Travel And Tour World: How did the hospitality industry of Maldives deal with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis?
Edyta Peszko: Given the deep impact of this unprecedented situation, the Maldives acted incredibly well with its preparedness and implementation of enhanced health and safety measures that led to the reopening of the borders on July 15, 2020. Since then, we are seeing many positive signs of recovery for tourism in the country. It is worth noting that since the reopening, we have seen a total of 27,217 tourists arrive in the Maldives during the first three months. In the first half of October 2020, there were 8,350 inbound visitors, with the main source being Russia (over 2,300 arrivals), while there were also good numbers from Germany, the USA, India and the UAE as well. As the country proved itself to be a safe destination, British Airways recommenced direct flights on October 17, 2020, which is wonderful news as it will add another connection to the USA. So far, only Qatar and Emirates have been serving those main routes. In addition, from October 22, 2020, the U.K. government removed the Maldives from the list of countries from which people entering the U.K .had to go through quarantine. Then on October 27, Lufthansa restarted direct flights, while Aeroflot is already operating direct flights 4 times per week. There are many positive signs and I think the Maldives will be a destination in high demand this year (2021) due to its natural isolation and of course its irrefutable beauty.
Travel And Tour World: What were the biggest challenges faced by the Maldives’ hospitality industry due the COVID-19 pandemic?
Edyta Peszko: It was hard retaining talents during the closure time when the resorts had no cash flow. On top of this, we had and yet had to maintain the property real estate, look after the house staff who were stranded and unable to fly back to their countries, arrange deliveries of supplies andthe shipping of good from overseas, and many other issues. However, the biggest challenge was definitely making decisions related to employment and salary reductions in order to keep costs sustainable and yet still be ready for restarting operations at some point. Not everyone was able to sail through this storm and some resorts may not reopen, however many are already in operation and will see many more opening for business in the coming days.
Travel And Tour World: What are the major steps undertaken by Seaside Finolhu to maintain the safety of guests and staff upon opening in the post-pandemic world?
Edyta Peszko: Seaside Finolhu has implemented a number of enhanced health and hygiene measures to ensure that the wellbeing of both guests and our team is fully protected as the resort begins welcoming guests again. We have partnered with Ecolab, a world leader in hygiene and cleaning technologies and services, and have enhanced and expanded our cleaning procedures with additional COVID-19 protocols and best practices to reflect the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and local public health authorities in the Maldives. For our food and beverage services, all training, audits and verification inspections are conducted under the auspices of Nsure, a recognised leader and partner in food safety, health and safety, and sustainability in the Maldives. Additional measures include full PPE worn by F&B staff, digital menus and display boards in place of manually-handledmenus, reduced capacity operations to enable social distancing, and contactless delivery for in-villa dining.
Under its new health and safety plan, all of Finolhu’s public areas are now cleaned more frequently and with EPA-approved hospital-grade products. Anti-Covid approved disinfectants are applied by electrostatic aerosol sprayers which enable touchless disinfection. Our team also undergoes extensive training focused on educating and empowering them to deliver our enhanced health and safety program with complete understanding and confidence so that they are able to pass on this care to each and every guest.
Travel And Tour World: Do you think it is possible to revive traveler confidence in hospitality and tourism as a whole to the pre-pandemic levels?
Edyta Peszko: It might be challenging to revive the same level of confidence, yet in the long term, certainly the destination is going to bounce back. Many people are not overly concerned about the virus itself but rather with the medical and travel restrictions. Once these measures are reduced and eventually no longer necessary, the destination will flourish again.
Travel And Tour World: What does the future of hospitality in Maldives look like?
Edyta Peszko: The future for the Maldives is bright and 2021 may see unprecedented demand for island destinations now that many people are desperate for a holiday. Its natural isolation makes it easy to manage the borders and keep the country safe, while its natural beauty makes the Maldives the perfect destination for those who are seeking a refreshing getaway.
Travel And Tour World: What are the latest changes that have been undertaken by Seaside Finolhu in order to resume operations once again?
Edyta Peszko: The resort has undergone an exciting transformation to reveal a brand new Finolhu. Guests are treated to a whole new barefoot chic experience that reflects the resort’s focus on style and escapism. We have completed both aesthetic and functional upgrades right across the resort to create special places in which our guests will experience unique moments of excitement, wonder and bonding. Every aspect of the guest experience at Seaside Finolhu has been transformed to reflect this philosophy. From the style and comfort of the resort’s 125 villas, including the new Beach Pool Villa category, and the evocative culinary journey served up by the eclectic selection of international dining options, to the sheer indulgence of the new spa concept and the sense of tropical island adventure provided by the many water sports on offer, every detail has been carefully crafted to create a lifestyle resort that caters to the discerning affluent traveller of today. From the new design focus and the upgraded facilities, to the exciting activities and rejuvenating wellness treatments, the underlying theme of Seaside Finolhu’s transformation is fun. This is amplified by the stellar entertainment, performances and the exhilarating themed parties for which Finolhu is well known.