The Maldives has become the ultimate holiday experience for 2021 as Nathan Collins, joint managing director of RB Collection, explains
The Maldives was in huge demand in 2020 and it’s easy to see why. The region had very low Covid rates and the authorities very quickly realised they needed to keep these low if they were to protect the local economy which relies mainly on tourism.
They brought in a strict testing regime in September for all visitors, insisting they have a negative Covid test no later than 96 hours before departure to be allowed to board flights to the islands. This sensible approach boosted consumer confidence and tourists flocked from around the world in relative safety.
For UK visitors the Maldives was on the flight corridor list too which meant you didn’t have to quarantine when you returned home.
The very nature of a Maldives holiday is a great benefit during a pandemic. Resorts are spacious, allowing guests to enjoy facilities with little or no contact to each other.
I’m sure the image of idyllic over-water villas or beachfront villas spring to mind when you think of the Maldives. With your own access to a pool, the sea, a beach, in-room dining, beautiful scenery and sunshine there can be little reason to leave your accommodation which reduces contact points and promotes a safe holiday environment. Some of the villas come with their own waterslide for families such as the Ozen Reserve Bolifushi, Soneva Jani and Gili Lankafushi.
There is even the opportunity to hire entire islands on a private basis which is perfect for larger families or groups.
The selection of resorts and islands to choose from is huge! For many, choosing an island can be like looking for a needle in a haystack which can be daunting. It is my job to find you the most suitable island for you, but the key fact for you to know is there is an island for everyone in terms of style, facilities, size and taste.
Because of the travel slowdown there is a backlog of brand-new resorts but also plenty which opened in 2019 and early 2020 which are yet to become popular. One of the exciting new openings for this year is the Ritz Carlton Fari Islands, part of a new three-island project including 100 villas.
New openings can often mean some great special offers with many resorts offering up to 50% if booking early.
During the months of May and June the rain gets heavier and the wind can pick up, but apart from then the Maldives can be visited year-round. This is perfect for those looking for a winter escape, but also for those restricted to summer holidays, which means the islands have come up with some great family offerings too.
I’m sure we all know someone who had to postpone their wedding and honeymoon or special celebration in 2020. This meant many couples and families looked at the Maldives as a safe opportunity to visit for their special occasion and catch up on lost time.
For many, some of our fondest early travel memories were traveling around in our early 20s, backpack on and map in hand. As we grow up we start to enjoy the finer things in life but still like to kick off our shoes and long for the days without a suit and tie.
Luxury holidays are not all about gold taps and marble bathrooms. Hotel designers appreciate this and a new breed of ‘barefoot luxury’ hotels started to emerge, pioneered by Sonu and Eva Shidasani who launched the Six Senses hotel brand with its notion of ‘slow-life’.
Their hotels offered intelligent luxury where local materials were used to respect the resort surroundings and offer the ultimate authentic yet luxurious experience. Today they focus on two resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, and they are both worth a look if this kind of style appeals to you.
From underwater restaurants to an underwater villa, diving to shipwrecks, stargazing, dining out at sea or on your own private beach – some of these things cannot be done anywhere in the world except the Maldives. This makes a trip to the Maldives difficult to compare to anything else and worthy of the investment.
These are just some of the reasons the Maldives has been popular during the pandemic, and as the world rolls out vaccine programmes we expect demand to increase even further.
For some, a tropical island holiday in the Maldives sounds like paradise, for others it can be quite the opposite with worries of island fever, high costs and boredom creeping in. With this in mind I want to look at busting some of these popular Maldives myths.
Some of these are also understandable concerns too and I have experienced them myself and many times with clients. This kind of holiday is a big investment and so it is important to get it right but having visited I can assure you there really is something for everyone.
‘I’m worried about getting Island Fever’
It is true some of the islands can be walked around in 15-20 minutes and this is what the Maldives has become famous for. However there are larger islands big enough to take an 18-hole golf course (Shangri La Villingili). I would suggest not letting the idea of a small island put you off and instead ensuring you receive good advice and be honest with your concerns from the outset as there will be a good alternative for you.
You could consider island hopping if you are more of an independent traveller or even combining with another destination such as Sri Lanka, the Middle East or Asia.
‘I think I’ll get bored’
A common concern is one half of a couple or family wants to sit and relax and the other needs to keep active. It is important to strike a balance, so everyone is happy. Think back to your favourite holiday experiences so far and ask yourself what you enjoyed the most. This kind of information can then help us match you to the right island.
If one of you is more active and worried about getting bored then we need to find things to keep you busy. Most hotels will offer spas plus land and water sports but there is much more too if you seek something different. Many open up their kitchens for cooking courses and bring local artisans in to showcase crafts in an interactive way.
New resort developers are combatting this too by designing resorts which include connecting smaller islands and allocating each one to a different activity such as a nature parks or food and drink such as Siyam World which is aiming to offer something very unique and will be great for those who want to avoid tiny islands with 6km of beaches and a floating adventure water park.
Different resorts cater to different mindsets and interests and a lot of these programmes are adapted for children. You could see your trip to the Maldives as the opportunity to learn something new such as gain a PADI diving certificate or work with marine conservationists by volunteering time out of your trip.
If diving worries you, snorkelling is the next best thing and the Maldives is possibly the best place in the world to experience this. 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of the British Loyalty Shipwreck which is a must do for those who do enjoy exploring the sea.
‘I’m worried I can’t afford it’
This is a really common concern and as the Maldives is one the most unique places in the world it can command a certain price. However, we noticed some more affordable four star hotels coming onto the market and there are some great enticing offers to attract new clients to experience everything the Maldives has to offer.
One of the hot topics is always the cost of food and drink. Historically, hotels were aware they have a captive audience and this was an area where they could really make a big profit. In recent times they understand they need to be more flexible and so a range of packages is increasingly offered. These range from fully all-inclusive so you don’t have to pay for anything when on holiday, full-board, half-board and also drinks packages.
We do recommend a minimum of half-board and then depending on your own eating and drinking habits we can work out the best option for you.
It is important to recognise any extras that may be included too. For example water sports, activities and spa treatments can all quickly add up so once some analysis is made it soon becomes apparent the value you are receiving.
‘Isn’t the Maldives only for couples?’
I took my first Maldives holiday with my family in tow and really put it to the test. As a young family it was important to us to feel safe and ensure we could continue routines and enjoy activities together. I was really impressed at how the hotels adapted to families of all ages, but especially how they ensured the adults had a holiday too.
Each family is different and so is each resort and island. There are so many to choose from and while some may say they are family friendly, think about what is important to your family specifically and then we can match the most suitable resort to you. It could be a great opportunity to gain some new skills; swimming lessons for example for the little ones or learning about herbs and spices in the resort’s on-site kitchen garden.
‘It’s hard to get to the hotels’
After your international flight some are worried about long onwards connections, but the truth is there are lots of resorts close to the main airport. You do have to get there by boat or seaplane but the journeys do not have to be too long. Remember the further away from the main airport the more tranquil the experience can be.
‘I don’t like small planes’
Not all the islands need to be accessed by a small seaplane, some are just a speed boat ride away from the main airport such as the OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo.
In conclusion, holiday destinations will continue to be more limited this year so I would definitely recommend a visit to the Maldives whether it is a dream holiday or something that you had not considered before. Feel free to call me on 01543 258631 for some honest advice.