Breaking Travel News

Breaking Travel News interview: Jean-Francois Debon, general manager, Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives

Breaking Travel News interview: Jean-Francois Debon, general manager, Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives Jean Francois Debon will open the hotel later this year

Opening in November this year, Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives will bring an exclusive all inclusive offering to the rapidly developing Maldivian tourism sector.

Here Breaking Travel News sits down with general manager Jean-Francois Debon to discuss what is on offer at the property, who is likely to be calling in, and how the Maldives has changed following the advent of mass tourism.

Breaking Travel News: Perhaps we can begin with a little about the resort. What will be on offer there? How will you differentiate the property in what is an increasingly popular ‘paradise’ destination?

Jean-Francois Debon: Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives will be the newest resort on Kanifushi Island, which is situated in the exotic Lhaviyani Atoll just a 30 minute seaplane flight from Malé.

The resort is home to 150 ‘Sunset View’ detached villas in four categories which each have open-air bathrooms, private outdoor areas, internet access and a range of hi-tech amenities.

Leisure facilities include the Akiri Spa, a PADI licensed Dive Centre, water sports, daily excursions, live musical performances, a sports complex and a variety of fine dining options.

We also offer a premium all-inclusive plan called the ‘Platinum Plus’ which is quite unusual in the Maldives and offers genuine value for money as well as a five-star experience.

There are a number of unique selling points that differentiate Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives from our competitors including one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted beach in the destination.

Privacy and seclusion is also completed, as the islands within the atoll are largely uninhabited, while the first full-sized 50m swimming pool, additional recreational activities such as flood-lit tennis courts and a kids club, some of the largest entry level beach villas and guaranteed sunset views from every villa are all on offer.

The main restaurant and bar, as well as the Akiri Spa, are located on the ocean side of the island and will offer unusual and spectacular views on the Indian Ocean swell breaking on the reef.

Another aspect of the resort which will set it apart from our competitors is our focus on immersing guests in a truly Maldivian environment.

Travellers are always keen to explore and discover local cultures and traditions and we believe the success to Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives will be our delivery of strong local fundamentals and allowing our guests to experience the best of Maldivian culture and cuisine through daily activities such as garden tours, local islands visits, coconut tree climbing, Boduberu dances and sandbank disco parties.

BTN: Are you on schedule to open at the end of the year as planned?

JFD: Yes, so far all building plans remain on schedule for a soft opening on October 15th and a full opening on November 15th 2013.

BTN: Can you tell us a little behind the thinking in making the resort all inclusive? Is this unique in the Maldives?

JFD: The Premium All-inclusive plan is a fantastic concept that truly responds to a specific demand from many holidaymakers to the Maldives, who are frequently put off by the extremely high hidden costs which arise when they arrive in destination vis-à-vis extras payable during their stay at the resort concerned.

Platinum Plus is a fully inclusive holiday plan offering genuine value, whereby all elements of a complete holiday experience are fully taken care of,  including quality meals,  premium branded beverages, alcohol and premium wines, minibar restocking twice daily, a wide range of activities and tours along with a fine dining experience in our Asian Fusion restaurant.

Guests will enjoy a completely hassle-free, all-included, Indian Ocean holiday experience with peace of mind that everything from a monetary perspective has been taken care of upfront, allowing them to simply relax and enjoy the five-star resort experience.

The all-inclusive segment is currently a niche market in the Maldives which has already seen success in Constance Moofushi and Lily Beach Resort & Spa.

We believe that this segment will only continue to grow as it appeals to the core client base looking for this no worries, value-for-money, five-star resort experience.

BTN: How about the Atmosphere brand? What are the long-term plans for the organisation?

JFD: The Atmosphere management team comprises of highly-respected and credible resort industry professionals from the Indian Ocean tourism industry.

We seek to build on this valuable image, local expertise and know‐how to create a strong management company which will soon operate a small collection of hotels and resorts within the Indian Ocean region.

Our primary objective is to ensure that each customer departs after their holiday feeling totally relaxed and rejuvenated from their mesmeric Indian Ocean holiday experience.

Atmosphere places guests’ emotions firmly at its core, crafting perfectly balanced, enriching holidays, which also offer genuine value for money.

The brand essence being Art of Balance, we strive to deliver a perfectly balanced holiday experience for all of our guests, achieving the ideal mix of attentive but discreet service, entertainment, fun, local culture and discovery along with peace, privacy, tranquillity and bliss.

We believe the local touch from the architecture, décor, service and overall product, really enhances the overall guest experience, so our resorts will offer a truly authentic, local experience for guests, rooted in the natural and cultural environment of the region.

Whether in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India or Seychelles, every resort which opens under the Atmosphere brand will send travellers on an immersive journey through the rich cultures of the Indian Ocean, offering them a memorable experience of its colourful traditions, passionate spirit and heartfelt warmth.

BTN: Where do you hope your guests will be drawn from? Will you be looking toward Sri Lanka? India? Asia? Or from further afield, perhaps Europe?

Our primary target market is European, as the resort is most ideal for the discerning European traveller with the United Kingdom and Germany being some of our most important source markets.

As a client mix, we expect about 80 per cent to be from Europe and the balance being from Asia, Middle East and Australia.

Does the political turmoil in the Maldives have a negative impact on the hospitality sector?

JFD: The resorts are run by independent companies which aren’t affiliated with any political parties in the Maldives.

The geographic reality of the Maldives with Malé International Airport as a separate island means incoming tourists travel directly from the airport to their chosen resort island for the duration of their holiday and then travel directly to the airport for their departure.

All resorts continue to do extremely well and the destination probably has had one of the best summers this year, with extremely good business levels, across all market segments.

BTN: What other challenges does tourism in the Maldives face? Are ecological concerns of increasing importance?

JFD: With over 120 resorts now in the Maldives, some of which are in the project stage, a big challenge for tourism is the increasingly crowded marketplace.

Fortunately, we are in an expanding market with a growing clientele coming from Asia and further afield so there is a large pool of customers for us to target.

While it’s challenging to have competitors it’s ‘positive competition’ which is great for the destination as each resort tries to out‐best its neighbour and attract holidaymakers by offering better service and a constant stream of new, creative ideas.

Most resorts have found their specific client base and core source markets, so their main focus is on meeting and exceeding the needs and requirements of these core markets.

BTN: You have worked in the industry in the Maldives for a number of years now – in what ways would you say the hospitality sector has changed over the previous decade?

JFD: Many new resorts and brands have come on the market in the past few years, but many of them have simply tried to replicate a formula that proved successful in other destinations.

Some have lacked the local experience and knowledge, the little personal details that comprise a true five-star service and respect the cultural heritage.

This is where we saw a window of opportunity for a company such as Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts which believes that ‘Tradition is becoming Trendy!’

More Information

Take a look the official Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives website for more information.