Thai carrier, resort optimistic on the Maldives
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Thai carrier, resort optimistic on the Maldives

SO/ Maldives provides luxury villas with private pools and solar panels, redefining eco-luxury in the Indian Ocean.
SO/ Maldives provides luxury villas with private pools and solar panels, redefining eco-luxury in the Indian Ocean.

Bangkok Airways and luxury resort SO/ Maldives are upbeat about increasing their business opportunities in the Maldives, with Thais avid visitors of the islands located in the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives achieved a tourism milestone in 2023 by welcoming more than 1.8 million visitors, the largest influx of tourists in a single year, according to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corp.

Service and sustainability

"Bangkok Airways resumed flights to Malidves after the pandemic in September 2023, seeing the potential of the islands as one of the dream destinations among tourists," said Chanthip Thongkanya, vice-president of the airline's office of president.

Mrs Chanthip said Bangkok Airways is enhancing its strategic partnerships with diverse allies to promote travel to the Maldives.

Chanthip Thongkanya

The airline provides a full-service travel experience through four direct flights per week from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) to Malé. The flights operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, using an Airbus A319 aircraft that offers both an economy and business class.

As well as offering a 20-kilogramme maximum for luggage, the airline is also focusing on sustainability, Mrs Chanthip said.

"Since resuming this route, we've accumulated 22,000 passengers so far as of the first quarter of this year with a load factor over 50%. We aim to increase the load factor on this route to 70% by the end of this year, bouncing back to the pre-pandemic level," she said.

"We have codeshares with over 29 airlines that will help us increase the load factor."

The majority of passengers travelling on the route by nationality are Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Maldivians and Chinese.

She said the route has felt less of an impact from the global economy, thanks to the travellers' high level of purchasing power.

The human touch

"Maldives is among the leading destinations worldwide, presenting numerous business opportunities, reflected in the increasing number of hotels and resorts," said Oreste Traetto, resort manager of SO/ Maldives resort.

S Hotels and Resorts, the global hospitality arm of Singha Estate, launched the SO/ Maldives luxury lifestyle resort in November 2023. It is a US$60-million joint venture project developed in partnership with Wai Eco World Developer (WEWD), a leading business and real estate conglomerate. The resort is operated by Ennismore, a creative hospitality company.

Oreste Traetto

"While SO/ Maldives is relatively new to the Maldivian market, we're confident in the global recognition of our brand. We believe the Maldives is well-suited to our brand," said Mr Traetto.

According to the resort, SO/ Maldives stands out as a beacon of innovation and luxury in the Maldives' hospitality scene with a unique blend of fashion, environmental consciousness and design.

"The most important aspect for us is the 'human' one -- how our team serves people and their ability to listen and adapt based on the customer's requirements. We are truly centred around this brand orientation, which embodies the most significant meaning of luxury," he said.

While Mr Traetto did not reveal the resort's occupancy rate, he said the average occupancy rate is slightly higher compared to other resorts in the same category, reflecting significant recognition in the market, especially in Asia.

He said when it comes to guests staying at the resort, the top three nationalities were Russians, Chinese and Thais, adding that it was also important to expand the focus to encompass visitors from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, along with a notable influx of visitors from Australia and New Zealand.

"A robust business strategy necessitates a diverse market mix, providing us with a strong foundation for success," said Mr Traetto.

Russian tourists remain the primary group of visitors to the islands, with an established presence of European and Iranian tourists, too. Thais are also among the top 10 in terms of tourists visiting the island, he said.

"We will expand into this new market -- Europeans through an approach in the winter season, travellers seek dream destinations with abundant sunshine, placing the Maldives high on their bucket lists alongside Thailand," said Mr Traetto.

He said the resort is committed to reducing its environmental impact, installing solar panels in 53 villas and three outlets, which account for 45% of its energy consumption.

"We're working towards eco-label certifications and have eliminated single-use plastics from our front-of-house operations, with plans to extend this to back-of-house areas," said Mr Traetto.

The resort also collaborates closely with related parties to address issues such as coral bleaching, engaging in coral replanting and ocean cleaning efforts.

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