Milestones: Kuredu – Standing the test of time
If you talk to most prospective tourism developers in the Maldives about the importance of location – more specifically, the distance from the country’s only international airport for over 40 years – they would say it is paramount. And so it is. In a country where the convenience of sea transport can often be at the mercy of the weather pattern, long sea journeys cannot have been a very pleasant or attractive way to transport tourists to resorts. Most European tourists, who remained the primary market for Maldives until the emergence of China and Middle Eastern Markets, already would have several hours of flying behind them when they arrive in the country. So supplementing this with a long sea journey, especially if the weather is rough, can be very taxing indeed. Hence, investors are always skeptical if they are to develop a resort away from Male International Airport.
This all changed with the development of the Ari Zone, when resorts sprung up in Ari Atoll (known administratively as Alifu Dhaalu and Alifu Alifu) in the early ‘90s. However, unique challenges had to be overcome to make this move successful. Helicopters were initially introduced to ferry tourists from the airport to the resorts. But due to some disastrous accidents, seaplanes were later introduced and this has proved to be one of the safest and efficient ways for inter-island transport since then.
With this prevalent scenario, thinking of developing a resort in Lhaviyani atoll, in the ‘80s, would have clearly been a case of ‘out of the box’ thinking. Helicopters and seaplanes will take several more years to start operating in the country.Kuredu Now
It takes 40 minutes by seaplane to arrive at Kuredu Island Resort, a short, scenic flight to Lhaviyani atoll. I gaze down from the small window at small specks of emerald green scattered across the deep blue ocean – it is indeed a breathtaking sight.
Kuredu is owned by Champa Brothers, Lars Petre and Mats Petre and managed by Crown and Champa Resorts (CCR) who manages 5 resorts in the Maldives at present. Lars Petre met up with Directors of Crown Company, who had taken over the island for development as a resort from the lease holders of the island. At the time the island was developed by the lease holders in a very primitive way with few cadjan huts, catering to a few European tourists who came there for fishing and diving.
Lars Petre helped to get the major part of the funding from a major tour operator in Scandinavia for development of the island.
I sit down with Lars Petre, co-owner of the island.
After the island was developed with 150 guest rooms and other facilities, Lars Petre helped to bring tourists to the island by starting charter flights from Scandinavia, sometimes as much as 3 flights a week. In the late ‘80s Lars Petre and Mohamed Moosa (Champa Brothers) took over the management and later purchased the island. Lars and Champa Brothers have other ongoing developments including Hurawalhi Island Resort, set to open later this year, boasting an underwater restaurant.“In the beginning, it was difficult. Lhaviyani atoll is far from the airport. And seeing as we didn’t yet have the seaplane, transfer from the airport to the resort was one of the biggest challenges we faced,” Lars explains. “But with a lot of hard work and team effort we managed to get the resort up and running.” One year after opening, we brought a bigger oceangoing boat to make transferring guests back and forth a little bit easier. “When the weather was good, it would take about three hours to get here from the airport. But when the weather was bad, it took six hours to get to the resort from the airport.”
With over 30 per cent of repeater guests each year, Kuredu has a high occupancy rate throughout the year. Throughout our conversation, Lars stresses that it is competence and proficiency of his employees that play a major role in making guests keep coming back. “Guests feel at home here”, he says.
In an effort to motivate the staff, and as a means of offering more activities to the guests, the management offers different recreational activities for both parties. Utilizing the vast land on the island to its fullest, the management has built a six hole pitch & putt golf course on the island. This golf course is dubbed the first golf course in the country yet; a very famous one amongst avid golfers. Another big highlight is the FIFA approved football pitch. This artificial turf is world-class and fits the regulations of FIFA, so any team is able to practice here.
The resort also offers three swimming pools, a tennis court and during the night, the weekly White Party is one of the most popular and anticipated events at the resort. With some of the best DJ’s in the country spinning the decks, guests can dance away into the night here. Be it sitting at the bar and enjoying some of the heavenly cocktails, or taking part in the nightly activities, Kuredu really offers something for everybody.
With the incredible greenery on the island, guests are given their own privacy when in the bungalows, and rooms. Driving around in the buggy, the rooms are hidden away within the lush vegetation. With over 6 different room categories, guests can choose from a variety of accommodation options ranging from Sultan Pool Villas, Villa Family Suite, Sangu Water Villas to Honeymoon Suite, Jacuzzi Beach Villas, Beach Villas, Beach Bungalows, and Garden Bungalows, the rooms are spacious, private and offers the utmost comfort for any guest.
Kuredu also offers a range of restaurants for guests, including Bonthi, Koamas and Sangu. The à la carte restaurants include Franco’s, with an all-day dining menu featuring Mediterranean cuisine as well as pizza, burgers and sandwiches. The Far East, offers a very special Teppanyaki menu, and The Beach serves fresh seafood and steaks.
The company has ambitious plans for the future, the latest project being the construction of the island of ‘Hurawalhi’. Hurawalhi is set to open in October this year. The highlight of this brand new resort will be a luxurious underwater restaurant. Hurawalhi is a small, yet beautiful island, in the making of becoming something extraordinary.
One thing I noticed throughout my conversation with Lars is that he stressed on how the staff was the main focus of the island. “If you keep the staff happy, the guests are happy, and when the guests are happy, the management is happy.” The success of this resort is attributed to the dedicated management and the team who have stuck with them throughout the years. An island with so much to offer, Kuredu keeps winning the hearts of their guests, time and time again.