A question that is asked frequently to us here at Dhonisaurus – and by frequent, we mean more than once – is what destinations are available for families coming to the Maldives that can be enjoyed by guests of any age?
According to Adrian Neville
, a Maldives travel writer extraordinaire - not to mention a friend of Dhonisaurus - it is a question that up until recently hasn't been easy to answer for tourists looking to take a family break in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
“As for family resorts. Up until a few years ago there were almost no children to be found outside of the Italian resorts and the two One & Only [resorts] - now just one. It was all couples. It is since the global economic downturn that resorts have begun adjusting to attract families,” says Neville. “Essentially it is about opening up to children, wanting them and welcoming them. The hardware is easy enough (cots, extra beds, even children's clubs). For an island, there should be plenty of shade around the rooms, the lagoon should be shallow - near shore at least - and slope gently.”
From his own experiences of visiting properties around the Maldives, Neville said he believed that an emergence of four and even five star, all-inclusive family resorts accross the country were quickly establishing themselves as a lucrative business model for adapting to an increasingly competitive Indian Ocean travel market.
The travel writer claims that when it comes to taking children to a destination such as the Maldives, which is often renowned for chiq, above water villas and romanctic seclusion, there was little need to set age limits to establish a destination's particular suitability for children.
“Any age child can be happy [in the Maldives] - it's a sandpit after all. The really young ones are going to be time consuming wherever you are,” he said. “Many resorts are not happy having kids in the water bungalows, others allow if you sign a waiver. Anyone who can swim would be fine on them. All waterbungalow's balconies have 'fences', except for the new ones on Diamonds Athuruga Beach and Water-villas
that are unimpeded - and much better for it."
Since opening back in April 2009, the Constance Halaveli resort in Alifu Atoll has aimed to cater for guests of all ages and interests; from couples looking for romantic seclusion to parents and their children wishing for a relaxing beach break.
Speaking to Dhonisaurus, the resort's general manager claims that the property aims to support the needs of guests with children by providing amenities such as strollers, cots, steriliser and bathroom care items. Constance Halaveli says it also offers special menus designed for younger palates at all its restaurants, along with diving and water sports programmes for all ages and a dedicated babysitting service.
According the general manager, being able to provide such services is increasingly attractive to tourists.
“The Maldives has been traditionally perceived and thus targeted as a romantic tropical destination for couples,” the resort chief adds. “However, we are seeing an increased number of families arriving to the Maldives. This has increased the demand for family friendly properties because of the Maldives' favourable weather and warm sandy beaches.”
Amongst its attempts to entertain and host guests of all ages, the resort has this month begun offering a limited number of beach villas that have been converted to appeal to families. These properties are designed with adjoining kids rooms to offer more space in between spending family time together - which can perhaps feel like hard work at times for both parents and children.
As well as trying to give parents and children a sense of privacy that is sometimes useful during family outings, Constance Halaveli's general manager said that all the adjoining rooms were fitted out with tvs and Playstation 3 video game consoles - for times when its beaches and kids clubs – which run between nine in the morning and nine at night - may not be entertaining enough.
“A limited number of beach villas will have an adjoining kids room to give families the freedom to have a fun filled holiday, whilst still evoking the sense of a luxurious getaway,” the GM adds. “Generally, we can cater for all ages. However, our Kuda Club starts for children from the age 4 years and we do require a signed disclaimer form for children below 6 years to stay in a water villa. With this in mind, we also offer babysitting services, which gives an option of having a well deserved break for the parents at their convenience.”
Keeping the romance
Through the provision of these services, Constance Halaveli says that in working to cater for families, resort properties in the Maldives need not detract from their potential to entice couples and guests looking for a quiet romantic break.
“To maintain the concept of a luxury hideaway, we aim to achieve this in the design and location of our family villas. Our family villa's are located on the opposite side of the island to where our most preferred villa's chosen by couples are. This gives honeymooners and families the space they need to enjoy their vacation without disturbance," says the resort's manager. “For example, our villas all have the convenience of their own plunge pools and plenty of space to have a romantic or family dinner."
These attempts to extend the resort's appeal have not appeared to be without its challenges though for Constance Hotels, which said that it had to ensure to maintain the romanticism of its food and wine operations at properties like the Jing Restaurant, while providing an experience that appeals to parents and chldren as well.
“Our fine dining restaurant Jing is a romantic over water venue with 180 degree views of the Indian Ocean,” said the resort's general manager. “One of the challenges with the introduction of the family concept at Halaveli is to maintain this ambience whilst making Jing restaurant a dining experience for both target markets.”
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