By David Keen, CEO, QUO
I travel. I am an adventurer. I seek laughter and love. I see truth. Be it truth in any one relationship; in the creation of a soul and in every single experience.
And that is why deep in brand Maldives lies a fundamental paradox. Travellers almost exclusively stay on their islands. Barely encouraged or even educated that there is any world outside of the postage stamp island they are calling their holiday paradise.
The restaurants, the bars, the magical water, the spa, the large or small rooms, the occasional island band… and that’s it. That is the Maldives and that is the experience that almost every operator, local or international, promises its guests.
Maldives is a nation. A proud, glorious nation. A culture filled with love, laughter, intrigue, history, family, architecture, gossip, children, schools, hospitals and the inevitable politics.
When I was asked to brand the nation, I chose to brand the nation through its people. How patronising, I felt, that this extraordinary island nation was defined by the sun and only spoken about as a nation where the rich go to show off their wealth on beaches made of gold.
I am not one to discard the country’s extraordinary natural assets. The sun, sea and island topography are all beguiling, but it is the Maldivian people that fascinate me. Their glorious smiles; the complex family relationships; the island geography and the deeply intriguing history. All compounded by the country’s exceptional growth and its even more exceptional future.
How much more intriguing would a trip to the Maldives be if a part of it was a day on a local island? A day experiencing the everyday lives of a village. A day capturing the history of generations living in an exceptionally confined space.
Our friends at Universal Resorts call Maldives home and are the founders of tourism to the country. At Kurumba and Velassaru, guests do leave the island. They go on the short journey to Malé to witness arguably the world’s densest capital city. Captivating lanes mingle with Mosques and shops, and visitors can witness a life which is the polar opposite to their island experience.
See Also: QUO Launches Kurumba's New Website
I urged one new brand to change the accepted norm. The result is a series of coordinated programmes for guests where they can spend an afternoon, a day or even longer on a neighbouring island.
Village elders now share oral histories with visitors. Mothers welcome guests to their homes to share ancient recipes. Foreigners go to schools and witness a few minutes of class or read to the children. The guests have the freedom to wander along the coral-walled avenues that define the village architecture.
They wander past bright laundry and witness the brilliant smiles that define the Maldivian villagers. Fishermen share their nets and their dhonis and impart on an age-old fishing culture that is the life blood of the village. And the children of the village splash in their pristine water and dive for artefacts from their past.
Guests return to their villas enriched. They return to their homes with more than simply stories of their indulgences on a luxury island. They return as adventurers.
Surely that is why we travel.