Soneva JaniCheval Blanc
Soneva JaniCheval Blanc LATTE chats with Di Lechner, founder of the luxury travel concierge Addicted to Maldives, about romantic requests, the importance of a personalised touch, the differences between a travel concierge and travel agent, and her unshakeable love of the Maldives.Explain what the role of a luxury travel concierge service means to you.As a luxury Travel Concierge, we offer our clients a very personalised service. The Maldives as a destination are quite unique and the offerings there are huge. As a traveller to the Maldives, we understand that it can be quite overwhelming once you start trawling through Google and brochures to choose the right resort. We take the time to get to know each client, understanding their likes, dislikes and what they want from their holiday – and then curate a bespoke holiday experience for them.We offer a totally inclusive holiday experience from beginning to end including arranging flights and stopover accommodation, to personalising itineraries filled with romantic proposals or private island family picnics. No request is too difficult.What do you believe is the difference between a travel concierge service and a travel agent?Real experience! Based on my own experiences in trying to book our Maldives trips in the past, I struggled to find a travel agent who understood the different offerings of each resort in the Maldives, let alone had been there for themselves.My experience, made up of more than 20 trips to the Maldives over the past nine years, has provided me with a thorough understanding of the Maldives as a destination and also the different offerings of each resort vs the next.For example, we know that the seaplanes don’t operate past sunset each day so we always recommend that our clients arrive into Male on a morning flight otherwise they might be forced to spend the night in the capital or at a resort that is located close to the airport. It’s details like this that can make or break one’s holiday… the Maldives is an expensive destination to visit and in many instances for some of our clients, a bucket list item or once in a lifetime trip. We know how important it is to choose the right resort and given the logistical challenges of the Maldives, it’s an expensive mistake to choose the wrong resort. As a Maldives specialist, we are able to remove that risk for our clients.Addicted to Maldives specialises in “experiences, not just holidays”. Can you give us some examples of the personalised touches your company offers clients?When creating our business, we knew we wanted to be able to offer our clients more than just a holiday and we didn’t want to be one of those tick and click online booking engines. The entire “experience” begins with your very first enquiry with Addicted to Maldives. Through our unique Guest Discovery Consultation we take the time to understand what each individual client is looking for in their trip to the Maldives, their likes and dislikes, what is important to them and what we can do to ensure that their trip is everything they envisage it to be.Drawing on our own personal experiences in the Maldives, we are able to advise our clients based on real experiences and not just on something we have read in a brochure. We know because we go and have experienced it for ourselves. In many instances, we send our clients real photos from our own personal travels to the Maldives which allows our clients to see exactly how each resort looks compared to the traditional marketing images that clients would usually see.And because we have dedicated the time to getting to know your preferences through our Guest Discovery Consultation, we communicate directly with resort ahead of your arrival, your preferred choice of champagne, any dietary requirements, what items you might like to have stocked in your mini bar, any activities that your children might enjoy, etc.We also have direct relationships with our resort partners which means that there is no middle-man and we are dealing with the resorts and their teams directly. This allows us to not only be competitive when it comes to rates, but it also enables us to offer our clients VIP exclusives such as complimentary room upgrades, extra discounts, and some nice little extra inclusions like a champagne sunset cruise or perhaps a couple’s spa treatment to enjoy.We bring all of the above components together to create an overall “experience” for our client from the very beginning right through to their arrival back home.What is the strangest request you have ever received? What is the best?I know I’m going to sound really boring here but to be honest, I haven’t received any requests that were too strange… not yet anyway! The best would have to be working with a client who was surprising his wife-to-be with a honeymoon to the Maldives. She had absolutely no idea where they were going and he had her convinced that they were going to Antarctica! I was given free reign from this client to curate a personalised itinerary for them which included some amazing experiences like private island picnics, moonlight cinemas under the stars, island hopping by jet ski and a day exploring some of the Maldives most stunning atolls on board a super-luxe yacht… with a private chef and vintage champagne, of course.What does luxury mean to you?Luxury to me is not just an amazing room or villa, it is about all of the finer details coming together to create an overall experience. That is what we focus on at Addicted to Maldives… bringing together all of those small but important details to create the ultimate holiday experience for our clients.How do you balance technology with human service to provide the luxury experience?As a global business, we are dealing with clients daily from all corners of the globe. We make it a priority to establish upfront the preferred means of communication with each individual client. Some of our time-poor execs prefer me to contact them via text message and email, while for our international clients, WhatsApp works really well. I also often have coffee catch ups (well sometimes we do peach Bellinis) with my clients who are Sydney-based and we discuss all things Maldives face to face. By incorporating things like sharing photos and videos from our own travels to the Maldives with our clients, it still enables us to offer our clients that human interaction and personalised service while communicating with them in a manner that works around their lifestyle and schedules.How important has the role of social media been in the promotion and marketing of your company?Social media has played a huge role in the launch and marketing of Addicted to Maldives. Instagram and Facebook in particular have shown us overwhelmingly positive results. By sharing images from our recent trips, we are able to speak to a huge potential market and tap into client’s that potentially may not have knows about us otherwise.What sparked your love of the Maldives?Having first visited the Maldives on my honeymoon back in 2008, I instantly fell in love with the destination. Yes, we were a loved-up couple and that no doubt played a part initially, but having already spent so much time travelling the world and experiencing other countries and luxury resorts, we had plenty to compare to, but nowhere else was quite like the Maldives. The destination itself is incredible. The sand is whiter and softer there, the water clearer and a brighter blue, the diversity in marine life is jaw dropping, the villas are more like houses than rooms, the food and beverage offerings amazing and the service so genuine and welcoming… what is there not to love!What is it about this destination in particular that you love so much? Why should travellers visit this destination right now?The Maldives is so unique as a destination. The whole “one resort per island” offers a true island escape like no other. To literally be stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean where your closest neighbour is generally a towering palm tree or an exquisite sandbank is hard to beat.Known for its luxury accommodation and offerings, the Maldives really does set the standard worldwide when it comes to luxury travel. The Maldives is also home to a few ‘world firsts’ including the world’s first underwater spa at PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi, and underwater restaurants at Anantara Kihavah Villas, PER AQUUM Niyama and Conrad Rangali Island.In addition to that, the Maldives has recently seen the first true beach club-style resort open its doors. As a destination, resort owners and operators understand that the Maldives is commonly recognised as a honeymoon destination in which couples in a bubble of love flock to in search of a romantic getaway, but now they are making way for families and groups of friends to enjoy the turquoise offerings of this magical destination also.Finolhu is a new resort in Baa Atoll which offers a variety of daily entertainment… think retro pool parties with international DJs, acrobats and fire eaters… it’s a very cool beach club scene that would be at home in anyone of Europe’s infamous beaches.LATTE signature question: What’s the best coffee experience you’ve ever had?In the Maldives I’m usually swapping my morning coffee for a glass of bubbles but on a recent trip to Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, we stayed in an incredible three-bedroom Pool Villa that offered a second floor with sublime sunrise views over the ocean. Many mornings I enjoyed a skinny cap while lazing on one of the oversized outdoor lounges. Watching a friendly island bunny or two hop about the sand below made those morning coffees pretty memorable.