they just want to disconnect and relax. You have some days where guests spend an entire day at the Beach Shack in the cabana to see other guests or listen to music - a more happening scene. And you have some guests who have a full spa program.
Two days ago we had a guest who spent six hours at the spa - we designed a whole package because that’s what the guest wanted. The guest had lunch there, a meditation session and of course a spa session.
Do you think travel is back to normal? Especially as the Ritz opened at a time where the pandemic seemed to be something we had to live with daily?
I think the whole pandemic situation benefited the Maldives - it opened the Maldives to new guests who wouldn’t have considered it before. People usually see it as a honeymoon destination but now it’s more families. It was one of the few countries that was open during the pandemic and the mentality of not having too many people around you. Once you get here you have the option to stay in your villa and have the best vacation of your life. Even if you walk around the resort, it is so large, everything is open, the air is always flowing. I think that’s always helped in forgetting sort of what’s been going on.
Now the PCR tests aren’t required and once it's all behind us globally, it’ll be a stronger destination I feel.
You’ve only been here for three weeks but any current or future plans in store for the resort?
I think the resort was very successfully launched; it was huge on social media and because the pictures of the resort became so iconic it created a lot of interest. The resort is fully functioning and at full operation. All services are implemented but of course as a company, we continuously seek opportunities to enhance the guest experience. Especially a location like this, now as the resort matures, we continue to adjust what we realise needs adjusting. After being open for almost a year we’re going to a new phase where you just elevate everything. You open, things have worked (which is a normal revolution of a resort) so now we can really focus on maintaining what is amazing and enhancing what can be enhanced, meanwhile implementing new ideas. We want to continue to elaborate new culinary experiences which we already do (destination dining with cabanas at the beach for example) and we want to continue to develop special menus on not just the food but the set up - the more holistic experiences from all senses.
One thing to add to the initial part of the conversion is that one thing so unique about this resort is the sustainability component. Even during the construction of the resort most of the villas were all put together outside and brought here to minimise the impact in the area. Most of the things were prefabricated outside and brought to the resort. Even all the timber and wood we have comes from a sustainable forest in Germany and Austria. We of course don’t use plastic - water bottles are all glassed bottled and we refill them at the resort so there’s no carbon footprint (we have a treatment facility and a filter to provide that).
The point is why do you need to drink a Perrier that comes all the way from France? The carbon footprint behind this is just huge. Even guest amenities are large sized bottles that are recyclable. Smaller amenities like the toothbrush and the comb, they’re all wood - this is the direction that everyone now follows but not everyone does.