Well seasoned hotelier, Rainer Steinhilber has worked in the industry for the past 15 years. Before settling down in Maldives, Rainer held multiple positions in countries such as France, USA, North Africa and Germany.

In this interview, Rainer Steinhilber spoke with Travel Trade Maldives about his professional journey and his vision for his newest project, Amaari Raaya Maldives. Amari’s second property in the Maldives, Amari Raaya Maldives in Raa Atoll is set to open in April 2023. Located northwest of the Maldivian capital of Male, the resort will consist of 200-villas. The resort will also feature, seven dining concepts, a Maai Spa, and a kids club. Amari Raaya Maldives will join Amari Havodda Maldives, further boosting the brand’s presence in the Maldives.

Could you tell us a bit about your career thus far?

I arrived in the Maldives in 2007, so I have spent the last 15 years here, in various resort management roles. Before that, I worked in France, USA, North Africa and of course, my home country of Germany.

The Maldives is such a unique destination and I feel lucky every day to be able to work and live. It sounds such a cliché, but I literally have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its people, I met my wife Shafiyya here, so I truly consider The Maldives to be my home.

Tell us more about Amari Raaya and its various offerings. What has your pre-opening experience there been like?

Amari Raaya will become ONYX Hospitality Group’s second property in the Maldives when it opens in Q2 this year. Our private island resort will occupy a secluded island in Raa Atoll, accessible by seaplane directly to the resort, or via domestic flight to nearby Ifuru Airport.

Positioned as a family-oriented resort, Amari Raaya Maldives will bear all the signature offerings that you would expect from a 5-star luxury resort. The 37 hectare island consists of 186 villas, including 60 Over Water Villas, and 40% of all villas featuring its own pool. Some of our Beach Villas will be connected and will offer 2-bedrooms for those families or groups of friends staying together. A total of seven food and beverage outlets are on offer, ranging from Asian-Fusion cuisine to a casual Italian restaurant, an all-day dining restaurant at the beach, a Village Café, pool bar, beach shack and mobile truck catering for all culinary tastes and dining styles.

Additionally special curated private dining will be available at unique locations around the resort; on the beach, and in the jungle, and a special star gazing Tree Top dining experience.

Other resort features include, a Maai Spa Wellness Oasis, a Kid’s Club with a huge outdoor playground including a zip line, a Dive and Water Sports Center, a Main Pool and Kid’s Pool, Gym and Yoga Deck as well as sports activities such as Football Court, Badminton Court, Paddle Tennis and a Mini Golf Course. We also invite our guests for activities and excursions by boat. Another island highlight will be our rooftop sunset lounge bar, where guests can kick back, enjoy magnificent sunsets accompanied by the chill tunes of our DJ and sundowner cocktails.

As this is not my first pre-opening experience, I do know what an incredible effort it takes to not only build a resort from scratch but to basically transform a sandy island into a  small world that can inspire and wow our guests.

It’s a tough and long journey with many obstacles along the way, but ultimately at the end, I know I will be very proud to have been part of such an extraordinary group of people, who have all contributed their skills, (some sweat) and hard physical work to achieve something quite extraordinary – a secluded paradise to make people happy, for guests and Team Members alike.

I am also grateful to our owners of Panchshil Realty and to the Corporate Management of ONYX Hospitality Group, for entrusting me with the leading role of opening this exciting resort and I am beyond excited to showcase this new Maldivian resort to the world soon.

In your opinion, how will Amari Raaya set itself apart from other similar luxury properties in the Maldives?

We have created a unique story concept behind Amari Raaya that sets an intriguing ambiance all around the island for our guests to explore.

The resort features design elements and experience touch points inspired by a fictitious castaway explorer named Sebastian, an artist and amateur sailor who was shipwrecked and lived alone on the island for eight years before allowing himself to be discovered. Amari Raaya Maldives will immerse travellers in a reinterpretation of the legacy he left behind through a series of structures, shelters and landmarks Sebastian creatively constructed from island-sourced raw materials and flotsam washed ashore over the years.

Highlights include an upturned Dhoni shipwreck hidden within a jungle, abandoned watchtowers, and in our Artists Zone, Sebastian’s rustic home and huts will be showcasing Maldivian Arts & Crafts as well as featuring local artists and a discovery walkway within the mangroves area is to be explored with guided explanations of the Maldivian fauna and flora.

Our guests will find a beautiful natural island full of discoveries, not everything can be revealed, but let me just say this: On the Island you will get a glimpse into the world of a survivor and artist as you immerse yourself in the buildings and objects created by Seb during his life as a castaway.

What’s your greatest personal achievement?

As an island GM, I see my achievements are only representative of the team I lead. Sharing the limelight is important to me, the biggest achievements can only be reached together. When you live on an island resort it’s important to create an atmosphere of trust and respect and ultimately of happiness amongst your team. This feeling of harmony filters down to the service and experience that our guests receive. If you reach that level, then you are doing well, that for me is the biggest achievement and I look forward to creating it again here at Amari Raaya Maldives.

For me it is the biggest honour when my colleagues share their happiness with me as they trust me as their leader and as a colleague. I am proud to see that many of my former colleagues are achieving professional success along their career path and I am grateful to receive many messages from people who would like to be part of our team. It is quite satisfying to be able to make a positive impact on people’s lives!

What do you foresee for the Maldivian hospitality industry in the future?

The Maldives government together with the Maldivian Hospitality Industry and all its stakeholders have shown exemplary actions on how to overcome the Covid-19 crisis over the past few years and the country is recognized as a safe destination. Additionally, over the last 10 years the segmentation of travellers from pure luxury and honeymooners has been complemented by family travellers and we have seen strong impact from new emerging markets to the destination such as India, Russia and the Middle East. Europe remains traditionally strong and China will make a comeback for sure this year. So all predictions are positive, it’s fair to say that the Maldives Hospitality Industry will have a great future. We have seen last December a total of 1.6 Million visitors to the country for the year 2022, which is level to 2019 figures, and on top of that the Maldives has been crowned the “World’s Leading Destination” for the last three consecutive years at The World Travel Awards – all these accolades and trends combined present a promising outlook for Maldivian hospitality.

Do you have any words of advice for anyone looking to join the industry?

I always tell every young Maldivian what an immense opportunity they have in joining the Hospitality Industry. Many of the well-known prestigious international hotel chains have a resort in this country and equally, established locally owned resort chains are now successfully expanding their resort portfolio  – where else in the world do you have such an arsenal of options to join this industry as a young person? Yes, it’s hard work at the beginning, often away from family, but you will find fantastic opportunities to build a career and to become successful if you are willing to learn and to grow with time! Here at Amari Raaya Maldives I am proud to say that the majority of my management colleagues are actually Maldivians, and we are right now in the hot phase of hiring young motivated talent, so come and take a chance to join us for a brighter future.