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Published on: May 15, 2022, 7:58 p.m.
‘Islands of love’
  • Island of love offers couples an incredible romantic getaway

By Suman Tarafdar

The first thing one notices while approaching the brand new Oblu Select Lobigili, Maldives’ newest resort, is what appears to be a heart shaped island. A coincidental perfect little love nest? Turns out, it’s not by happenstance, but design. For the resort whose name – Lobigili – literally means island of love, it has a number of innovations too.

Oblu Select Lobigili is a new adults-only ‘Island of love’, offering couples an incredible romantic getaway, reflecting the true essence of Maldives, says Jorge Amaro, General Manager Oblu Select Lobigili and Oblu Xperience Ailafushi, an adjacent resort that will ultimately get linked by with the former by a bridge.

Note the words ‘adults only’. “In the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, ‘Loabi’ means love and ‘Gili’ means island,” explains Amaro. “Lobigili is, in essence, the island of love. Oblu Select Lobigili is an adults-only resort, with every aspect designed for couples to share carefree time together. The stylishly designed beach and water villas promise brilliant lagoon views and absolute privacy. Couples have the advantage of enjoying everything they want without any restrictions. It is a perfect getaway for two.”

A huge advantage for the resort is its proximity to the national capital Malé. Indeed, visitors can see newer parts of the capital from the hotel itself. Which leads to another huge advantage – guests can access the resort via speedboat instead of the very expensive, and not so comfortable seaplanes, otherwise the lifeline of tourism in the country. Instead, a quick ten-minute speedboat ride gets you to the island. 

The resort, which has 44 water villas and 24 beach villas – offers all the usual delights of Maldivian resorts – multi-hued sunsets, white sandy beaches, clear as crystal waters, and of course water-based activities such snorkelling, dolphin/shark/other marine life spotting. The resorts share an overwater gym, and on the cards is an underwater restaurant and a food truck.

 The resort has a number of features, tangible and otherwise, that provide the luxury experience, such as on arrival, guests are serenaded with soulful music and a warm welcome by our ‘Island Hosts and Island Hostesses’. Yes, there is even an island chief! Don’t expect the uber luxe experience that some Maldivian resorts are known for.

Lobigili island is connected to the soon to open neighbouring Ailafushi island by a scenic 270m interconnecting jetty. Travellers can take their pick – Island of Love or the Family Island, says Amaro. “Across the jetty is the fun and laidback four-star resort Ailafushi. The value-driven services and playful experiences here allow families, friends, and the millennial-minded travellers to experience the magic of connection. The two sub-brands complement each other. And residents at Lobigili can also choose to stroll over to neighbouring Ailafushi and mix it up with a different world of enchanting sights, sounds, and culture.” Note of caution, it doesn’t work the other way – Ailafushi guests will not be permitted to go to Lobigili, according to the plan.

Atmosphere is growing

It may not be the top of the mind recall, but Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts is one of the fastest growing hotel groups in Maldives. “Since the launch of our first luxury resort, Atmosphere Kanifushi in 2013, we have opened one resort almost every year,” points out Amaro. “Today the company operates seven resorts in the Maldives. Our eighth property Oblu Xperience Ailafushi will open soon. At the heart of the successful journey is the Atmosphere Family, our deep market penetration, built through consistent engagement with a personal touch.”

Atmosphere Hotels has built a varied brand portfolio comprising The Ozen Collection, Colours of Oblu, and By Atmosphere. “We offer something for every traveller, whatever experience they prefer. From nature-focused adventure to adults-only experiences, from unsurpassed luxury to a tech-savvy stay – our brand portfolio has it all,” stresses Amaro.

“With By Atmosphere, our first brand, we handpicked a set of distinct white label resorts. Designed to showcase the beautiful habitats where they are located, these resorts treasure local culture and heritage. The finest of our portfolio is The Ozen Collection. Tailored to the sophisticated travel elite, these resorts promise a soulful stay with a refined, elegant lifestyle. And last year, we launched our third brand – Colours of Oblu. With this, guests can witness vibrant destinations come alive through engaging activities, invigorating experiences, and a playful, lively, and fun atmosphere.”

Of course, Covid has had an impact, besides delaying the opening. “Traditionally, Russia was the top feeder market for Atmosphere until 2019,” says Amaro. “However, in recent years, since the Maldives opened its borders on 15 July 2020, India has become our largest source market followed by the UK and Russia. With our resorts being favoured among families and honeymooners from India, this market remains very crucial for us.”

In a significant move, the company is looking to expand beyond Maldives, including India. “The group is poised to grow and establish a strong presence in India, creating an expanded network of the Atmosphere Family,” says Amaro.

“The goal is to ensure that we deliver on the rich cultural diversity and natural beauty of India, assimilating its colourful spirit into the Atmosphere portfolio. Expanding into India is a kind of a homecoming for us, with Salil Panigrahi, our founder and managing director, hailing from India. We are passionate and eager to bring back to India Salil’s unique vision – Joy of Giving.”

Panigrahi, who hails from Odisha, started his career as a certified chartered accountant at Oberoi Hotels & Resort, before venturing to start Atmosphere Hotels. With more and more Indians getting familiar with the group’s brands in Maldives, winning hearts in India could be that much easier for the group’s brands.

Women only, please

No, that’s not applicable for guests, but there is an unusual aspect at Oblu Select Lobigili. The staff is almost entirely women, not the norm in Maldivian resorts. “Having a majority of women in the workforce is uncommon in the Maldives, with typically 25 per cent staff strength of women at most resorts,” points out Jorge Amaro.

“In contrast, 85 per cent of our 100-strong workforce comprises women. Women are naturally equipped with soft skills, a huge asset in the male-dominated hospitality sector. This deliberate strategy by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts provides opportunities for women to grow, whilst also adding a softer, soft feminine touch to the service experience – ideal for our couple’s exclusive resort.”

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