A man with a deep affection for Asia, Alexandre Glauser heads Amari Havodda Maldives in the stunning Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. Experienced in Thai hospitality, he is also no stranger to our neighbour Sri Lanka, having opened two properties on the island back-to-back.
Alex loves to dive and snorkel, and believes the pristineness of this southern atoll is unrivalled. And that being far away from the centre of activity is actually a good selling point.
Hotel Insider: You’ve been with ONYX Hospitality Group since 2014, you were area general manager overseeing two OZO properties, one in Colombo and one in Kandy. OZO is quite trendy in Lanka and I hear they’re opening a property in the Maldives soon. I’d like to know what drew you to the ONYX Group [who owns OZO and Amari].
Alexandre Glauser: Well, actually it was a matter of convenience. I was working for Centara Hotels and Resorts – I was based in Thailand. The company sent me to Sri Lanka to do two openings back-to-back. One in the west side, Bentota, a well-established destination. Another in Passikudah, an up-and-comer. And once the two hotels opened up for business, our owners were very happy and I was supposed to go back to Thailand. But then, I was approached by Thailand-based ONYX Hospitality Group who wanted me to oversee the newly opened OZO in Colombo and also initiate the opening of an OZO property in Kandy. And since my daughter was in school in Sri Lanka, I thought it was a good idea to stay in the country. And also, as my background is in resorts and leisure, I felt it would be good to take on a city hotel to expand upon my expertise.
Hotel Insider: And now here you are at another Onyx property. What I find about Amari is that it doesn’t go overboard on luxury. Everything’s there, of course, but it’s all very simple.
Alexandre Glauser: Amari is a truly Asian brand that embraces the best of contemporary Thainess, we really want our guests to feel comfortable here. You’re right, it’s not over-the-top, but there’s a very strong focus on quality. In that regard, we really monitor guest satisfaction at every point of the stay – before, during and after. All our properties in Thailand always score very high in terms of guest satisfaction. Amari is a brand that really focuses on what’s essential, where people can be themselves. We have a very strong sense of Asian hospitality. Like with Amaya, our main restaurant, it’s got a street-food concept that showcases the flavours of Asia. In short, Amari Havodda Maldives is a very fresh and contemporary Asian property.
Hotel Insider: Speaking of food, a lot of travellers are turning into foodies while some are becoming very sensitive about what they eat.
Alexandre Glauser: One way we try to help our guests out is by showing the ingredients in our food, we ensure that they’re labelled, so if someone’s sensitive to gluten for example, they’ll know what to avoid. A resort’s food and beverage experience is obviously very important, now more than ever. I tell my team that everyone has three meals a day. If a guest stays a week, that’s 21 meals. So, F&B is a vital part of a guest’s experience. And here, we’re trying to please a variety of palates, since we welcome guests from all corners of the world. We focus on offering the most authentic meals and that’s possible because of our multinational team.
Hotel Insider: All right. Hoteliers say a hotel is only as good as its service – if a two-star property can deliver five-star service that can be a gamechanger. From the comments I’ve read, one area where you do go overboard is service.
Alexandre Glauser: Thank you. What us hoteliers in the Maldives have to bear in mind is that holidays are very special for our visitors. Some often save up for a long period so that they can have this sort of luxury. We have honeymooners whose stays are paid for by their relatives. We’re an aspirational and premium destination. We have a huge responsibility to ensure that people are having a great experience throughout their stay.
Here, we have a service culture where we want our team members to be able to approach the guests and deliver personalised service. We have something called ‘Amari Host’, which is in place at all Amari properties. Each guest is assigned a host who will be looking after them throughout their stay. So, the guests know that they have a contact point. An Amari Host regularly checks up on the guest so if there’s any issue, we can address it on the spot. And in spite of being a young hotel, we have a very healthy level of repeat guests.
Hotel Insider: You’re also blessed with a great location, it’s only a fifteen-minute hop from Kaadedhdhoo airport but still very remote. You don’t see planes flying overhead. You don’t get speedboats cutting across the sea. The tranquillity here is hard to match.
Alexandre Glauser: I’m glad you think so. Yes, I believe we’re in a special place. It’s the largest atoll, not just in the Maldives but also in the world, in terms of the number of islands. We have 255 islands here, and not even a dozen of them are resorts. So, it’s really pristine and untouched – a true Maldivian paradise, like the way the islands used to be. And moving forward, we need to be conscious of how we position the property – we have a wonderful island in an equally wonderful atoll. And both their futures are bright. I don’t see us becoming a mass-tourist destination, we are committed to offering beautiful experiences and memories to people for decades and generations to come.
Hotel Insider: Yes, we need to consider preserving the atoll’s nature when planning its development.
Alexandre Glauser: Yes. Our environment is sensitive. We’re doing what we can to preserve it. In fact, most resorts in the Maldives have a strong environmental focus, they’ve come up with initiatives like banning single-use plastics, and protecting marine life like turtles. We’re doing our share, from sorting our garbage to composting and cleaning our reef on a regular basis. We’re also seriously considering solar power – installing PV panels in the resort.
Hotel Insider: That’s great, I really hope you go ahead with your solar plans. And since you mentioned turtles, the snorkelling around here is remarkable. There’s so much life here, you see sharks and turtles so often it’s almost guaranteed.
Alexandre Glauser: Yes, we really have an exceptional setting here. We get a lot of hawksbill and green turtles. They feed on the seagrass near the island. We’ve pledged to keep our seagrass, as you may know. I’m an avid diver and snorkeller. And it makes me very happy that more guests have really come to appreciate the unique beauty of our island.
Hotel Insider: Lastly, does being so far away from the action adversely affect the business?
Alexandre Glauser: It depends on the season and on how you position the property. During high season, for the traditional long-haul market, I’d say no. But, during low season, for shorter stays, it can. We have a lot of FAM trips to educate our business partners on the sort of property that we are, our uniqueness, and I think it really helps when they experience it for themselves. We have to make sure we position it to the growing community of travellers worldwide who appreciate the delicate beauty of our island and environment, too, and I think that is key.