Thumburi Guesthouse Island invites bids for hotel development

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has invited developers to submit bids for beachfront hotel development at Laamu Atoll Thumburi Guesthouse Island.

Plots of 5,000 and 10,000 square feet are available for 25 years. The 5,000 square feet plots are to be given out at US$ 30,000 per year with a US$ 100,000 acquisition fee, while the 10,000 square feet plots are to be given out at US$ 66,000 per year with a US$ 200,000 acquisition fee.

An MMPRC announcement  said bidders must submit documents to the Thumburi project management section at the MMPRC office at Velaanaage in Malé by February 26.

The Thumburi project was launched earlier this year with the aim of making land available on the 17 hectare uninhabited island – as well as the linked Hulhiyandhoo island – for local investors to develop hotels, a diving school, water sports centres, restaurants, and shopping centres.


Indian resort worker beaten and mugged in local hotel

An Indian national working in a local resort was attacked with a hammer and mugged while in Male’ city, allegedly by a former employee of the same resort.

The victim, identified by India’s Express News Service as 24 year-old Ramakrishnan Sadanandan from Thiruvananthapuram, was reportedly attacked at 2:30pm on March 31 while staying in a local guest house.

According to the victim, he was  attacked and robbed of US$200.

“They forcibly entered my room holding an identity card, pushed me to the bed and started beating me with a hammer,” Sadanandan told the Express News Service.

“They took my mobile phone, cash worth US$200, camera and gold chain, and ran away. I informed the hotel authorities about the incident and they called the police,” he said.

Sadanandan, who works as a front office supervisor at Medhufushi Island Resort and Spa, said that the police had “only registered the complaint”. He has also filed the complaint at the Indian High Commission in the Maldives.

Speaking to Minivan News, Sadanandan said that he had been continuously threatened in the last two days and warned that he would not be allowed to leave the country safely.

However Sadanandan said that he is planning to leave the country as soon as possible and if required he would seek the assistance of the Maldives Police Service.

A person familiar with the matter told Minivan News under condition of anonymity that Sadanandan and the person who had attacked him both had worked on the resort. Sadanandan was the senior officer to the person who had attacked him.

According to the source, Sadanandan was warned prior to the attack, and “was lucky that he was at a hotel or else the he would have ended up in huge trouble”. The source also said that Sadanandan had audio recordings of the attacker in which he had been threatened.

A police media official confirmed to Minivan News that the case had been lodged with police and that efforts were underway to arrest the people involved in the crime.

Speaking to Minivan News, First Secretary of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives, S.C Agarwal, said “I think the Maldivian society needs to be a little bit more sensitive to the foreigners.”

“Foreigners come here because they are invited to come here by the Maldivian community. They are issued with visas and work permits. If they are being mistreated, in the long term it will bring long term consequences to the country,”  he said.

Agarwal added that foreigners deserved to have their rights and liberties respected once they entered the country with valid documents.

Regarding the case of Sadanandan, Agarwal confirmed that the High Commission had received the complaint on day the event took place.

Agarwal also said that a similar incident occurred about 10 to 15 days ago, in which an Indian woman was mugged on the street and had her mobile phone stolen. However, he said that the police had arrested the perpetrators on the same day and the mobile phone was retrieved. However she had declined to proceed with the case because she did not think she would succeed as a foreigner.

Despite the reluctance of foreigners to report such crimes, the Indian High Commission had received more than 400 complaints in the last five months. Most related to labour issues, but some included mugging and robberies affecting the Indian community.

“In my last five months in working in the High Commission, I have received about 400 complaints from the Indian community here. And that is not good,” Agarwal said.

The Indian High Commission had advised Indian nationals not to carry large sums of money in their pockets, and to take precautionary measures at all times, he added.


Jumeirah Dhevanafushi launches ‘Ocean Pearl’ water villas

The Jumeirah hotel group’s first property in the Maldives, the all-suite Dhevanafushi, has announced the opening of the Ocean Pearls, “a cluster of water villas located 800 meters from the main island, suspended on platforms above the most iridescent sea in the world and entirely self dependent.”

The Ocean Revive (270 square metre) and Ocean Sanctuary (340 square metre) villas share an infinity pool, bar, restaurant, in-library and spa, with a boat shuttling guests to the main island on request.

The Ocean Pearls dedicated restaurant, Johara, offers lounge dining contemporary cuisine with influences of Japanese, Southeast Asian, and Maldivian, according to a statement from Jumeirah.


Hulhule Island Hotel wins ‘Luxury Airport Hotel’ award

The Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH) near Male’ International Airport has been awarded the ‘Luxury Airport Hotel’ by the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2010, held on October 8 in Thailand.

The 136 room hotel, built in 2000, is used as a luxury stopover by tourists waiting for further transport, as well as flight crews. It is also a popular venue for Male’-based foreign workers.

This is the third year the hotel was won the award.


‘Celebrants’ are the victims here, not the Swiss: Guardian

“Thousands of couples across Europe and the US who have married or renewed vows in Asian ceremonies must now be wondering what was really said as rings were passed and kisses were exchanged,” writes William Sutcliffe in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“However pleasant the officiators may have seemed, however sincere the tone of the ceremony appeared, it is clear now that literally anything could have been passed off as a blessing or a chant. Of course, this should always have been clear, but such is the determination to believe in some vague ideal of Eastern mysticism that most people who buy into these ceremonies presumably dismiss any legitimate scepticism as somehow “Western” and inappropriate.

“All hotels are reliant on a theatre of deference and respect. In expensive hotels in poor countries, where cocktails are served by waiters whose daily wage is less than the price of one of the drinks they serve, the gulf between what the staff think of the guests and how they are obliged to behave is likely to be at its largest. Only rarely does the fourth wall in this drama ever come down. This video is a truly spectacular example.”

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Comment: Holiday Inn, pariah or promise?

It is amazing how fast a place can fall from grace.

Holiday Inn was opened with great fanfare in September last year. The whole city was abuzz with excitement at the opening of the first international hotel in Male.

Government officials made noises about what a positive impact the hotel would have, while businesses said they would finally have a good hotel in which to lodge their clients and consultants. Maldivians zoomed around in ‘Holiday Inn, I Love Male’ t-shirts, the campaign the hotel used for its launch.

The hotel lived up to the hype. Beautifully finished, it almost makes you forget you are in Male. The views from the rooftop restaurant and upper hotel rooms are stunning, while the food is delicious and unlike any other dishes served in Male’. The wifi in the hotel works like a dream (guests from other Male’ hotels frequently complain about the poor internet facilities). Holiday Inn is like a resort located in Male’.

But alas what a difference five months have made. A series of PR blunders has alienated it from Maldivians, to the point that no one wants to identify with it, or frequent it much either. From the hope and the hype, the Holiday Inn has become toxic: the pariah of the city.

The major mistake was the hotel’s attempt to obtain a liquor license. Opening a bar in the rooftop restaurant potentially enables them to increase earnings manifold, but has nevertheless damaged their brand enormously.

This idea for a bar has found almost no support in Male’. Conservatives claim it was against religion, while expat foreigners are furious their personal liquor licenses might now get revoked (and they would end up paying quadruple the amount for a drink at the hotel as they would at home).

Meanwhile liberal-minded Maldivians couldn’t care less, except that now Maldivians would be banned from stepping foot on the amazing rooftop if the hotel were ever granted a license.

Holiday Inn’s plans for the solar eclipse watching also proved to be a disaster. How out of touch they were with the customs of the country, when they advertised that they would be holding a barbecue on a Friday from 11 to 3 – the time of Friday prayers? And this at a time when they were constantly being targeted by conservatives and was enjoying a good bit of media spotlight.

At the start Holiday Inn bragged about having qualified Maldivians among its senior management. For a while they did have a charismatic Maldivian as director of sales and marketing, who envisaged branding the hotel an integral part of modern Male’. Inexplicably, the manager left the company soon after it opened.

More surprisingly, around 70 per cent of the staff are foreigners, even though the hotel is situated in the capital where one third of Maldivians live.

Whatever happened to the ‘I love Male’’ campaign remains a mystery. Far from enjoying its relatively unique status and becoming a pillar of society, the Holiday Inn alienated itself completely. It is now normal to see police patrolling outside. Things have gotten so bad, the manager of the Singaporean Holiday Inn was reportedly flown in.

For all its early mistakes, however, the hotel has tremendous potential for improvement. It is stunning, in a brilliant location, and the food is among the best one can find in Male’. It has great conference facilities, the clientele give glowing reports of their stays, and it’s one of the few places in Male where the coffee is not burnt and staff actually smile when they are serving you.

The rooftop restaurant – the highest point in Male’ – has stunning views of the airport, nearby islands and the speedboats and dhonis whizzing up and down. The balmy wind keeps you cool and the restaurant could easily compete with any trendy capital around the world.

In a society that’s opening up after being closed for so long, Holiday Inn is well placed to repair the damage done to their image, if only they have the imagination. It could incorporate the music scene in Male, by inviting acoustic bands to play at the rooftop restaurant. It could resuscitate the idea of open air cinema evenings and from time to time let groups like Maldives Science Society, literary or poet’s societies, use their spaces.

It could become the cultural icon of Maldives, a hub for artists and intellectuals, and hold visiting art exhibitions. It could recruit more Maldivian staff and reduce prices to make it affordable for more Maldivians. In short, it could aim to be part of this city.

Of course, all this boils down to the question of whether or not to have the liquor license. No amount of good public relations will be able to undo the damage a liquor license and bar will cause, as it would mean alienating locals. The ball is in the Holiday Inn’s court: either have a liquor license or have a local friendly business and become an integral part of Male’ city.