Located in the southernmost atoll of Maldives, Equator Village is a city hotel in the Gan island of Addu City that aims to provide their guests with utmost comfort and relaxation throughout their visit. While the resort is determined to offer their guests with memorable Maldivian culture, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the dynamic of tourism in Addu City, with no exception for Equator Village.
While the virus infiltrates communities stealthily, the natural geographical division of Maldives has proven vital in containing the virus, proving to be the ultimate asset for tourism to restart in the country. In other words, Maldives is an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands that are geographically scattered in the Indian Ocean. So despite having Covid-19 in the country, several resorts have continued to provide their best services to the guests after the Maldivian government reopened their international borders on July 15.
However, the initial downfall of the industry, during the three months Maldives had shut down its borders, many tourist facilities have incurred insurmountable losses, and have had to cease operations indefinitely. However, Equator Village has defied odds, and stands proud today, as they continue to welcome the first tourist who arrived to Addu City since the pandemic. So how did this tropical resort located at the southern tip of Maldives pull it off? Let’s ask the man who runs the show, Manager Mohamed Waheed himself.
Initial impact of Covid-19 on Equator Village
Maldives confirmed its first Covid-19 case on March 07, soon followed by more cases, a public health emergency and a community spread in the capital. This eventually lead to the country shutting down its borders towards the end of March, suspending all tourism activities in the country.
We asked Mr. Waheed about the impact this had on Equator Village and how the resort dealt with the situation.
Waheed explained that the resort almost immediately had to deal with booking cancellations and decrease in tourist arrivals when the pandemic began. But all tourist activities came to a stop when the country closed down its borders and the last tourist bid goodbye to the resort for the time being, on March 26th.
Surviving through the pandemic
It is no doubt that a sudden closure of the industry would have had drastic impacts on tourist facilities and those working in the industry alike. However, while the industry saw unemployment rates spike up through the roof as facilities were closed to shut down or be converted into Covid-19 facilities for survival, Equator Village lead by example, as the resort continued with its full team without even one redundancy. In fact, the employees were given a full salary during the first three months as they stayed home.
However, starting from August, the management did have to decrease the wages of the employees as the the forecast of tourism in Addu City remained uncertain. Despite this, no lay offs were made.
Throughout the lockdown period, during which Equator Village a quarantine facility at one point, the resort’s management ensured the safety of the employees and the facility itself. Even seven months after the last tourist left following which, the resort became a quarantine facility, the resort appeared in perfect shape, as if it was prepared to welcome tourists any time.
The reopening of Equator Village
Despite it’s preparedness, the Equator Village team had a long waiting came ahead, as new normal practices and safety and precautionary measures had to be fully implemented prior to opening.
During the seven months in which the resort remained closed, the team at Equator Village took the time to become well versed with the latest guidelines by health care authorities and partook trainings which ultimately ensure top standard in ensuring safety for tourists and employees of the facility.
Mr. Waheed stressed that the resorts utmost priority would be to operate the resort in compliance with the guidelines set by Health Protection Agency (HPA) of Maldives
He also expressed his regret that the resort would not be able to welcome tourists as grandly as the resort used to previously, due to the new set guidelines. Earlier, even all the Managers of the resort would line up to welcome guests to the facility, to give the warm welcome Addu has to offer. However, as per the new regulations, only one manager will be welcoming arrivals now, he said.
However, Waheed said that guidelines will not stop them from making sure that their guest has a wonderful experience during their visit, and that the team will do everything they can, within the guidelines, to make every tourist’s visit to the facility a memorable one.
Welcome the first tourist since Covid-19
Despite the preparedness, the resort had to wait 105 days since the Maldives opened its borders, to welcome the very first tourist to Addu City, since the pandemic.
On 14th October, Equator Village received the go ahead by the Ministry of Tourism to recommence operations, followed by the very first tourist, on 28th October. Needless to say the welcome was nothing short of grand and the entire city celebrated his arrival.
The tourist who arrived all the way from UK will be enjoying the services of the warm and welcoming staff of the hotel is also likely expected to have the entire pool and dine in area where the most mouth-wateringly delicious food – including Maldivian cuisine is served all for himself – at least until more visitors arrive to Equator Village.
Upon the arrival of the guest, Manager Waheed further reassured that Equator Village will maintain and adhere to all the safety and precautionary regulations set by the health protective services, while also ensuring that the visitors get the best Addu has to offer.
What is the future of Equator Village?
As any manager would, Waheed has a very clear idea of where he wants to take Equator Village, in the future. His vision is to make Equator Village the icon of tourism in Addu City, and hopes that this will be accomplished in no time.
However, he said that the biggest factor that hinders the progress of the city’s tourism would have to be the lack of accessibility this pandemic has brought on, as international flights currently remain suspended.
However, the Ministry of Tourism has stayed on top of the matter and assure resumption of international operations to Gan International Airport very soon, and have also made arrangements for seaplane operations to commence in the city in less than a month’s time, hopefully making Equator Village’s journey to success possible.
Gan’s development prospects
The government of Maldives recently announced major developments in Addu City, and specifically in Gan island, during which the Gan International Airport will see major upgrading. Further, additional city hotels, cruise terminals and seaplane terminals are also in the big plans the government has for Gan.
Waheed described these plans as promising, specially the reestablishment of international tourism routes to Gan, which would benefit and allow tourism to thrive in the city.
He stressed the importance of resuming international flight operations to the city, to make the upcoming seaplane terminal viable, as domestic travel from the capital to the city and and then via seaplane would be costly and a disadvantage for the tourist facilities located in the area.
However, he highlighted the importance of not over developing the region, and over congesting the city as one of the main reasons tourists visit Addu, and specially Gan, is for the fresh air and calmness it has to offer, along with the stories of history and sites the city has to offer.
A small message from Waheed to the tourists
When Waheed was asked what message he would send to their potential tourists, he gave a short and sweet message saying that, “Addu is a very safe place! You’re most welcome! We will welcome you! Please come!”