SPOTLIGHT ON Scott Bowen, Cluster General Manager, Mercure Kooddoo Maldives & Pullman Maamutaa Maldives

By Vaibhav Garg

 

With its turquoise waters, superlative service and exotic culture the Maldives has well and truly made its mark as a destination of desire and luxury.

Over the past two decades, aside from a few specialized dive resorts, the hospitality sector in the Maldives has been primarily driven by high-end resorts managed by some of the most famous luxury operators in the industry. But now with the airlift and inbound markets diversifying there are opportunities for developers and operators to look outside of the luxury and high-end space to resorts that will cater for segments that are either currently undersupplied in the market or resorts that are designed to cater for the next generation or travelers, the guests of tomorrow. This is the space in which the Mercure Maldives Kooddoo and Pullman Maldives Maamutaa have been conceptualized and developed for.

As AccorHotels’ first properties in the Maldives, the resorts are being developed to operate in a Cluster environment.  Both resorts have been tactically branded, designed and positioned to fill a niche in their respective markets while at the same time using common synergies and creating a viable and sustainable economy of scale.

Due to open in 2017, the Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort is a 68 villa mid-scale resort developed on Kooddoo Island which is a 50-minute domestic flight south of the capital Male’. The Mercure Resort is groundbreaking not only for its design, facilities, and amenities which will set a new benchmark for what a mid-scale property can deliver in relation to quality and guest experience but also for its location. The resort is located adjacent to a domestic airport making it the only full-service resort in the Maldives directly accessible 24 hours a day via domestic flight without the need for an additional speedboat voyage.

With Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, the guests can now have the best of both worlds — literally. They can experience the uncompromising quality of a global brand in a setting infused with local Maldivian character. The decor of the resort takes its cues from the spirit of travel, artistic and scenic atmosphere of Maldives and the Indian Ocean and it is different, original and locally inspired.

The global / local “glocal” approach of Mercure, which combines the worldwide commitment to quality with genuine conviviality, is a win-win formula for both the guests and the destination. When choosing a resort in the Maldives, travelers look for an experiential service with a sense of security, comfort and seamless service delivered by an experienced, worldwide operator such as AccorHotels. Yet they also seek authenticity and a friendly approach to help them discover the diversity of the local sights, sounds, and scenes. Mercure Maldives Kooddoo is now the perfect choice.

Both the design and the service delivery helps guests appreciate what’s different about the Mercure Maldives Kooddoo — the vivid colors, accents, fragrances and decorative motifs. The addition of warm textures and local design touches are used sparingly and tastefully throughout the resort evoke the spirit and charm of travel and inspire a passion for the Maldives and Indian Ocean.

The Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort which is due to open in late 2018 is a 120 villa on the one island / one resort principle located just 10 kilometers north of the Mercure.

Pullman Maldives Maamutaa is an in-style, upscale resort, connecting enjoyment with performance and encapsulating the Pullman brand philosophies of ‘our world is your playground’ and ‘time well lived’.

 

As we do this interview, Mercure Kooddoo is in final preparations for its opening. How has it gone? What have you learned from the experience?

The preparation and pre-opening of the Mercure Maldives Kooddoo resort has gone very well with great support given by the resort’s owners and AccorHotels.

The resort has been ready for operation for a while now but the decision was taken to defer the opening date so that renovation works at the nearby Kooddoo Airport could be completed to not inconvenience guests during their transfers to and from the resort.

Having worked very closely with the developers and construction team over the past 18 months I have learnt many interesting and valuable skills which not a lot hoteliers may get the opportunity to experience. An insight into areas such property leases, building permits, environmental impact assessments, quantity surveying, licensing and insurance have opened my eyes and given me a new understanding and appreciation of what the lawyers and developers have to deal with. It has been very interesting.

 

Would you do anything differently?

I am so proud and pleased with the team that we have gathered for this opening but if I was to do anything differently, perhaps I would order a few more spares of everything and I would not announce an opening date until I was more than certain it could be achieved.

 

Do you have any interesting anecdotes you can share about the journey?

Hotel openings expose you to a huge spectrum of experiences and emotions. Some standout experiences for me looking back are the creation of an amazing team and a beautiful product.  From starting alone in a borrowed office, with a borrowed laptop at the AccorHotels regional office in Bangkok to where we are today with an amazing team and product and one more on the way, it does give one an enormous sense of satisfaction.

Another experience that I will always treasure was the kindness, and compassion that some of the new friends that I met in in the southern Maldives showed me. When I first arrived on the island during the construction period life was a challenge. Access to some of the basic necessities was difficult and out of pure kindness my new friends went out of their way to look after me by taking me to their home islands for a good meal with their families or bringing me supplies when I got in a jam without ever once asking for anything in return.  It was a gesture of human spirit that I will never forget.

 

Is your team in place? What attributes were you looking for during the hiring process?

We have a great cadre of colleagues who are very excited to receive our first guests very soon. With have a few more colleagues standing by to come on board shortly to complete our team.

It may sound like a cliché, but we look for colleagues with a good heart and an open mind. We have a wonderful learning & development team who will happily invest the time to coach and empower new colleagues the skills required to perform their duties, but given we are in the hospitality industry we believe it is essential that all members joining our team show a passion for service and share our guest-centric ethos.

 

Is there a difference managing an island-based property to a land-based property? What are some of the challenges?

Yes, there is a difference.  Managing resorts in the Maldives is an exciting and professionally challenging undertaking as we are not only engaged in facilitating the fit-out and positioning of the property but in this kind of environment, we are responsible for creating a totally self-sufficient community. We are required to operate our own power and water production, waste management, logistics offices, staff welfare facilities, activate safety protocols, transport, health care, communications links and of course we need to have the required manpower with the particular skill set to do it.

Being on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean just above the equator is truly an isolated location so we are always mindful of maintaining our supply-chain, logistics, and provisions to ensure we can seamlessly cater to our staff and guests.

When I speak with some of the older folks in Maldives I am grateful for the new technologies available to us now which makes these tasks a lot more reliable and efficient than it would have been for the pioneers of the industry here in Maldives 20 or 30 years ago. It is hard to imagine in years past having limited access to telephones, no internet, no satellite TV, no GPS navigation and very few computers.  I think we have it easy these days.

 

Pullman Maamutaa is set to open in 2018. How far along are you in the project? What can you tell us about it?

Pullman Maldives Maamutaa is an in-style, upscale resort, connecting enjoyment with performance and encapsulating the Pullman brand philosophies of ‘our world is your playground’ and ‘time well lived’.

With 120 magnificent villas and a unique variety of food & beverage and leisure offerings all designed with the latest Pullman enhancements and technology in mind, we are very confident that Pullman Maldives Maamutaa can bring something contemporary and unique to the Maldives upscale market.

We have one very special and unique selling point up our sleeve which the architects and developers are finalizing now. But I do not want to spoil the surprise just yet.