Finolhu by Steffi Kammerer | 21st March, 2023 | Travel
The Indian Ocean is a haven for manta rays and dolphins, the scenery a blaze of vibrant colors. The resort in the Baa Atoll is the tropical pearl in the portfolio of the Seaside Hotel Group, which was founded in the 1970s by Theo Gerlach. Today his son Gregor runs the company together with his sister. We met him at their headquarters in Hamburg.
How does a European hotelier come by a project like this in the Maldives?
We were on the lookout for something suitable because we hadn’t opened a new hotel for almost 20 years; the last one was the Side Hotel in Hamburg back in 2001. The criteria were clear: We wanted to have as many European guests as possible because they’re who we know and understand best. And it was to be a destination where winter is the main season. After looking into Morocco and Venice, we fell in love with the Maldives.
Had you ever been there before?
No. And before I flew there for the first time I said to my wife: I bet it’s boring on a little island like that, surely you run out of things to do after a couple of days. Then, just before Christmas 2018, we heard about this hotel in the Baa Atoll. The realtor said we could still make an offer but only had a few days’ time. Then I flew there with my father on December 22, for 24 hours. He’d just turned 90 at the time. We were immediately captivated by this special little island with its stunning lagoon and endless beaches. We signed the contract in March 2019 and took over in May.
Corona struck a year later. How did you use the time?
We spent almost all of 2020 upgrading, so in terms of timing it couldn’t have been better. The hotel was already two years old at the time but it wasn’t going very well; the way it had been finished was a bit loveless. We worked with a London-based interior designer who advised us to add love and luxury to the mix. The classic Maldive hotels tend to have heavy interiors with lots of dark wood. But we went for an upbeat feel and color instead, which is more in keeping with the European understanding of how you want to feel on vacation.
More of a Mediterranean vibe, then?
Not exactly, no. We tried to interpret it for this part of the world: a Robinson Crusoe