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November 16, 2020 - With the welcome news that the Maldives is open to tourists and on the safe list for many countries, we talk to the Six Senses Laamu team about their experiences and hopes for the future as the resort continues to deliver its trademark care.
A video call with Six Senses Laamu’s General Manager Marteyne van Well and Marketing Communications Manager (and tropical island storyteller) Leanna Crowley is a heartwarming experience. Even the palm trees seem to be waving in the background.
The resort turned the page onto a new chapter when it reopened on August 1, after a four-month temporary closure. It is becoming clear to the duo that guests’ needs and wants have shifted, possibly a reflection of the changes going on at a global level.
“Firstly, with the support of our owners and Six Senses, we are fully open and offering all services,” says Marteyne. “We have a wonderful variety of dining options available to our guests every night, all experiences are running and there are no limitations on our spa, daily yoga and fitness activities, diving, surfing and watersports. Feedback from guests has been that not having reduced our offering makes a real difference and having no changes in terms of the choices and possibilities is much valued and appreciated. The resort has always been naturally distanced and spaced out with virtually all venues favoring the open air, which is really appealing to guests right now, especially those seeking a more profound connection to their natural surroundings. They are also arriving with a lot more purpose behind their travels.”
“Guests have a greater interest and desire to learn more about the ocean and how to protect it,” says Leanna. “On an operational front, you could say day-to-day activities are running as ‘normal’ but people’s perceptions have changed. Our average snorkel time has doubled to well over an hour. One couple came here with the express purpose of learning how to plant a microgreens garden having been inspired by our online tutorial.”
Marteyne adds: “Life has changed for a lot of people and this leads to new intentions. A recent guest told us that he had a fear of water so had never considered the Maldives. After spending the spring lockdown in an apartment in New York, however, he decided that life was short and traveled to Six Senses Laamu, not just to learn to swim but to dive and conquer his fear of water. It was wonderful to see the transformation. Another couple shared that they have spent their married life placating each other on vacation, but this time they started to do their own activities, whether that meant learning to surf, doing a Maldivian cooking class or committing to a renewed focus on mental clarity and calmness through meditation and yoga. They left feeling in a more profound place having refound something in themselves and each other. It’s wonderful we’re in the position to offer so many experiences that inspire people.”
Six Senses Laamu made the tough decision to close to guests at the end of March, once all guests had safely left the resort. Marteyne and Leanna had the opposite problem of trying to get back onto the resort, as they were both out of the country when the government closed its borders.
Marteyne had been enjoying a long-planned vacation in a remote area of Cuba with no internet access and little communication with the outside world: “I arrived back into Havana with very few travel options, so I flew to the Netherlands to spend a few days with my brother … I ended up staying for 16 weeks.”
Although her brother may have had to set a few ground rules about Marteyne’s constant video calls from his kitchen table, she stayed in close touch with the owners and Resident Manager Graeme Freemen. Together they ensured that hosts who needed to repatriate could fly home. The core team of 178 hosts, the majority of which are local residents, remained on the island and moved over to the engineering team to focus on villa and garden maintenance. “A lot of work needed to be done as it’s the only opportunity you can get into every villa. I would have loved to have been there. After all, I arrived in the Netherlands in March with only a few pairs of shorts and my dive gear!”
Leanna had flown back to her parents’ home in the UAE for a planned family long weekend event. Instead, she was caught in a total lockdown, unable to leave the house even for exercise. “Two things kept me going. The first was home fitness videos and live wellness activities, some posted as part of the At Home With Six Senses campaign. The second was our online Junior Marine Biology program.”
Leanna had just transitioned from her role as a Communications Coordinator for the Maldives Underwater Initiative and so she was already in touch with a lot of creative and enthusiastic marine biologists. A conversation with her mum, an e-learning specialist, as well as a teacher friend who was struggling to home school her children back in her native country of Ireland, turned into a lightbulb moment.
“We had already launched our on-resort Junior Marine Biology program in 2019. Everyone was a bit lost at the beginning of lockdown so we started to brainstorm the possibility of putting some content online for budding conservationists. Our marine biologists and NGO partners were still at the resort and my colleague Lawrence Menz had a lot of presenting experience and passion for children’s education. The steepest learning curve was figuring out the video editing, which I did from the UEA, something that kept me up way past my bedtime! Marteyne gave the project the go ahead and what started out as a ‘great idea’ turned into a 10-week course.”
The program was a resounding success with Leanna’s care and attention rewarded by the creativity and dedication of the children. Their final video compilation of jokes and reasons why they love marine biology was particularly touching. “Just hearing how hard it had been to home school children and to know you can have an impact was really great. Some of our kids created their own videos, improving their self-esteem and ability to communicate. I think it provided relief to the parents too. It was also a wonderful way to keep in touch with the team. Lawrence would record silly snippets for me, which of course I had to edit out of the final cut!”
Marteyne stepped back onto the jetty at Six Senses Laamu on July 16, with Leanna arriving a day later. “We had a few stops and starts because of changing government measures, but opening on August 1 felt wonderful,” says Marteyne. “Our focus going forward is to continue to create meaningful connections with our guests. It’s what drives our team. There is a saying along the lines of ‘you become somebody the moment you are able to be somebody for someone else’ and it profoundly inspires us to be able to be here for our guests and contribute positively to their experience.”
Going forward, Leanna has dusted off her surfboard and is spending her free time rediscovering her love for the ocean. In her free time, Marteyne continues to share her passion for the ocean by making beautiful underwater videos and is determined to master the DaVinci Resolve video editing software.
Both remain resolutely focused on their guests. “Marteyne always says there is no excuse for not knowing everyone’s name,” adds Leanna. “From our marine biologists to our hosts, everyone spends extra moments to make these personal connections.”
Marteyne agrees: “I’m grateful for what we have and what we are able to offer here. Someone wise once said: ‘Work is expending effort on things we don’t want to do. Passion is expending energy on things we love to do. The goal is to do no work!’”
You may have heard the rumors that Summer 2020 was postponed or even canceled. We're delighted to let you in on a secret: in Laamu, summer is here to stay!