Want to sell the Indian Ocean but not sure where to start? Get the lowdown from our agent in the know
The Indian Ocean has the wow factor and it offers something to suit all sorts of visitors.
You’ve got everything from the Maldives, which is modern and contemporary, to Sri Lanka, which offers more of a cultural element – tea plantations, temples, elephants – with the beach as well.
I love coming into the Maldives on a seaplane and looking down at all the different atolls – it’s like a day trip you would pay for, yet it’s just a transfer to the island. It’s no surprise the Maldives gets a huge number of repeat customers – once you have been there, you know there aren’t many places that do what they do, as well as they do it.
I first went to the Maldives eight years ago, and stayed at the Conrad Rangali Island. It’s a really beautiful resort – a classic island where you take your shoes off when you arrive and don’t put them on again until it’s time to go. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and you get some of the best snorkelling, fishing and sealife there.
More recently, I went to the Six Senses Laamu in November, and that was beautiful. It’s the first of the southern atolls, so the sealife is particularly good and it has a house reef with some of the best snorkelling and diving in the Maldives. It’s very high-end but not too ‘bling’ – it’s more about real attention to detail. I liked the vibe of the whole place.
I’ve also been to Kuramathi Island Resort, which is a Kuoni exclusive in the UK. It’s particularly popular because of the many different dining options and bars, plus it’s good for older children because there’s a lot to do.
In the Seychelles, I stayed at Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay on the main island of Mahé. It has a really nice beach and it’s great for divers, and even though it’s 3.5-star, it’s really good in that price bracket. Now that they have pulled the direct flight to the Seychelles, you can get some really good deals and you can add in a stopover in the Middle East.
People have a perception of how pricey the Indian Ocean will be, but are often pleasantly surprised. It differs dramatically between seasons, but off peak can be a great time to visit. As long as you make people aware it’s priced at that point for a reason – generally the weather – they can get some great deals.
Mauritius is very well priced. We get a lot of people coming in here looking for a family holiday to Europe, and there ends up being so little difference that they walk out with a holiday to Mauritius.
There’s a lot of competition, people like the all-inclusive product, and it has three-star options that are really good value.
In Sri Lanka, you could get 10 nights in a beach resort for less than £1,000 per person. We have a few exclusive properties there – Jetwing Sea and Club Bentota – that are very popular.
A lot of first-time visitors to the Indian Ocean are honeymooners, so we tend to send them to the Maldives or Mauritius. The latter is great if people want to play golf or hire a car and go round the island, but for pure romance, I would opt for the Maldives. The atolls are all so different, you can have some that you walk around in 10 minutes, and then others like Kuramathi that are huge.
I’ve sent lots of honeymoon couples to the Six Senses and they’ve loved it. It’s very special and romantic, and the villas are absolutely amazing – they’re huge and they have an area upstairs where you can have private dining even on half-board. There’s also Biyadhoo Island – it’s three-star and more suited to a diving market, but very good value.
For more adventurous customers we would suggest the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka. And for a bit of relaxation afterwards, send them to a beach there, or the Maldives – they mix well because of the direct flight from Colombo.
It’s not a huge family market, but it’s growing with older children. Sri Lanka is appealing because of the elephants, and tours that end up at the beach or go to one of the family resorts such as Kurumba Maldives. Mauritius is popular with families too, especially with the all-inclusive option and so many day trips to do.
When it comes to the Seychelles, a lot of people are put off by the indirect flight, but islands such as Praslin and Silhouette are just beautiful. I’d target the Seychelles at people who’ve been to the Indian Ocean before and want something new.
TIMES ARE A’CHANGING
The region has changed a lot over the years. It’s more accessible now, but still has that aspirational quality. You can spend £20,000 or you can go to a three or four-star for a lot less.
If anything, the Maldives has gone even more luxury, but the biggest change has been in Sri Lanka because of the civil war. It’s pretty amazing how it’s taken off – it’s one of our biggest sellers.
It’s always good to try and get out there on an educational or a holiday, but there are lots of other ways to improve your knowledge. Simon Reeve did a TV series with good information on the area. It’s worth brushing up on basic details from brochures too. You really need to know the climate – that can trip people up – and the flight times, so you know the connections: you don’t want people arriving at night-time to find the first boat goes at 7am.
It’s quite an easy destination to sell if you ask clients the right questions: find out what type of people they are, what they expect, and what’s important to them. We sit down and have a coffee with our clients, then you can get a feel for what they want and tailor the holiday to suit.
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