Jesper Soerensen – General Manager at SO/ Maldives

We had the pleasure of interviewing Jesper, the General Manager at SO/ Maldives, who spearheaded the resort’s opening on November 1st, 2023, ensuring a fusion of the SO/ brand’s distinctive avant-garde design and luxurious experiences in the Maldives. With an illustrious career across diverse luxury brands worldwide, including urban hotels and exclusive island resorts, Jesper’s expertise in hospitality is poised to elevate SO/ Maldives.

Reflecting on your career journey, what’s been the most pivotal moment or experience that significantly influenced your approach to hospitality leadership, and how has it shaped your vision for SO/ Maldives?

Reflecting on my diverse journey across various international brands, I’ve often recalled the invaluable teachings from my mentors. Their wisdom emphasised the virtues of kindness, generosity, and the essence of staying true to oneself – to be original and authentic, all while deeply respecting the mission and vision at hand. The Ennismore SO/ brand and, specifically, SO/ Maldives embodies a compelling brand mission and vision that resonates with me deeply. Collaborating with our team, we embody these principles as fundamental pillars crucial for any thriving enterprise, fostering guest and host satisfaction and an unparalleled experience.

How do you envision incorporating the avant-garde design, playful luxury, and fashion elements of the SO/ brand into the Maldivian setting?

SO/ is renowned for its fashion and design collaborations with the creative community, and we’re thrilled to bring this innovative approach to SO/ Maldives. The hotel’s design is bold and structural – drawing inspiration from the craftsmanship and theatricality of contemporary couture.

A key example of our avant-garde design is our striking overwater Arrival Pavilion, which offers our guests a distinctive red-carpet arrival experience and sets the hotel’s aesthetic tone. Design features include clean lines, cool neutrals, natural wood juxtaposed with vibrant accents and a sculptural, red-latticed central staircase. The hotel’s distinctive walkways are framed by billowing fabrics and architectural timber canopies, which make a striking counterpart to the island’s lush natural flora and reference the dramatic styling of high fashion presentations – all of which reflect SO/’s stylish roots.

We’ve also collaborated with leading artists and fashion designers to curate a vibrant collection of 80 beachfront and overwater villa collections. Each villa epitomises modern luxury and commands attention with a chic design aesthetic and plush, elegant décor in neutral tones. Spanning one to three bedrooms across eight categories, the villas are purposefully designed for open-plan living, each with a private pool and deck from which guests can enjoy panoramic ocean views of the turquoise waters of the Emboodhoo Lagoon.

We’re delivering on SO/’s playful luxury through our diverse restaurant and bar experiences. Specifically, our all-day dining destination, The Citronelle Club, is inspired by the flavours of Asia and features rustic bricks, tiles, and timber panelling to help tell the overall sensory story. Our French Riviera-inspired Lazuli Beach Club is versatile, oozing Cote D’Azur’s charm and elegance. It’s a sophisticated day-to-night beach bar where guests can enjoy sunbathing around the multicoloured mosaic pool, sampling Mediterranean fare and creative cocktails while listening to tunes by visiting DJs. The mood is always upbeat and attracts a broader crowd at this venue. Lastly, our signature restaurant, Hadaba, celebrates the atmosphere and flavours of Arabian nights with Levantine slow-cooked dishes and smoked delicacies. The restaurant is split over two floors, with a central staircase that gives way to expansive views of the stunning Maldivian seascape.

As the General Manager for the opening of SO/ Maldives, what key strategies are you implementing to ensure a successful launch?

Opening a hotel requires careful planning, creativity, and a deep understanding of our local community and target market(s). We’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time connecting with our local community, fostering partnerships, building our target audience, and much more. Above all, I continuously evaluate and adjust our strategy based on current market demands and feedback from our partners and guests to maximise our success. That, in my point of view, is the key to success. You have to be adaptable and fluid.

With the opening of SO/ Maldives in a competitive market, what strategies will you employ to ensure ongoing innovation and maintain a competitive edge in the luxury hospitality sector?

We have a fantastic team, and I make sure to have conversations with all departments – spa, rooms, culinary, sales and marketing, finance, etc. – so I can better understand and appreciate the level of expertise they already provide and what I can do to support them. With that said, my role goes beyond the day-to-day at the helm of SO/ Maldives. Not only do I ensure that the resort’s impeccable standards and operations remain intact, but I’m also deeply involved in strategic planning, brand partnerships, and pushing the envelope on innovation. My passion for this property drives me to envision a hotel experience that’s the best in the Maldives and on a global stage.

Could you share any specific initiatives or signature experiences that will distinguish SO/ Maldives from other luxury resorts in the region?

SO/ Maldives is only a 15-minute speedboat ride from Male International Airport, making us one of the most accessible luxury 5-star resorts in the Maldives – there are no small seaplanes here. Most resorts take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to travel from Male Airport, so this alone is a massive advantage for our guests and a key differentiator.

While our villas are suited to couples enjoying a romantic vacation, our villa collection is really for everyone. The resort’s amenities and accommodations are perfect for families and friends travelling together. Family Beach Pool Villa with Capsule features fun adjoining sleep pods perfect for young travellers. There is a wide selection of activities and areas customised to younger guests’ ages and needs – whether it’s making new friends at The Zone (Teen’s Club) or The Nest (Kids Club), plus a myriad of water sports available too. Babysitting services are also available on the property.

Our Wellness Camp is an East-meets-West concept offering unlimited fitness and relaxation access in an unparalleled setting. We partner with Codage Paris and Salon C Stellar for a high-tech well-being approach with a holistic feeling of unconventional wellness. Our restorative spa features steam and sauna rooms, a Vichy rainforest shower, a vitality pool and a state-of-the-art gym featuring the latest Technogym and Alo equipment. Complimentary fitness classes, such as yoga, meditation, sound healing, and private, customised training, are available.

Above all, we are doing our best to impact our environment and local community positively. We have a range of sustainability initiatives – not just eliminating single-use plastic but in comprehensive ways. All our water villa collections are solar-powered, and all villas are socially conscious eco-labels — including recyclable, sustainable, and ultra-luxurious bathroom products by French brand Codage Paris and Palatino, for our compostable in-villa amenities, ranging from their highly innovative eco-friendly toothpaste to their comfortable slippers, made entirely out of natural fabrics and materials, and a lot more.

Its socially conscious eco-labels — including recyclable, sustainable, and ultra-luxurious bathroom products by French brand Codage Paris — seek to preserve the beauty of nature which engulfs the resort. In partnership with Palatino, the socially conscious hotel offers compostable in-villa amenities, ranging from highly innovative eco-friendly toothpaste to comfortable slippers made entirely from natural fabrics and materials.

Your tenure at various international luxury brands has been quite diverse. How does this diversity contribute to your vision for SO/ Maldives?

My journey across diverse luxury brands has catalysed my vision at SO/ Maldives. I’ve consistently challenged conventional norms, believing firmly in progression and innovation. My mantra isn’t about exclusivity; it’s about accessibility for everyone. Advocating for inclusion and diversity has been a cornerstone of my career. My formative years in the Fashion and beauty industry, where diversity, inclusion, and creativity reign supreme, provided a crucial foundation. I’ve seamlessly translated these values into my roles within the hospitality domain. At SO/ Maldives, authenticity reigns: we embrace diversity and champion inclusivity – without exception. This ethos binds our team from inception, guiding our journey into the future as we sculpt the essence of SO/ Maldives.