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It’s time to step into the unknown. According to Leanna Crowley, marketing communications manager of Six Senses Laamu, COVID-19 has stirred a hunger for adventure among travelers.
Now, they aren’t looking for the luxury hospitality industry to just offer retreats: they want resorts to be stewards into sensory escapes that stimulate connection and transformative experiences.
Reopened in August 2020, Six Senses Laamu is the only luxury resort on the remote Laamu atoll in the southern Maldives — and one of the most sustainable resorts in the world. Efforts include providing more than 4,000 local community members with access to clean drinking water and launching a citizen science program that empowers the community in conservation effort. It has been at the forefront of forecasting the trends that will guide the luxury hospitality industry in the future.
Main & Rose had the pleasure of speaking with Leanna about how resorts can help ease a sense of disconnection, why sustainability is crucial to brand longevity and guest satisfaction, and the tangible efforts properties can adopt in 2021.
What are some of the biggest trends you expect to see in luxury hospitality in 2021? Can you speak to what may be the impetus behind them?
It has become clear that guests’ needs and desires have shifted, a sure reflection of the changes going on at a global level. An inevitable trend is the desire to travel to remote areas which are naturally isolated, providing safety and reassurance for guests.
We have also been welcoming guests who are seeking a more profound connection to their natural surroundings and those around them. This year has forced humans inside and on screens, stripping away adventures and dulling their senses. Because of this, travelers are actively searching for destinations and experiences which provide opportunities to reawaken those senses, reconnect with nature and achieve deeper self-connection; destinations which prioritize sustainability, wellness and adventure.
An increase in solo travelers is another trend we have already seen occurring. These guests are among those who have the strongest intentions behind their travels, often to learn new skills (such as diving or surfing), work on their personal wellness or reconnect with their body and mind.
Sustainability and social justice are becoming increasingly important factors in guests deciding what hotels they stay with. What trends have you noticed among luxury hotels specifically towards sustainability efforts?
Luxury resorts in the most sought-after destinations often rely primarily on their surrounding natural beauty to attract sales, thus environmental protection is vital for long term profitability.
It seems it is no longer enough to simply admire a pretty view, guests are seeking a deeper understanding of the natural world and what can be done to protect it. Our marine biology team, the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MIU), provides guided snorkels, workshops and presentations for our guests. Not only do they share insights into the local marine creatures and ecosystems, they also advise guests on the threats they face, the research being conducted to conserve them and what the guests can do, both at the resort and at home, in order to help.
The younger generations are extremely passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to the health of our planet, and they also have a heavy influence on the family’s decision. So, programs such as Grow with Six Senses, which reconnects kids with nature and teaches them useful life skills through play, are a huge selling point for luxury hotels globally.
Six Senses is a brand with sustainability at its core. What are some of the key sustainability efforts you’ve implemented at the property?
From zero waste to plastic free, we stay open to where and how we can continue to improve on our impact and sustainability initiatives – and we actively measure how we’re doing and post our sustainability results on our website.
Waste management is one of the biggest challenges in the Maldives, so we aim to create as little as possible. We reduce our waste by printing responsibly, encouraging our suppliers to reduce packaging when delivering supplies and ordering in bulk whenever possible, banning single-use plastics and recycling all organic waste for mulching and converting to organic garden soil.
Our marine biology team has developed extensive databases for Laamu’s marine biodiversity, as well as the local manta ray and sea turtle populations. They conduct annual surveys on coral reef and seagrass ecosystems at the resort and further across the atoll. The team works closely with the local fisher community to ensure all fish served at the resort is caught and sold in a sustainable way, and the local economy is supported. Their research has gone on to create a campaign, which has protected over 900,000 square meters of seagrass meadows in resorts nationwide.
How do you educate guests about the importance of these issues, and how do you get them involved in not just experiencing sustainability practices, but engaging with them?
Communicating these initiatives and educating guests on marine conservation is at the core of the MUI team’s operations. Guests have the opportunity to join the team on citizen science snorkels and dives, listen to daily presentations and encounter local marine life, such as turtle hatchlings, manta rays and dolphins, in a sustainable way by following the team’s code of conduct. The resort continues to support their marine conservation initiatives with the goal of eventually creating marine reserves in Laamu atoll.
How does sustainability relate to a luxury property’s relationship with the surrounding environment and local culture?
By being responsible today, luxury properties ensure that the unique environments, cultures and experiences shared with guests will be experienced for generations to come. At Six Senses Laamu, through our brand values of ‘Local Sensitivity, Global Sensibility’ and ‘Responsible and Caring,’ we strive to work in unison with our local community and ecosystems.
This includes ensuring all development at the resort uses local products and does not impact on the local flora and fauna. We understand the threats local ecosystems face (even if these threats come from external sources) and accept responsibility for our surroundings in order to help protect and conserve them. We also recognize the importance of local culture and livelihoods, and ensure that these are preserved through recruiting and sourcing locally.
You mentioned earlier that guests are seeking experiences that re-awaken their senses. How can properties create meaningful experiences for guests that capture and share local culture?
Visiting our neighboring islands is a sought-after experience for our guests. We offer a local island excursion where guests wander the village streets and visit a local home, the island school, community office, the old mosque and grocery stores to experience the true Maldivian way of life. Guests are also given the chance to venture into the mangroves, which are not only beautiful to look at, but also provide a significant role for the local economy, as women used the mud flats to harvest coconut husks for rope.
For those preferring to stay on the island, we also offer many other opportunities to experience Maldivian culture. A highlight of each week is a sunset cocktail party on the beach where Boduberu drummers perform a number of local songs. Our Maldivian cooking class lets guests learn, from local chefs, how to make the delicious local delicacies severed across our outlets. Once a week, a member of our sustainability team hosts a complimentary presentation all about local culture and Maldivian history.
Five-star service is a significant draw of the luxury experience. How do you create a company culture that’s inspiring and encourages creativity and pride in your team?
At Six Senses Laamu and in our corporate office, there is an undeniable passion amongst our team.
We believe our hosts are our greatest assets and thus the team’s wellness is of utmost priority for the resort. Mission Wellness an internal initiative which helps hosts be mindful of their personal and collective wellbeing and take steps towards being their best selves. Through regular activities and workshops, hosts are provided with opportunities to develop their wellbeing across the Eight Dimensions of Wellness: Emotional, Environmental, Financial, Intellectual, Occupational, Physical, Social and Spiritual wellness.
The leadership at Six Senses Laamu is also to thank for the passionate company culture we have crafted. Our general manager, Marteyne van Well, has been overseeing operations at the resort for over nine years. As an avid diver and marine conservationist, her passion for sustainability is contagious and has resulted in a team who is equally driven to create a better future for Laamu. The Maldives Underwater Initiative also focuses much of its time on educating fellow hosts through workshops and guided snorkels, helping spread inspiration for its mission. Our spa team and wellness experts welcome opportunities to share insights with hosts on how to better look after their mind and body.
At Six Senses Laamu, there is a culture of sharing knowledge and insights which has led to a team that is equally passionate and multi-talented.