THE BUSINESS - INTERVIEW

In English

On the Maldives the Sun will soon shine again ..

Suresh Dissanayake

Assistant Vice President-Sales & Marketing for Adaaran Resorts and Heritance Aarah in the Maldives

The Covid-19 pandemic has sensitively affected the entire tourism industry in the world. On one of the world’s most popular and significant dream destinations, the Maldives islands we asked the Vice President of Adaaran Resorts and Heritance Aarah, Mr. Suresh Dissanayake, how they experienced the hard months of the crisis, how could they prepare and survive in these hard times and how they will open in the near future.

How was the situation of tourism and Aitken Spence generally on the Maldives before Covid-19?


- The Maldives is known as a paradise holiday destination and has been a firm favourite among the global traveller. There has been an influx of demand for the year-round holiday destination, not only for its sun, sea and sand concept but as a destination that offers experiences across the board, for any age group or like – from relaxation to adventure, to cultural immersion.

Prior to the pandemic, we enjoyed a steady growth in arrivals to both the Maldives and our resorts. Our resorts saw positive growth from our key focus markets including Italy, India, China, UK, Germany, Russia CIS and Australia. As our resorts caters to a diverse segment of markets, we have been fortunate in attracting the right clientele for the right product – be it a surf holiday, a holistic spa and wellness experience, over and underwater activity enthusiasts, secluded honeymoon destination, among others.


 

Which were the first signs and how did it influence the turnover at the certain hotels of Aitken Spence?


- We have been monitoring the global situation from the early signs as part of our risk mitigation strategy. The first signs we saw were a drop in fresh new bookings and the percentage of cancellations increasing.

Which were the first measures you have taken – how did you try to lock out the epidemic from your hotels?

- Our priority was the health and safety of our guests. A number of preventive measures were introduced following global health and safety recommendations to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 at the properties.

Among the measures implemented were a mandatory health declaration at check-in on arrival with daily temperature monitoring, providing alcohol-based sanitizer in all public spaces, educating our staff on the required safety protocols to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Our resorts were prepared to handle any eventuality and were in regular contact with the local health authorities.

I heard that the Maldives opens in July – will you make difference between the guests, I mean you don’t receive guests who are from highly infected countries like France, England, Italy, Spain, Belgium?

- As a hospitality company known for our warmth in service with a staunch ethos centred around impartiality and coequality, we will not discriminate our guests based on their country of origin. The Government of Maldives have announced health guidelines for tourists along with arrival protocols. If our guests adheres to same, we will welcome the with open arms, as is customarily done; subject to meeting requirements of the PCR test and Maldivian health guidelines.


Will there be any health checking on arrival of tourists at the airport/in the hotels?


- Yes, there will be temperature monitoring and PCR test upon arrival, as announced by the Maldivian authorities. On our end, we will conduct a temperature monitoring before boarding their chosen transportation vessel and again at check-in. At the resort, we will conduct temperature checks daily, for the safety of all our guests and staff.


Will you ask any health certificate that the arriving guests are healthy?

 

- There is a mandatory health declaration form that is to be filled by all our guests.


Please, share with us any other information, circumstances, you think is important to be known.


- For more information on our health and safety guidelines under the #SpenceSafe initiative,

please see https://www.aitkenspencehotels.com/spencesafe

Did you hope that it will be something short term? How was it finally? I think that did not influence so much your company and the Maldives as much as some European countries.


- Initially, we anticipated a short-term disruption going on the basis of previous SARS virus. However, it turned out to have a much greater bearing on our business, as well as the whole world. The anticipated duration is much more than what we initially projected.

What did you do while could not receive guests?


- We remained active during the quarantine period by conducing varied training programmes for our staff concerning the COVID-19 virus, developing new and heightened health and safety protocols in line with global standards and training our staff on same and planning for the new normal. We are also maintained regular contact with our partners in maintaining relationships. We also adapted a more cohesive social media campaign to engage with our guests through a series of mini campaigns.

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