In the Maldives, with a population of more than 500,000, the health of the Maldivians has been prioritised by the government. Travel restrictions from high-risk countries were implemented early in the pandemic while movement between islands was limited.
Ross Sanders, General Manager of Anantara Kihavah Villas has remained at the resort in the Baa Atoll, a 30-minute seaplane ride from Male, during lockdown. Accompanied by a small team of staff, he offers his view on the future of holidays in the Maldives.
“We want to turn this adverse situation into something positive, which will reshape the holiday island concept allowing for a more positive long-term and sustainable impact on the environment." shares Ross.
"I believe that in the recovery of post COVID-19, the attitudes of travellers will also change, making them more mindful of their carbon footprint for example and there might be a reduction in unnecessary travel. Travelling will become a cherished commodity and return to the luxury and glamour of yesteryear” says Ross.
"Areas of excesses such as the extravagant buffet spread, will become a thing of the past as meals turn into more personalised experiences." shares Ross who continues to express how the business remodelling will be inspired by the devestating effects of the pandemic, and how he thinks it will change the shape of luxury travel in the future.
However, it seems it is not only the pandemic that has a spotlight in the travel industry right now, but the pressing urgency of sustainable travel as not only an up-and-coming trend, but a neccessary step towards cleaner, quality experiences supporting local communities and encouraging better choices across the board, from consumers to producers.
"As almost everything in the Maldives is imported, a reduced wastage on our part would lessen our carbon footprint" Ross explains. "Further to this, we are also reviewing our present supply chains to see how we can encourage our suppliers to use more sustainable packaging on the items that are being delivered."
It seems there is a prediction that travel trends will change, gearing towards experience and quality with a greater sense of self-awareness from guests when it comes to their choices, from what they eat to how they travel. Defined by Ross as an opportunity to accelerate a move operationally in a greener direction, the strides taken by this region seem to be astoundingly positive.
"We will be redesigning our menus to be more organic, more sustainable, and importantly, healthier with a greater focus on aiding inner wellbeing. We are planning to hire a nutritionist consultant to help us introduce a range of nutritious dishes aimed at bolstering immunity.” shares Ross.
Ross is using his time to reinvent the resort’s facilities, clean up the island, enjoy the abundance of marine life in the house reef and get fit by preparing for an Ironman. The pause in tourism has given the resort the chance to implement island revitalisation programmes, such as tree planting, which has seen 60 new coconut palm saplings planted to date. Not only this it has also seen an increase in the reef protection programme, that reverses the impact of coral bleaching and restore colour and life back into the reefs through coral planting.
The resort now has three coral nurseries and are growing more baby branching corals on ropes, which are then transplanted back on the reef after 18 months. There are currently 400 in the nurseries and over 200 planted recently in new spots such as underneath the overwater spa.
With the Maldives being such a desired destination for many people, Ross is confident that they will see luxury travellers returning more rapidly than other destinations, provided that the airlines and airports are able to implement pre-emptive measures from the start of the travel journey. We look forward to seeing how this progresses in the Maldives and beyond.