Martin Van Der Reijden: a Vision As Clear And Sparkling As The Waters Of The Maldives

Martin Van Der Reijden: a Vision As Clear And Sparkling As The Waters Of The Maldives

Martin van der Reijden, Managing Director

Martin van der Reijden

Managing Director

 Developing on building on the ‘One Island, One Resort’ format, the hospitality industry in the Maldives has forged ahead to become the most rewarding market in Asia. With a large number of new resort and guest house openings, the hospitality industry in the islands is an inviting prospect for many global investors. In addition, government policies have supported the hospitality sector to evolve into one of the main pillars of economic growth.

Cora Cora Resorts in the Maldives is a five-star resort on the pristine Raa Atoll that delivers on its promise to offer guests and visitors the time of their lives. It starts with a love of freedom – and builds from there. Featuring luxury villas, dining and wellness services, and other superb island experiences, Cora Cora Maldives has become a haven where visitors experience a unique and matchless destination in an Indian Ocean paradise. Martin van der Reijden, Managing Director, has spearheaded the growth of the resort with his foresight and dedication coupled with a vision to set new standards in leisure experiences.

CEO Insights Asia engages in an exclusive interaction with Martin van der Reijden where we discuss the company’s growth, its journey and also his personal journey. Here’s the extract from our interaction with Martin.

Tell us about your journey so far with Cora Cora Maldives?

It began when we took over this resort for a Japanese owner which had not been operational for 18 months when we came on board. A year and a half deterioration in the sometimes harsh climates of the Maldives mean structures start to disintegrate and nature starts taking back an island. This is a mild way of saying that the resort was in need of a total overhaul. We gave ourselves 18 months to fully restore and upgrade the property before we opened in October 2021. We renovated all 100 rooms and all four 4 Restaurants and Bars, the fitness Centre, the Spa and the Kids Club, basically all the relevant and important areas. We also added swimming pools to the over water and beach villas, extended the main pool, built a 12-metre lookout tower and new offices, and all Team accommodation was renovated and extended. We knew that we wanted to be a Premium All-Inclusive Resort, and with that in mind we worked with an agency on Cora Cora to strengthen the brand and refine what we wanted to stand for in terms of values for our team and our future guests. We opened on 1st October last year and after the hard work and with a little luck have seen very positive occupancy levels. Every day we receive very encouraging feedback from our international guests.

How would you define Cora Cora Maldives as an organisation and its position in the market?

We were initially led by our tag line of Cora Cora, which is “Its Freedom Time” a line born in the midst of Covid where we were asking ourselves what our future guests would long for the most. It quickly became apparent that you can only “free your guests” if you give your team a lot of opportunities to feel free as well, and that journey was quite incredible as it glued the entire team together. We hear that we have a special vibe at Cora Cora which certainly has a lot to do with our team in tandem with the quirky and fresh design of the resort that is not pretentious but probably is best described as eclectic cool (but warm in atmosphere and spirit). We are fortunate to have lots of original artwork and sculptures, inspiring books in the guest rooms but also in the public area, as well as a Moksha Spa that is more than a massage treatment area but a fully integrated wellness destination. We have arguably the largest selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes on offer. The food is something that every guest raves about because it is local, fresh and organic and complemented with daily ingredients from the Chef’s Garden. We also have a museum and a heritage site that is unique in the Maldives and gives our guests an opportunity to learn something about the history, heritage and culture of the country.

It's important to stay in close Contact with your family and Friends, to not lose touch With the “real world”

Reflect on some of the major challenges you have experienced in your journey so far. What is your mantra for success?

First, I always have a vision of the result in my head of how I want the place to look and feel - and my extensive experience of being in the Maldives for the past 10 years has led me to know a good handful of people who could join me on the journey to accomplish this vision. My connection with experienced leaders in their fields also helped us with suppliers and contractors who could work within the budget to tight timelines. This was especially important during the difficult times of the pandemic when unavailability of products and delays in shipping them to a remote island was very challenging. It's essential to stay in close contact with your family and friends, to not lose touch with the “real world”. Also, I find things that ground me – and snorkeling is the activity that does that for me. I just started to play badminton again, I’m trying to learn Spanish and I just got a Kindle so that I can get some more reading done as well.

In the light of your strong industry experience, what advice would you give to the budding entrepreneurs?

I believe that you achieve success because some important components are already there to start with. I only collaborate with consultants, suppliers and contractors who have a proven track record of working successfully in this environment. For that reason they are a bit more expensive, but the outlay will pay back in multiples in terms of time saved and quality gained. At the very end, if there is no fun it's unlikely to be successful - or at least that is my experience.

Martin van der Reijden, Managing Director, Cora Cora Maldives

Martin van der Reijden was born in Switzerland to Dutch parents. He graduated at the Hotel Management School in Lucerne (SHL). He has worked with Hilton for 16 years, 2 years with Per Aquum and 5 Years in hotel interior design, and in the past 10 years has been involved in renovations, positioning of hotels as well as new-build projects. He indulges in snorkeling, swimming and badminton to stay grounded and loves Thai food.

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