Olialia, the Lithuanian company planning to operate a resort in the Maldives exclusively staffed by blondes, claims to have shortlisted a handful of islands in the country to house its proposed platinum paradise as the group now faces the challenge of making the project a reality in a strictly Islamic nation.
Olialia executives traveled to Cannes in France last week to present the island of blondes concept to entrepreneurs at the concept during the Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (MIPIM) 2011 real estate trade show.
Brand Manager Giedre Pukiene has claimed talks were held with 10 to 12 potential investors for the project as it finalises plans for its venture in the Maldives, including representatives of US property tycoon Donald Trump.
“All buildings will reflect the blondes’ spirit and world-view. Hotels, restaurants and service centres services will be provided by the best known world’s companies; we will soon start accepting applications,” stated Pukiene.
Olialia uses attractive blonde women to market an entire business empire including airliners, soft drinks, dairy products and publishing, under the adage that blondes not only have more fun, but also make more money for stockholders. It has now set its sights on operating a resort in the Maldives by 2015, run by its trademark platinum-topped staff.
As news of the “island of blondes” project has spread, the potential resort development has raised huge interest, and perhaps a few eyebrows, across international media – not to mention the local population, who are invariably dark-haired.
Speaking to Minivan News, the resort’s Project Manager Vilte Zukauskaite insisted that any concerns over the viability of a staff system based on hair colour in a country where labour laws require at least 50 percent employment of locals, would be overcome by Olialia and its partners.
This was an issue that could be dealt with practically, according to Zukauskaite.
“The resort is not so much a ‘blonde concept’ – although all the staff will be blonde, we will not necessarily make them wear wigs,” she said. “Non-blonde hair has to not be visible. So male staff could shave their heads. Hats or scarves that cover the head could also be worn.”
Tourist heads in the Maldives have confirmed that talks had been held with representatives from the blonde-focused company, and that proposals would be considered based on the effectiveness of the business plan, rather than its target audience or marketing.
However, the country’s Ministry of Arts, Tourism and Culture did stress that work laws requiring 50 percent local employment could be problematic.
But Zukauskaite explained that there were also opportunities for more ‘behind the scenes’ and less-visible roles for staff on the island that would allow the company to navigate legal requirements to ensure local staff were given opportunities at the site.
Zukauskaite said the company was now moving to finalise the company’s plans, and had identified “three or four” existing properties that could be bought and re-branded by the Lithuanian firm.
“At the moment the company is deciding on three options to develop the island; these included purchasing a virgin – undeveloped – mass of land, buy an existing resort and rebrand it, or create a man-made structure (such as a previously revealed high-heeled shoe design).
Photos of the proposed shoe development was met with consternation from several marine biologists working in the Maldives.
“I don’t know if I should laugh about it or cry about the degradation of human species,” said one, after seeing the images.
Zukauskaite said that while Olialia was yet to confirm its plans officially, “we believe the best and fastest route to getting the island would be re-branding an existing hotel,” she said.
Zukauskaite claimed that the “Island of Blondes” had been designed to be a unique business model, both on an international basis, as well as in the Maldives, where she claimed the focus on high-profile entertainment and cultural activities was limited.
The resort would develop many optional entertainment opportunities for its guests, Zukauskaite said, with plans for the resort to hold gallery exhibitions and performances from major international artists that she said would help spread the Maldives’ reputation as a luxury destination worldwide.
However, the project manager said that the ‘blonde-only’ policy for staff would not always dictate the type of acts performing there, and “formerly-blonde” superstars “such as Sting and Rod Stewart” would be free to perform on the island.
“Perhaps blonde can become grayer for a few days,” she added.
The Maldives’ tourism industry has always existed parallel to the country’s conservative and religious society, with the latter generally kept separate from the lucrative resort island business. Zukauskaite downplayed potential concerns that the blonde island could be seen by locals as an inappropriate development in the country. Like all of the country’s resorts, the “Island of Blondes” would be very separate from the legal and cultural regulations adopted on the country’s inhabited islands.
“It is a resort island, we’re not building it in Male’,” she said.
Olialia would, she said, act with respect for local traditions, and that she did not believe that local cultural traditions were a barrier.
“We shouldn’t call this a problem, we aim to treat the Maldives with all due respect,” she added.
Zukauskaite said that the company had already begun consulting with officials in the country and that it would be working alongside the owners of the resort it eventually picked to develop the “Island of Blondes” as its local partner.
Dr Mariyam Zulfa, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, confirmed that she had held some meetings with representatives from Olialia about the project, but said that she had not been made aware of their more recent plans.
Like any tourism project bought to the Maldives, Dr Zulfa said the company would be required to ensure it met its obligations under the laws and regulations outlined by the labour, tourism and environmental ministries.
When asked by Minivan News if there were potential concerns that the Island of Blondes project would potentially offend local sensitivities, she responded that this was a media supposition and that the ministry was not in a position to dictate how companies marketed their products.
“The government has no role in determining the parameters of companies looking to invest in the Maldives,” she said. “If it is a good project with a viable business model we will welcome it. The only possible difficulty is that the local population are not blonde.”
Dr Zulfa suggested that this difficulty was an issue of uniform, and that had been addressed at a number of tourism properties.
If Olilia’s resort development eventually moves forward, Zukauskaite said the world would be hearing a lot more from the “Island of blondes” with an upcoming reality show set to be filmed from the island once construction was underway.
“The main aim we wanted to achieve in Cannes was to create a huge buzz for the project,” she added. “I think we have done that.”