Gili Lankanfushi: Divine formula – Iain Mcormack
What do you think makes Gili Lankanfushi such a unique location?
Iain McCormack: We are ideally situated, approximately 20 minutes by speedboat from Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. That's really important to customers who have often flown long distances and don't want to have to wait around for a few hours more to catch a sea plane to get to one of the islands.
As soon as the customer is received and welcomed at the airport, they are taken straight to their villa, where they are checked in and given orientation. That's another unique selling point. In terms of the surroundings, the lagoon we are situated in is one of largest and most beautiful in the Maldives.
How many villas are there?
There are 45 in total, including our private reserve, the largest overwater villa in the world at 1,400m². Even our entry-level villas are still huge at 230m². They are like small homes.
How does the Mr Friday service work?
Basically, it's a butler service. From the moment guests arrive, the Mr Friday takes care of them. This can entail anything from taking them to the restaurants or arranging excursions. It's really about ensuring that everything is perfect throughout the stay.
These guys really make a huge difference to the guest experience; for example, if we have a honeymooning couple or there is some kind of romantic anniversary, they might decorate the villa with flowers so as to make the occasion more special. In doing things like this, they wow the guests every time.
They are also great for the families that come here. While we don't have a kids club and aren't exclusively a big family resort, the Mr Friday can help in taking care of the children, especially when the parents want to go to dinner later in the evening. They will also organise activities with the whole family, whether it's sushi or pizza-making classes, which are great fun. In addition, there is a jungle cinema, which we recently put together and is very popular for kids' birthday parties.
That is not to say that we have set, organised schedules for families. Instead, these activities are tailor-made to what a particular family's needs are; however, we also appreciate that some guests don't feel the need to use the service as much. It's completely at their discretion.
How would you describe your guest demographic?
It predominantly comprises couples - we get a lot of honeymooners. It is also popular with middle-aged business people who want to get away from it all. We have a good mix, although families tend to come during the holiday season when the children are not at school.
What efforts have you made in ramping up environmental awareness?
We have it in mind with everything we do. If we want to change anything within the resort or implement any upgrades, the first thing we look at is the environmental impact, such as carbon emissions and mitigating the use of plastics, and whether these items derive from sustainable sources.
We also look at how it actually looks within the resort. Everything has to be natural-looking, in keeping with the surroundings, and to offer luxury at the same time. It's important to strike that balance, which, although challenging, is something we value as incredibly important.
It's worth bearing in mind that some of our guests are some of the richest people - billionaires in many cases - who have the option of going anywhere in the world, but they choose to come to Lankanfushi for a reason. Part of that is because the resort is designed and set up in a way that gets guests back to nature so they can appreciate the island's real beauty. We do this through offering accommodation and services that use natural resources and reusable products; for example, elephant dung paper and coconut husk paper, which further support our environmental efforts.
What kind of dining experience is on offer?
We have a world-class Japanese-Peruvian restaurant with highly trained chefs that only use the freshest produce - the fish is brought in every day by local fishermen and you can really taste that difference.
There is also main restaurant on the west of the island - which offers a range of East-meets-West fusion dishes - and uses a lot of our own home-grown produce. We have a very large organic garden here, where we grow vegetables, such as lettuce, herbs, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, which are then incorporated into our menus.
Breakfast is very important to our guests, so we offer a huge array; most people have never seen a selection like it. The buffet comprises lots of different fruits, cut to order by the chefs, and a large selection of organic honeys, jams and marmalades.
We also try and keep things healthy: our health tonics that we bring in from India are very popular. All drinking water is produced on the island, made through a reverse-osmosis plant and a filtration plant, by which the water goes through an elaborate system that adds minerals.
Are there plans to develop the resort further? Will you increase the number of villas?
All of our villas are overwater, as opposed to on the land - which is unique and creates a large sense of space. So, when you are walking on the beaches it is incredibly open and tranquil. That is why people come here.
We have no plans to add any other villas - although we could easily add another 20 if we wanted to - because our intention is to keep that exclusiveness and privacy. If we added more villas, it would just become another busy resort, which isn't what we want. I think we've got the formula just right.