The third Hotelier Maldives GM Forum, bringing together hospitality industry leaders of Maldives to discuss important aspects of the industry, has come to a successful close. Over 150 delegates representing over 40 hospitality brands attended the forum held at Kurumba Maldives on April 18, 2018.

The third in the series, this year’s forum discussed topics including tourism related taxation, guest transfers, wellness-related revenue opportunities and destination marketing trends. Keynote speakers in this years’ Forum were Ibrahim ‘Bandhu’ Saleem, a founding partner of Cyprea Group and Chairman of Solarelle Insurance; and Daniel Welk, Vice President, Luxury and Lifestyle, Asia Pacific, Hilton.

Saleem’s keynote address was themed around “Tourism in Maldives – A Historical Perspective”. He highlighted the humble beginnings of the tourism industry in the Maldives from prior to the opening of the first resort to the world-renowned luxury destination that it is today. His presentation gave insights into the trends in tourist arrivals, the industry’s contribution to the GDP of the country and to the Corporate Social Responsibilities of the companies in the industry.

Daniel Welk presented a speech on “Shifting Trends in Luxury Travel”. He focused on the evolving nature of the hospitality industry and how industry professionals must adapt to the changes. He emphasised on the emerging interest of luxury travellers for exclusivity and privacy during their vacations.

Welk also addressed the current trend of personalisation of services for the millennial traveller, given their tech-savvy nature, and highlighted the importance of engaging with Maldivian communities and contributing to the social and environmental causes.

One of the biggest highlights of the event was the announcement by Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, of the development of THE MURAKA – what is believed to be the world’s first undersea residence. The new level of accommodation, which is expected to open in November this year, was officially announced in the Maldives at the GM Forum.

The title sponsor of Hotelier GM Forum 2018, Dhiraagu touched on the relevant subject of the importance of communication and connectivity for the hospitality industry. The telecommunications leader reiterated its commitment to work with the industry to improve services in the different sectors.

Other notable speeches included an information and Q&A by Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) on tourism-related taxation and tax regulations. Platinum Sponsor HRS, KOHLER, Allied Insurance and Malé Water & Sewerage Company (MWSC) also introduced their products to the audience and explained how their products will help improve the efficiency and standard of services at the resorts and hotels.

One of the most important components of this year’s forum was the two panel discussions held to address key issues faced by the hospitality industry. The first panel covered the topic of prelude “Guest Transfers; What the Future Holds”. The panel comprised of A.U.M Fawzy, CEO, Trans Maldivian Airways; Abdulla Niyaz, Deputy Head of Maldivian Ground Operations, Island Aviation; and Abdulla Nashid, Managing Director, Villa Air.

The panel was moderated by Dr Simad Saeed, Managing Director of CDE Consulting. In a prelude to the panel discussion, Dr Simad presented key data on guest transfer related issues; gathered over several years through visitor surveys. Some of the issues highlighted in the presentation were; transfer capacity, costs, issues at the airport and future plans to resolves the challenges to providing visitors with better services. The panel also answered the questions from attendants on the topic.

The second panel, moderated by Abdulla Ghiyas Riyaz, President of Maldives Association of Tour Agents & Tour Operators (MATATO) discussed the topic of Trends in Destination marketing. The panel composed of Jean-Christophe Nager, General Manager, Huvafensfushi (representing The Small Maldives Island Co.); and Mohamed Shafraz, Deputy Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media, Kandima Maldives.

The panel discussed issues such as the use of data to understand target markets, the use of social media to promote properties and it’s potential to create overexposure that could negatively affect the exclusivity of Maldives. Prior to beginning the beginning the panel discussion, Abdulla Ghiyas also presented a report on Destination Marketing, which he illustrated with examples from the region and served as an introduction to the topic.

The moderator and the panel also engaged in discussions regarding promotion of Maldives as a destination using techniques such as storytelling, as done by some other countries in the world, given the rich history and culture of the country. The panellists also explored topics such as over-tourism and possible negative consequences of unregulated technologies such as drones.

In his closing remarks, Mohamed Mamduh, Managing Editor of Hotelier Maldives, noted the remarkable input from hoteliers across the board that enabled to program an insightful agenda for this year’s Forum with exclusive takeaways on the hospitality industry of Maldives and global trends in the industry.  He expressed gratitude to the hoteliers, suppliers and sponsors for their continued support and commitment to the forum every year.

The annual Hotelier GM Forum acts as a platform to discuss and make proactive adjustments to hotel and resort operations in the ever-changing hospitality market. It provides insight into relevant and significant trends in the industry and focuses on sharing knowledge, experiences and the solutions to adapt to the challenges faced by the hospitality industry.

The day-long event is one of the largest gatherings of hoteliers and hospitality professionals in the country. One of the unique aspects of the forum is providing a real-time networking platform for the attendants every year. The Forum also includes a networking reception in the evening.

Some of the brands that participated in the year’s GM Forum Coco Collection, Hilton, Lily Hotels & Resorts, Constance Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont, Diamond Resorts International, Jumeirah, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Adaaran Resorts Maldives, Universal Resorts, Crown & Champa Resorts, Baglioni Hotels, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, Dusit Thani, Soneva, Angsana, First & Foremost Hotels & Resorts, JA Resorts & Hotels, Taj, One&Only, InterContinental Hotels Group, Baglioni Hotels, Villa Hotels & Resorts, LUX* Resorts & Hotels, Cheval Blanc and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.

The Title Sponsor for this years’ GM Forum is Dhiraagu, while Platinum Sponsors are HRSKohlerSNS, MWSC and Allied Insurance, with Precor Inc. as a Silver Sponsor, SIMDI Group as the Beverage Partner and Cyprea Air & Holidays as the Travel Partner.