With over 25 year’s experience in the hospitality industry, Alexander Blair, the General Manager of The St Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, knows his stuff. Appointed as GM in May this year, Alexander has previously helmed other distinguished 5-star hotels such as the Al Faisaliah in Saudi Arabia, and the Oriental Residence in Bangkok. The Vommuli Resort however, is something quite special. 40 minutes by seaplane from Male, the capital of the Maldives, the resort transports guests to a secluded tropical village, nestled away on its own private island, surrounded by the turquoise ocean and the beautiful marine life that inhabits the waters. We catch up with the GM of this amazing place on why the resort is considered the most luxurious in the Maldives, which country is on his bucket list, and why he thinks Dubai does luxury like no others.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort opened November 2016 and has since become one of the most luxurious resorts on the island. How have you and your team achieved this?
We combine an uncompromising level of service with compelling design and world-class facilities, to create one of the most luxurious retreats in the Maldives. From the moment each guest arrives in the Maldives, their every need is taken care of as part of the impeccable St. Regis service – from a Bentley transfer to the seaplane terminal and personal 24-hour butler service, to the Family Traditions activity programme for children.
When it comes to facilities, our guests are spoilt for choice. The resort is home to the Iridium Spa – which is the largest overwater spa in the Maldives – plus the world-class Vommuli Dive & Watersports Centre, offering everything from windsurfing and kayaking, to dolphin cruises and sunset fishing.
We also offer anti-gravity yoga and Jumping Fitness, a specially-developed trampoline workout which is the first of its kind in the Maldives. Wellness is very popular among our guests – which is why we are delighted to be launching our partnership with UK personal trainer and blogger Zanna Van Dijk, who will be hosting a residency at the beginning of November. She’ll be on hand with specially-curated workouts plus tips and advice for a healthy and happy lifestyle.
The resort has an unusual and contemporary design – tell us more about this and how it embraces the St Regis ethos and how it enhances the guest experience.
The resort was designed by WOW Architects | Warner Wong Design, a Singapore-based collective, which took inspiration from the natural beauty of the island. This can be seen in the manta ray-shaped lagoon villas, the signature bar in the shape of a whale shark, a lobster-inspired overwater spa and a spiral shell-shaped library. Every aspect of the resort is stunning and creates a truly unique destination – so it is ideally suited to the discerning St. Regis guest. The architecturally-distinctive design creates a remarkable backdrop for those looking for an exclusive break in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
Where / what is your favourite part / facility / service of the resort and why?
I would have to say that the Whale Bar is one of my favourite venues within the resort. It has been designed to resemble a whale shark, and the large open space lends itself perfectly to enjoying locally-sourced seafood, freshly-prepared tapas, and evening drinks whilst admiring the incredible Maldivian sunset.
It is also where our Champagne sabering ritual takes place each evening – a signature ceremony of the St. Regis brand – and where we serve the ‘Island Mary’, our take on the Bloody Mary. Each hotel and resort in the St. Regis portfolio has crafted its own locally-inspired interpretation of the brand’s signature cocktail – and ours includes kala namak salt, a distinctive seasoning popular in South Asian cuisine.
What’s your top tip for a first time guest at the resort?
My top tip to first-time guests would be to visit as many of our six dining options as possible during their stay. Our food and beverage is overseen by our talented Director of Culinary and Service, Ayyoub Salameh – a passionate foodie, restaurateur and a hotelier – and there is something for everyone at each venue.
The resort’s signature restaurant Alba serves Italian cuisine, while Orientale offers an array of Asian dishes. The beachfront Crust restaurant boasts an outdoor pizza oven for bespoke pizza, while Cargo serves Middle Eastern fare and Decanter offers continental dishes alongside a curated range of vintage wines. First-time guests won’t want to miss out on such a vast variety so I’d recommend that they try as much as possible.
Luxury means different things to different people, what epitomises luxury travel for you?
For me, it’s about a personalised, one-of a-kind experience. We go above and beyond to deliver an exceptional service – the signature St. Regis Butler Service in particular allows us to get to know our guests’ preferences and deliver everything they’re looking for in a holiday. Whether it’s recommending a Family Traditions activity for children, or an excursion around the atoll, we are on hand 24 hours a day to create an unforgettable stay.
How has the luxury travel sector changed over the past five years, and what do you think it holds for the next five years?
I have seen a shift from travellers’ perception of luxury; it is has become increasingly more about experience, and it is no longer simply about the facilities on offer at a hotel or resort. Guests are looking for unique and exclusive experiences that are personal to them, which is why our focus is on delivering this, by getting to know our guests and curating their perfect holiday.
You have a wealth of experience in the hospitality sector and worked in a whole host of countries. Where does luxury best and why?
In my opinion, Dubai in the UAE does luxury best. Never happy with the status quo, they are continually raising the bar when it comes to its luxury offering.
Thailand, where I consider to be home, is another of my favourite places. It has so much to offer – from vibrant cities like Bangkok, to beautiful islands such as Ko Tao. I love the culture, the delicious food and the wonderful people.
As a seasoned traveller this may be a difficult question for you, but which destination is on your bucket list that you have not yet visited and why?
I have never visited South America, and Peru is definitely a destination on my bucket list. I’m looking forward to enjoying its exciting and diverse cuisine, ancient cultures, awe-inspiring wildlife and breathtaking landscapes – such as Machu Picchu.
What is your life motto?
Aspire to inspire