Not content with resting on the laurels of its natural product, the Indian Ocean is constantly evolving to take in new trends and welcome emerging feeder markets. By Emily Millett.
With pristine reefs, turquoise waters, endless private islands and palm fringed shores, the Indian Ocean is no stranger to tourism popularity. But in a bid to maintain and uphold its reputation, the region is working to improve its tourism services and embrace new trends.
“We feel that the opening of new airline routes to the Maldives and the recent inauguration of the domestic airport have made travel to nearby islands within the Indian Ocean more affordable,” director of PR and communications, Niyama Private Islands, Deveekaa Nijhawan told TTG. “We have seen trends such as leisure, business, active travellers and wellness increase in the past year, and are forecasting further growth in the coming year. There has also been a growth in the family and honeymoon segment as well.”
According to Nijhawan, to cater to the needs of these trends, the resort is introducing new activities, wellness offerings and dining concepts, as well as wedding and honeymoon packages, to meet the growing demand.
“Travellers to the Indian Ocean these days tend to fit into a few groups,” said head of PR and marketing, Reethi Faru Resort, Filaidhoo, Raa Atoll, Maldives, Zayan Fayaz. “These include travellers who embark on culinary adventures, seek spiritual hideaways and romantic escapes (such as honeymooners, weddings or couples), and thrill-seekers. We also see many new trends such as guests who are on tours around Asia, with the Maldives being just one pit stop.”
One area that is definitely seeing a continued rise in popularity and demand in the Indian Ocean is the experiential travel niche, with hospitality providers tailoring their offerings around this ubiquitous trend.
“We created a selection of personalised experiences that add to the all-inclusive-luxury concept, which have been designed to deliver ‘Anything. Anytime. Anywhere’,” said general manager, Kudadoo Maldives Private Island, Bradley Calder. “Each activity focuses on individuality, privacy and personal choice.”
Created with the couples market in mind, the resort has introduced ‘Escapism at Dream Island’, a desert island experience with no-one else present, while additional experiences available include swimming with manta rays, kite surfing or diving with turtles.
“Your personal Dive Butler will create your private water experiences, including the exploration of the incredible underwater world around the island,” added Calder.
Indeed, active and water-based experiences are key trump cards for the Indian Ocean, and a number of hotels are expanding their offerings to encapsulate this market segment, as Nijhawan told TTG: “We recently introduced the Surf Seaplane transfer, whereby a surfer can take a seaplane and surf at any of the three wave points, thereby positioning Niyama as a surf paradise. Off the beaten track with uncrowded waves and high-quality breaks, Niyama Private Islands has also recently introduced a series of surf options and tailored services that invite professional and novice surfers alike to enjoy adrenaline-charged activities right on their doorstep. Surfers can expect a consistent set of around five average surfable waves rolling out every five minutes and no crowds.”
The hotel also offers jet pack activities and private boat excursions for sunset fishing, dolphin cruising, snorkelling and more.
With some of the most impressive reefs and sea life in the world, the Indian Ocean is also witnessing an increase in scuba diving travellers.
“For the more adventurous travellers, our PADI and SSI accredited five-star rated dive centre – Sea Explorer – can open a world of submerged islands, dramatic overhangs, underwater walls and sea caves to explore,” commented Fayaz. “There are more experiences available at our watersports centre, including a relaxed pursuit of paddle boarding, parasailing above the crystal-clear ocean and excursions with dolphins.”
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa and Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives offer a range of diving and snorkelling packages, including unique experiences such as whale shark spotting and underwater adventures in a semi-submarine.
With the ‘Gold All-Inclusive’ package at Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa, qualified guests can enjoy up to three dives per villa, per week. Diving is also featured as part of the ‘Ultimate All-Inclusive’ package at Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives, allowing families to enjoy up to three dives per person, per week. Both resorts also offer unlimited snorkelling opportunities.
When they are not discovering the underwater world, families at Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives can take part in a wide range of watersports, including water skiing, wake boarding, banana boating, parasailing and sunset fishing.
CATERING FOR MENA
The Indian Ocean has a soft spot for the burgeoning MENA market – a market that appreciates its sense of privacy and family orientated offerings.
Commenting on the facilities at Niyama Private Islands that are particularly popular amongst the MENA arrivals, Nijhawan said: “The jewel in the resort’s crown is the magnificent Crescent, a playground of five ultra-chic villas, all with private pools, for up to 14 adults and eight children. Boasting a private chef, two butlers, a housekeeper and a host of complimentary activities, including a sunset cruise and movies under the stars, this over-water sanctuary is the perfect paradise retreat for the discerning Middle Eastern traveller with extended families.”
Kudadoo Maldives Private Island is also honing in on the growing MENA traveller, and offers a wide range of services and amenities specifically geared towards this group.
Calder said: “We are targeting the world globally as the Maldives is very accessible, but of course we’re keeping a special eye on the MENA region. Apart from our unscripted dining offering, Yuji Yamazaki has designed and created a stunning Mosque on the island of Kudadoo, with our Arabic guests specifically in mind. Guests can also arrive by their own private yacht, arranged in advance, which I’m sure many MENA residents will appreciate. And let’s not forget Kudadoo can be fully rented exclusively.”
The Indian Ocean is keeping up with current trends, promising each and every visitor magical adventures that will forever be ingrained in their memories